Film still by Jason Mannings, Nature//Cosmos Installation
Transitions tend to make people uneasy. Although transitions come in many different forms, they all involve some degree of letting go and some degree of uncertainty. The key to navigating transitions in a way that enables one to gain instead of lose energy, is to let go of what is by its very nature transitory and to hang on to what is by its very nature constant. In the Northern Hemisphere, we are entering into autumn - a transitional season. Both a time of harvest and a time of shedding, it is the season of pulling inward, of tying up loose ends and of gathering resources in preparation for the stillness of the months to come. It is the darkening shift from the full yang manifestation of summer into the full yin void of winter. It's similar to a sunset, to the later years of life, to the waning cycle of the moon and to the pre-menstrual stage of menstruation.
Grief and the Refining of the Core Essence
In TCM theory, the fall season corresponds to the element of metal and to the emotion of grief. Metal represents the core essence, as well as, the limits, and boundaries that protect it. It represents what remains after grief washes away what is no longer necessary. It represents what is solid and intact. According to Paul Pitchford, metal is the most imbalanced element in the contemporary Western population. This population displays either a tendency to stagnate in grief and sadness, without resolving it, and/or to repress grief and sadness, without expressing it. If grief is not able to flow, the core essence is obscured by a personality structure that holds unreasonable attachments, is overly controlling, and tends to stifle core emotional impulses until they eventually boil over into excess, displaying themselves as addiction, as well as, mental and/or physical illness. These imbalances tend to be intergenerational, reinforced by familial patterns and cultural conditioning that distances individuals from both the cycles of the natural world and the cycles of their own true nature.
Have you ever stayed in a relationship, job, or living situation for longer than necessary? Most people can identify with how energetically draining it is to attempt to make something which is by nature transitional into something permanent. It feels akin to holding onto a tree branch while a river is trying to carry you away in the current to your next destination. Even a gentle, inviting current is going to be strong enough to drain a person in that type of holding pattern. Holding on to what is over is exhausting and disorienting. The moment one decides to let go, to move with the current, to be with the process of transition, everything becomes easier. What letting go looks like is different for each individual. It may be an internal process of letting go of grudges and sadness. It may mean taking items that are no longer needed to the thrift store or doing some fall de-cluttering. It may mean something as simple as doing a mild cleanse, or something more loaded like ending a relationship that has run its course. Remember, everything cycles. Often, fully letting go results in relationships being refined and returning in a more honest form. This transformation is mysterious, unpredictable, and can only be engaged in through the process of absolute surrender.
Harvesting and Gathering Resource
All the unfinished business, commitments, and relationships that exist going into fall, will take up space during the winter months, when the season lends itself well to deep introspection, rootedness and dreaming. Harvesting means being discerning about what loose ends need to be tied up, and what can be distilled and refined into resource to fuel one's work during deep winter. The idea is to only bring forward what is absolutely nourishing, what is absolutely necessary for the flourishing of the core essence. This could mean finishing up an art project, or refining it to a certain stage that could carry forth into winter. This could mean harvesting a financial plan, refining daily practices, gathering in one's root network of loving relationships, studying that furthers one's purpose, etc.
In all transitions, the idea is to hold on to, and to nourish the connection with one's core essence. This is a still, deep feeling of home that can be accessed to varying degrees through awareness practices, time in nature, somatic work, energy medicine, earth-based ritual/ceremony or any activity that nourishes what one senses as being heartfelt and true. Letting go of what obscures this essence, and gathering what nourishes it, are activities that move in tandem with the season of fall. The more disconnected humans become from natural cycles, and from the non-human world, the more discordant human lives become, impacting the entire web of life. As biological creatures, humans work best in tandem with seasonal energy. This interconnectedness increases one's innate ability to heal and to create a more beautiful world through our lived experiences.
A special thanks to Christina Pratt, Charles Eisenstein, Caitlin Matthews, Paul Pitchford, Junot Diaz, Bonnie Gintis, to the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, and to the non-human world for the inspiration for this article. InvisibleFriends is based in on unceded Sinixt Territory.