This morning when I was out with the dogs, the sun was just beginning to paint the sky a faint orange and purple hue in the south east. It would be almost an hour before the red disk crawled into the morning sky, bathing the world in subdued pastel hues amidst the clouds of autumn. Every morning, the sun rises later and sets earlier, signaling to all of the natural world to slow down. By the time we reach the solstice in December, it will grace us with less than 9 hours of sunlight each day. We are beckoned by our stellar guardian to slow down and retreat into a period of renewal and recovery. The rest of the natural world, having faith in what can only be understood as the path of all life, will fall into this rhythm without reservation. It is only humans who, in their arrogance believe they are exempt from the natural order, will ignore the ageless prompting for rest and instead work themselves into a frenzy of activity.
Ancient humans, being much more attuned to the rhythms of nature, knew that all that is, lives, and that all that lives must follow the eternal cycles. For everything, there is a season–a time to sow and a time to reap. In a sad kind of delusion, our hubris leads us to believe ourselves to be separate from All. We are not. We are born, we live, and we will die. We share that with all, human or other. It’s what we do between those endpoints, which are not truly endpoints at all, that matters. Being part of the Universe’s consciousness (i.e. we are of this universe and we are aware, even to the point of reflecting back on the universe, which as is already established, is us), we are reminded by the seasons and the sun’s absence, that everything is impermanent. Yet, that is what gives it all such beauty! If we existed in our current state forever, we would then have eternity to make a difference, leaving us with no real hurry or reason to effect positive change or to remove suffering. If infinity is carved up, however, into cyclical and finite seasons, we are bounded within a system where we can make profound impacts on the world around us. Star systems live, and in their deaths, create new systems. The leaves that have fallen this season, will nourish the tree again in the spring. The harvested fields, which in their deaths, give us life, will again thrive in the next season to repeat the process.
Our lives are finitely bounded, and we exist within finite cycles all around us. We are not meant to miss these lessons for they exist on all time scales from the birth and death of galaxies measured in time frames we cannot fathom, to the summers and winters of our own lives. We are beautiful star stuff meant to appreciate, love and be loved. Every year, we are given a beautiful gift in the form of a natural rhythm meant to remind and teach us of the finite nature of ourselves and the infinite nature of the All. Our festivals and holidays that occur during and around the solstice were not meant to be exhausting. They were not meant to create stress. They are meant for reflection, appreciation, and love. We can reflect on our own mortality and in that awareness we can realize that we are brothers and sisters to each other and to all that lives, because regardless of our power and position, we all are impermanent. When we acknowledge that, we can make the most of our appreciation of the world around us and those who share it with us.
We can’t fully appreciate each other, however, if we become focused on trivial gift-giving where our somewhat primal brain is manipulated socially and through designed adverts that convince us otherwise. Over the next few weeks we will be inundated with messages telling us we will find happiness and save our economy by buying things, lots of them. We will be told that this buying will demonstrate our love for those we care about in our lives. It is a lie. We appreciate each other by being present with each other, including being present with ourselves. It is in the merging of our consciousnesses that occurs when we truly sit with another and see them, that a real gift is given and received. It is how love is truly expressed.
We show love for others and ourselves by slowing down and spending our valuable time with them. Love is perhaps the greatest power in the universe, and we have the ability to wield and receive that daily, but it requires slowing down. There is no way to express love without time. A hasty gift only proves that someone crossed your mind briefly. Spending time with someone in universal appreciation and mindfulness demonstrates in realtime that you love sharing a conscious moment with them. It feels as good to give it as it does to receive it. When we slow down with the true rhythms of the season, we will find that we have time to give this beautiful gift to others and to ourselves.
The natural world exists in a life, death, renewal model. Since we too are finite beings in an infinite universe, we are bounded in the cyclical rhythms that govern all of nature. The shortening days and falling leaves remind us of this. Our souls, if you will, were meant to renew as well. Our earth offers us this season of rest and renewal so that we can better reflect, appreciate, and love. It is incumbent on us and our well being to embrace this season and period in our annual cycle to give and receive all of the true gifts of the season. It is in that way that we will repel the darkness and cold of winter with the warmth of love, allowing ourselves to renew for the next season of growth that lies ahead of us.