There are special moments during the annual journey of the earth round the sun that have been recognized and honored the world over. Acting as seasonal demarcations, the solstices are times of the longest day/shortest night (summer) and the shortest day/longest night (winter), while the equinoxes, located equidistant between them, are times of equilibrium when, for a brief time, the Sun appears to stand still and daylight hours are equal to those of darkness. After that, as the Sun continues its movement, daylight will then either lengthen (spring) or shorten (autumn) based on the time of year.
Autumn technically begins August 1st and ends October 31st—with the Autumnal Equinox, the 4th and final Sun cycle festival of the year, marking the mid-point on September 21-23 in the northern hemisphere. For our agriculturally based ancestors, this autumn season was a time of the last harvests of the year. At the completion of gathering in, harvesting and storing of foodstuff in preparation for the coming winter, the villagers had time—and good reason–to celebrate and feast together. Known by a variety of names, autumnal equinox myths, stories, and traditions can be found the world over and typically include bonfires, ringing in the harvest bread, communal suppers and celebrations of remembrance and gratitude.
If we understand ourselves to be extensions of nature, as did our ancestors, we begin to recognize that our life energies and inner cycles are inherently linked to, and a reflection of, the cycles of life in nature. The energy and movement unique to each season is reflected in our physical and psychological processes. While the growing light and expansive energies of spring represent initiation into action and a time of looking forward, offering an opportunity for us to share and experience the outward movement of rebirth, renewal and regeneration with the natural world, autumn represents rest after labor and a grateful recollection of the past. With its onset, our outward focus naturally shifts, and energies begin to draw inward in reflection as daylight wanes and longer nights signal the approach of a quieter time. Thus, it is at the time of the Autumnal equinox that we are offered an opportunity to share with nature the experience of harvest—a time to gratefully remember and celebrate the abundance of our personal harvest, whether it be a “real harvest” of things planted in the earth or the resulting harvest of efforts, actions, and intentions set previously—like seeds sown, with dedicated, diligent tending, they had grown, ripened and blossomed into fullness—resulting in a bounty of “food” for our body/mind/spirit.
Prior to celebrating the resulting abundance from the harvest, and an important aspect of Autumn equinox, is the process involved with the act of harvesting. Unlike the “spring cleaning” of Vernal equinox, where the intent is to cleanse, clear and open up an area (home or field) that had been dormant or shut away during the winter months in preparation for renewal and growth, the intention of “fall cleaning” at Autumnal equinox is to bring in what is needed and to clear out and let go of that which is extraneous in preparation for winter sequestering.
For those in the fields harvesting the grain for winter’s bread, the first step was the cutting and gathering of the sheaves; the next was to go about the time consuming, tedious process of “separating the wheat from the chaff.” The chaff, the inedible husk surrounding the seed of cereal crops like rice, barley and wheat, was (and still is in some countries) separated from the edible portion of the grain in a two-part process known as “threshing” and “winnowing.” When harvesting wheat, threshing is the initial chaff-removing process of loosening the seed from the husk and stalk to which it is attached; it may be done by beating the sheaves against the ground or a series of wooden bars or by beating the grain using a flail on a threshing floor. After this, the straw (stalks) are gathered, raked away, and placed back in the fields for fodder, while the grains are taken to be winnowed, removing the husk and any pests hiding in the grain. The simplest method, called “wind winnowing” involves pouring the grains from a height on a windy day; the wind will blow away the lighter chaff and the heavier grains fall back down. Another method of winnowing involves throwing the mixture into the air from a pile on the ground, with the wind blowing away the chaff and the seeds falling; with this method, tools such as a winnowing fan or basket or a special winnowing fork (similar to a pitchfork) are used. In either case, this process requires focus and commitment, for if not cleaned properly, the grain will be unfit for use.
The purpose of this lengthy explanation is twofold. For our ancestors, and many indigenous/traditional cultures today who still utilize these methods, it is worthwhile to understand that the act of harvesting is a process and, as a reflection of nature’s cycles, does not mark an ending, but merely a moment in time on the continual wheel of birth, growth, harvest, death and rebirth.
The other purpose brings us, as individuals, into alignment with the deeper meaning of this seasonal celebration. A vital part of our growth necessitates periodic reflection and times where we, too, must separate “the wheat from the chaff,” making choices and decisions regarding what to keep that will nurture and “feed” us in the months ahead and what will not. Some of the Autumn energies in us are mobilized in our ability to give and to let go of the past, evaluating what we will hold onto, thinking about what we need to release and once and for all dismissing those things in our lives which are non-essential. The letting go process allows us to renew ourselves and to take in that which is of value, creating the space, time, and energy to move on to something new.
Decisions regarding what is necessary for the maintenance of our body/mind/spirit’s optimum functioning are relative to each individual and can range from the simple to the complex. Whether these decisions are related to external issues surrounding home, school, work or relationships or pertain solely to our own health and personal growth, regardless of how mundane or profound they may seem, the choice to embrace or release is ours alone. We can choose every step of the way as we progress on our life’s journey, consciously and continually exploring and examining our experiences and making decisions about what is important for us to integrate into our life and what is extraneous to our growth…or not. To avoid making choices can potentially create dissonance and stagnation—the grain is ready to be harvested so that it can transform into what it was meant to be; but, if the grain is left in the field without an active commitment to the harvesting process, it will not only become mere compost, creating a breeding ground for parasites and vermin, but there will be no food for nourishment and we will languish and die.
Accepting that the act of harvesting, for us as it did for our ancestors, requires committed awareness and focus, and can be a time consuming, tedious and often difficult process is important. This is especially true when, in some cases, the evaluation process of “keep or release’ may run in direct opposition to old habituated thought processes and behaviors—when we discover, in the course of our self-harvesting process, that what we were taught was important may no longer apply to our lives. But everything in life changes at one time or another; it is a natural occurrence that promotes growth. To recognize these shifts in the natural world and move them into our inner world can help support us to make decisions, live and work more authentically and with greater autonomy, reinforcing coherency between our own life cycles and those of the planet whose energy we share.
If we do choose to attune ourselves with the energetic qualities of this season, it can be helpful to carve out specific times and create special moments to honor the interconnectedness of within and without and acknowledge our needs, whatever they may be. To perform an action of some sort, either in a concrete manner such as a ceremony or merely through a brief symbolic gesture, makes manifest our intention of reaping and harvesting-of gathering up and of choosing what to keep and what to relinquish—and serves several important purposes. It will assist in clarifying what it is we need and want for ourselves, ground us in the world with our decisions and reinforce the validity of our choices. The resultant energy derived from this conscious connection between the outer and inner worlds can then be utilized to propel us forward into action. Finding our voice and speaking our truth, whatever it may be, encourages the quieting of old tapes, enhances our sense of empowerment and increases our capacity for choosing that which brings us joy.
In my own life, I have discovered additional components inherent within, and integral to, this letting-go-empty-to-open process—it is to take the time to reflect upon, appreciate and, in some cases, grieve that which I am releasing; sometimes it is necessary to take a look backwards before we can freely move forward. Autumn is a time of huge changes, and changes are always a time of great joy and great sorrow. For everything new replaces something old. There is joy in the fruition of the harvest while, simultaneously, there is sadness for the endings or “deaths” of what has been. Plants are dying, but within them are the seeds of new life and a promise for the coming year. As is true for us, as we harvest and in our separating of wheat from chaff, that whatever we deem our “chaff” to be, it is worthy of acknowledging and honoring as it contains within it, the seeds of new beginnings.
Regardless of how significant or inconsequential we consider the item of our harvesting, whether it is our own stuff or from someone else, the truth is, whatever or whoever we’re preparing to release was in our lives for a reason and marked a moment in our personal history. Remember, the energy of this time is of “thanks-giving”. To not only take the time to experience any feelings surrounding the release of something or someone that previously held meaning, but to also express gratitude and/or appreciation for what teaching or gift was received from the relationship, offer forgiveness (to self as well as others), reaffirm ourselves, pronounce a severing of ties or whatever it is that applies—to speak it makes it concrete in the world and can be beneficial for completion, closure and restoration of balance, as well as facilitating resolution any lingering idealization, regret, anger, guilt—whatever unfinished business there may be that could hinder forward direction. Life happens and choices are made. Decisions set your destiny unless you review them and make changes. You may have acted in ways you do not want to carry into your future. Although you cannot go back and change the past, you can change now. Part of the evaluation process during this harvest time involves not only looking at the past but the future as well, taking stock of what we have within us to get to where we want to go and what areas may need some fine tuning or readjusting.
Honoring this time involves harvesting our own fruits of awareness and insight and find gratitude for the teachings derived from the experiences—the seeds—that helped us grow, regardless of how beautiful and profound or mundane and ugly they were at the time. It is important to use this time of balance to hold gratitude in our hearts for the life lessons that have helped us grow and let go of everything else because, by reaping the harvest of wisdom of our experiences without the need to hang on to the experiences themselves, it leaves open the space to then make new decisions. In the doing of this, we will be ready to meet the coming year with joyful expectations, setting our own future in motion with a potent surge of Autumn energy.
I have found that the most beneficial factors for me in the performance of this “release and renewal” ritual have been:
- NO JUDGEMENT—Holding on to negativity about ourselves or our harvest recipient is taking up precious space in our souls and we are the only one being affected
- BE JOYFUL—In emptying what we don’t need to hold anymore, we are filling that space back up with our most precious commodity.
And here is the ironic twist that might assuage any residual emotions associated with your harvesting process and is the vehicle of transformation not only for you, but the recipient of your harvesting. It is the Law of Conservation of Matter that states: “MATTER DOES NOT DISAPPEAR, IT SIMPLY CHANGES FROM ONE FORM TO ANOTHER.” The importance of knowing this is, on some level, in some realm, what you release will not only allow you to transform, what is being released will also be given the opportunity to transform as well. Or, in harvesting terms, when the wheat is separated from the chaff and you take the grain for future nourishment, leaving the remains in the field, what you leave behind either becomes fodder for another’s meal or, as compost, becomes the fertilizer for new growth. In this way, the process of harvesting and releasing becomes a win-win situation.
Once this act of harvesting has been completed and we have chosen what is and is not essential for our souls and its continued growth and development and joy maintenance, we are left with two piles. This is when we are able to reflect and see that Autumn is also a time of preparation. One is the harvested bounty in its raw state that we have kept and will be using as food; it is now time to decide in what ways this portion of our harvest can best be utilized to make nourishment for us in the days ahead. The other is the pile left in the field will not be used for our sustenance; however, it will be left as fodder in the fields—to act as a place of fertile emptiness where future seeds can be germinating through the winter’s darkness. Again, we are able to experience this additional aspect of Autumnal energies within us as we embrace the transition it provides—of moving from expansive light into a time of darkness and quiet, of receptivity and intuition—an optimal time to clarify intentions, directions and goals—and with care and attention, help make them ready in preparation for spring.
Summarizing the Energies of Autumn & Equinox:
A Moment of Balance
At a Time of Change and Transformation
I. PAST MOVING TO PRESENT— Act of Gathering
A. Recollection-movement inward, collecting and remembering previous experiences; a time for expressing gratitude and appreciation for all that we have been given and all that we have and for those who helped us be where we are.
B. Recapitulation-reviewing the field’s entirety; summarizing occurrences of year’s growth cycle.
C. Reflection-contemplative process prior to taking action: analysis of field, inventory what is to be harvested, clarification of tools required to complete tasks.
II. PRESENT MOMENT— Act of Harvesting
A. Threshing- housecleaning; cleansing and clearing
B. Winnowing- separation of wheat from chaff- making decisions regarding what is in balance and what is not; what necessary changes must be made to recreate balance; what to keep for nourishment and what to release.
III. PRESENT MOVING TO FUTURE— Act of Preparation
A. Transformation- making decisions for future regarding best way to utilize what has been left in the fields and what has been harvested to obtain highest benefit of each; deciding best way to prepare our harvest bounty for future use.
B. Implementation-Activation-Manifestation – Active follow through with plans and setting of priorities/goals; creating form from thought.
IV. POINT OF BALANCE— Past, Present, Future
Act of Celebration Once tasks are completed, a time of celebrating our processes-the clearing of our fields, our harvests, our bounty, our preparation of food and fields for future use, and embracing the quiet resting time after this transformative process has been completed, ready to move into the dark receptivity of winter. Offering up gratitude and appreciation for all we have, that which we had and released, and for those seeds we will soon begin tending to ensure future’s blooms.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER FOR THE SEASON
OF AUTUMN & THE EQUINOX**
The changing seasons not only represent our move around the sun, they also symbolize the internal growth we, as spiritual beings, have the opportunity to experience. Honoring the sun festivals is a good way to align ourselves with the forces of nature as each new season ignites a transformation to the landscape around us and coincides with an inner shift that marks the progression each of our spirit travels through. As we learn from experience, gain wisdom from self-reflection and awareness and regain our balance as we explore areas of imbalance, the Autumnal equinox can provided a powerful doorway and opportunity to find our own inner balance—acknowledging its status and restoring it within ourselves and between ourselves and others as necessary. The questions below offer examples that can facilitate awareness; they can be utilized within the context of meditation, guided imagery, writing/journaling, hypnosis, shamanic journeywork or just quiet contemplation and soul searching. Whatever method is used, know that this is a process that involves looking at our whole journey with compassion and nonjudgement—and excitement as well; allowing the process to unfold can not only help to resolve the past and clarify the present, it can also assist in paving the way for our future. Note: regardless of what form this process takes, or from whence the responses come, it is always appropriate to voice gratitude—if only to yourself for taking the time and care.
To Begin: create whatever image you need to ask these questions. Be comfortable, Feel safe, have a pad/pen or writing device available. Just trust what you hear. Write first, read and analyze later.
Scene: You are standing on a threshold between what was, and what will be. Now is a time to reflect between your past and your future. Look back at where you’ve been— what teachings and wisdom have been gained, what accomplishments achieved, what areas of your life are in balance and what areas are not, what has changed and what still needs changing.
Some questions to consider:
–What does it mean to me to have and/or be in “balance”?
–Is my life currently in balance?
–If not, what is creating this imbalance in my life?
(What areas of my life are not in balance?)
–If not, what action do I need to take to restore balance in my life/home/work so that I can joyfully look forward to the future?
–Is there anyone or anything that has created imbalance in my life that now needs to be harvested in order to recreate balance?
–What is the best way to achieve this?
(How can I best harvest it so it can be transformed?)
–What will harvesting this open me up to in the year ahead?
(What benefit will I derive by this harvesting/releasing?)
–What changes can I make to increase my ability to achieve and maintain greater balance in the coming year?
WAYS TO HONOR THE ENERGIES OF AUTUMN & EQUINOX**
For our ancestors, after the hard work of reaping the harvest, balance was restored by thoughtful rest and appreciation. The Autumn Equinox is our chance to celebrate a new season, and also celebrate a new internal season as we continue to move through the life-long seasoning of our souls, giving gratitude for what we have and what we are harvesting, honoring the wisdom that came from that harvest and creating intentions for the next season.
(with thanks to internet sources from whom some of this list was derived)
–Create an altar: can be on a dining room table, hearth, dresser, etc, and can include fruits, leaves, flowers, colors of the season—in whatever form speaks to you. It is a personal space that honors transitions for yourself and those who have touched your life including ancestors, loved ones, friends, those who came before you or who support you now. Offer gratitude and appreciation.
–Celebrate your home and hearth/Clean and clear your space: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, energetically-let go and release that which is no longer needed-creating ceremonies or rituals, using water, candles, scents, smudge, etc. release the old, invite in new beginnings, speak intentions for what you want, offer gratitude for all you have and assistance that has been given on all levels.
–Commit to your health—body/ mind /spirit: explore what may be out of balance and what can be done to recreate and reestablish it.
–There is power in the written word-putting things in writing assists in their manifestation by bringing them into the world; placing them on your altar if you have one creates even more energy. These can be a simple list or placed on a board & decorated-however you envision it!
— A “Thanksgiving” list/board- for whatever you are grateful
— A “Harvesting” list/board-for whatever you are releasing
— A “Seed Planting” list/board-for future intentions you are creating & goals for year ahead.
–Make a list of those things for which you are grateful, what you would like to change and what you would like to release; in each case, thank whatever it is and then burn it with prayers so that it goes out into the world. It is a way to count your blessings, turn negative to positive and restore balance.
–If there is someone in your life with whom an imbalance exists, consider meeting with them or writing them and attempt to face issues and resolve situations on a personal level to facilitate peace within, and harmony for, yourself and achieve more balance in relationships. The same is true if you determine it is time to release the relationship.
–Meditate on balance, creating sacred space and restoring energetic balance in home, life, etc.
–Make meal with friends-invite people for feast celebrations and gatherings. Traditionally, communities gathered together to share, heal and help nourish one another through harvest celebrations and feasts and give thanks.
–Show thanks for your life by sharing your bounty with those less fortunate. Provide support, make food take to homeless, elderly or those in need; volunteer time in shelter, food banks, etc—wherever you want to give thanks, share your time, donate nonperishable items, pass on those personal/household items you no longer need.
–Get back to nature: connect with, and show gratitude to, the changing world in your area; choose a place to pick up trash and keep clean, join local ecologically minded groups to assist in keeping the natural world healthy.
**NOTE: If anyone feels they would like assistance in any of these areas,I am happy to schedule a time to assist and facilitate. Please consult available options and fees, located on my website, prior to our discussion. dhp.