Fall wakes up in me an expectation of change, a loss of the ease of summer, a distant knowing that winter will eventually arrive, a readiness for wind and autumn color. It marks a time when I deepen into my own experience, become a bit more introspective, let some of my leaves fall to the ground.
I am reminded of the beginning of school years past, and I find myself pulling out books that have moved me like old sweaters to comfort me through the change of seasons. I know that I too will change, and the words of poets and authors I have read through this same season before in my life contain the experience of not knowing what is to come.
This year, I am called back to the poetry and stories of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, who found peace in the wake of the war. I am reminded specifically of his book of poetry, Please Call Me by My True Names, and a story he wrote called “Peony Blossoms”.
In reading his work, I am moved by his ability to express what I believed was inexpressible. Hanh’s poetry and his stories drift between and within the most horrific life experiences and the most beautiful awakenings. His writing reveals how, when we enter something deeply, we find connection to spirit, whether what we enter is art or science, suffering or joy, a present moment or a memory. The soul stretches to return to itself.
In the words of Hahn, it is when the wave crashes upon the shore that it recognizes that it is the water. Often times in life it is when we hit our greatest obstacles that we are connected to our greater potential, reminded of our interconnectedness, our interbeing with everything else that is alive. The recognition of our interconnectedness and interdependence provide not chains but freedom.
My introduction to Buddhism helped me understand that my desire to become a therapist was indeed a spiritual calling grounded in our very earthly experiences. I hold my work as meeting people when they hit the shores of their life to guide them to recognize that they are more than the shape they have taken up to this point and that this moment could be the introduction to their true and limitless nature.
Denying all that we are denies the undercurrent of inter-being that supports life. Without tolerance and acceptance of what we do not know, we exist in a place of fear, we are trapped in the wave. If we knew we were both the wave and the water when we approached a new shore, what would we have to fear? Let this Fall be a season of fearless dreaming and trust in what is to come. Don’t hold too tightly to your leaves, to your current shape, as we need to let go to receive.