Lessons From Trees

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these – I kept thinking I should, but then realized I had nothing to write about. No words. That happens sometimes – there just isn’t anything to give.
So here we are – next week, on Friday September 22 – the autumn equinox. Goodbye summer, hello the slow progression into winter. For those of you who live here in Kodiak with me, it’s like we never even had summer anyway. About halfway through August I decided to release expectations, and just hope for the best for fall – amiright?
Honestly though, for my whole life, fall has been my favorite season. I grew up in New England, the land of glory this time of year – crisp sunny days, cooling temperatures, bright red and orange and yellow leaves, apple picking turned into pumpkin picking. I looked forward to it every year, and I still do.
Why, you might ask. Yes, it does signal the coming of winter. The death of flowers and green leaves, the loss of vegetation, the retreat of the animals, the inevitable arrival of the cold, the brown and the decomposition and the dark. None of that is lost on me. But despite that, I have continued to adore this time of year more than any other.
Last weekend, I took a drive “out the road” (Kodiak peeps, you’ll know what I mean – and for the rest of you, when you live somewhere where everything you need is within a 14 mile radius, sometimes going for a drive is quite relaxing and enjoyable – also note, no traffic) while sipping a hot coffee, and again was comforted by the signs of coming autumn. Kodiak is the greenest place in the world during the summer, and don’t get me wrong – its astounding. They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing. But I can’t help it. I love the brown and the yellow and the deep reds. The multilayered hues of the mountains as they retreat into the distance. The wisps of white silk that replace the purple fireweed flowers. Goldenrod that surely signals the coming of fall. Even the dried leaves that scatter the road after being released from the trees. EVEN the shortening days. I have been embracing the returning darkness with open arms.
So why this love of all this dying?
Sure the colors and the smells and the festivities and warm spiced drinks – all that is wonderful. But I am now realizing that it is so much deeper than that.
In yoga, there is a term called prana. It is not something you see, but something you feel. Our life force. Our energy. That invisible inner flow that keeps us going. I think you can all agree that sometimes we have those days that we great, and those days that we feel awful. And I don’t mean we stayed up too late and had an extra glass of wine (if you ask me, that is only something that adds to our life force 😉 No, I mean the difference between inspired versus dull. Content and fulfilled versus restless and unfocused. Those days that your cup is so full that you feel you can give endlessly, versus those days when you feel that you couldn’t possibly be selfish enough. I think you get what I mean.
Since I started on my yoga teaching journey, I have become deeply in tune with my life force. With the importance of filling my cup – whether that be a yoga practice, a hard workout, or alone time. Being aware of those situations, or activities, or people, that drain me, and giving myself permission to avoid them. With the importance of saying “no” when I mean “no”. In short, conserving my energy for MYSELF. What a concept. And this is not solely selfish. Conserving energy, so that I am fulfilled, and in turn can serve and fulfill others. I have learned (and am continuing to learn) exactly how to take care of myself, listen to what I need, value solace and my own good company – because all in all that MAKES ME A BETTER PERSON. As my teacher has said – “Conserve your prana. Don’t let it leak out.” Keep that shit in.
So here I was, driving down Chiniak Highway enjoying my latte, and it hit me. Bam. After 31 years, I connected the dots. I love fall so deeply, because it is Mother Nature’s way of conserving HER prana. She has emerged in the spring, slowly blossomed, flourished in all her colorful, brilliant glory, and put on quite a show for us to enjoy. And then, she knows exactly when enough is enough. When to curl up the proverbial red carpet and stop the show. When to let go of the outward beauty, and worry more about what is going on inside. Why? Because that is the natural cycle of energy. A period of dormancy and inner nourishment leads to the ability to blossom; when all the energy is expended, the retreat into dormancy, the saving up, for the next cycle of offering. So that next spring, she can do it again, fully and completely. So that she may continue to offer her beauty year after year.
Mother Nature, you wise thing, you. We should be more like her. If we give and give and give, we will soon be so empty ourselves that we have nothing left to draw from. We live in a society that constantly demands us to live outwardly. We are pulled in many directions, and often feel that we need to put others’ needs first. After so much of this, we become dull and drained, and physically and emotionally we take the toll.
BUT when we can learn to offer ourselves what we need (for me, that quiet alone time that is so deeply fulfilling) we regain our energy and life, our PRANA. So it now makes sense to me – I love autumn, because I align with this deep need to retreat and turn inward, so that I can be more vibrant and offer my gifts to the world.
So I invite you to carve out some time and figure out just what YOU need. What fills your cup? Physical movement? A walk? Some quiet time to sit and stare? (I feel ya – sometimes that’s spectacular). Make time for that. THERE IS ALWAYS ENOUGH TIME IF YOU MAKE IT. Take five minutes at your desk to do some stretching. Forgo watching your show in the evening and sneak out for a walk instead. Arrive five minutes early to pick up your kids at school, turn off the radio, and enjoy the silence and pulse of your breath. It’s hard – I get it. I’ve been a single mom for almost this entire year. BUT – when you take the time to fill your cup, all that adulting feels easier, and maybe even joyous.
Where can you say “no”? What can you let go? What is not necessary and does not add beauty and joy to your life? Begin to take note of what/where/who drains you – with no apologies. It’s okay. We don’t have to do it ALL. There is always an engagement, a social situation, a chore, you can choose to forgo. I promise that will not make you a bad person. Even just one 30-minute task per week – it’s amazing the power of “no” – when it opens up more time for us to go inward. To keep that shit in.
So be like trees. Sometimes we just don’t have anything to give – and that is okay.
Peace and love.

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