Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Some say the cycle of the year is a mandala of sunshine and shadow and in the same way our lives are made up of light and darkness. We experience hope and experience loss. Living by the seasons, connecting to the Earth, reminds us of this. We can be present when we connect to each season; loving the warmth and cold, the light and dark, the long days and the short. Every beginning is an ending. Every ending is a beginning.
Each season is a reminder that nothing lasts forever but this is especially true as we enter the dark half of the year at the end of October. The festival of Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced ‘Sow’ein) marks the end of the Celtic year and the transition from autumn into winter. This year it begins on the evening of 31st October and ends of the evening of 1st November, coinciding with full moon and Halloween. It has always been considered a magical time where the veil between the Earth and the spiritual world is at its thinnest and it can be an opportunity to find renewal in rest, sleep, meditation and dreams. I live in Leeds and as more people are being asked to stay at home because of coronavirus, this is especially pertinent. It may seem especially harsh not to socialise right now but we might do well to remember that nature has times of hibernation. Each season has a moment of creation and destruction. All are equally beautiful and majestic in nature.
Goddesses of the Underworld
You may have heard of the Greek goddess Persephone, the daughter of the corn mother, Demeter, who was stolen away by Pluto and taken to the underworld. This has echoes in other myths of the Goddess. In Hindu mythology, Kali is the goddess of darkness and destruction, reminding us that change is necessary in order to grow and renew. Through experiencing difficult situations we may grow more powerful and we may be able to visualise a new future whilst we are in a state of darkness and dormancy. This links to the idea of the gunas and the dominance of tamas at this time of year, where the energy is heavy and full of decay.
The Yogi Gardener
As a gardener, you can’t help becoming even more aware of the cycles of nature. Rotting vegetation and the remains of leaves and the plants which were so vibrant in spring and summer can make excellent compost! I’m making it on our allotment right now and it will help our veg grow strong in the next cycle of the year. Gardeners wouldn't function without an awareness of how to live seasonally. In the same way, the Buddha reminds us that the lotus flower sprang up when its roots were nurtured by mud. Small acorns lie on the ground in the woods right now and without them no great oaks would grow. This is the time to incubate the seeds of our ideas, hopes and dreams in our unconscious and let them grow throughout the winter. We can honour the cycle of the Earth with an understanding that the death of the old will bring an opportunity for a new beginning. Nurture your dreams and new visions of how the world could be whilst it is dark. What direction do you want your life to take? Maybe it’s time to dream a new dream.
We can remember this when we plant bulbs. Find time to plant a bulb in the dark soil so that it can brighten up our lives in spring. You could visualise planting a small powerhouse of dormant energy resting and recharging in the darkness so it can glow even brighter when the right time comes. In the same way, it is a wonderful thing to visualise our bright light glowing from within as we meditate during the dark months. We need to nurture ourselves with as we nurture our dreams and find time to rest this season, glowing from the inside, bringing in warmth and creativity with images of inner light. I love to meditate with candles and feel how our inner candle can grow strong and light up our dark days. You may also like to connect to images of the sun warming our solar plexus (manipura chakra) at this time. We can keep these inner fires burning, whilst accepting too that we are all part of the cycle of life. Awareness of our own mortality may also encourage us to live life to the full and value what we have. Samhain is a time for traditionally honouring your ancestors. What kind of ancestors are we going to be?
If this resonates...
If you're interested in learning more about living with the seasons, a great place to start is by reading anything by Glennie Kindred. The truth is that many of us have forgotten the traditional festivals in the Celtic Calendar and need to re-educate ourselves and re-connect to the Earth, our mother. If you start to tune into the natural cycles of the Earth and celebrate its wisdom, you will start to live a more enriched live in tune with nature and the elements and as we become more aware of how we are all connected and aware of your own mortality, you may feel more joy in the everyday rhythms of life. I know this is something I have honestly experienced and it enriches my experience of life. We can bring these themes into our yoga practice each time we are on the mat, with gratitude for what we have right now, living in the present and celebrating the stage of life we are at.