Navigating Autumn Grief
It’s autumn. The season of grief and the time of year when many of you report feeling suddenly nostalgic, wistful, regretful, or sad. You are not alone. This energetic reality of autumn in Chinese Medicine is grief.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love slowing down. I love the darker shorter days. There’s less accomplishing and more letting go. In Ayurveda my primary constitution/imbalance is called Vata Dosha, which is the air or ether element. Vata is fast-moving and changeable and I totally identify with that, both in terms of the gifts of all that spaciousness and the pitfalls of being so empty and vast.
Since late September I’ve been back in yoga philosophy mode as I’m currently retaking the first fifty hours of my yoga training at Maha Yoga. The first fifty hours are bundled into four weekends of yoga immersion that are focused on self-development, philosophy, and alignment principles.
The immersion portion of this training is so amazing on so many levels. The caliber of teaching both in terms of deepening my alignment understanding (which I’ve been using to help acupuncture clients with neck pain and shoulder pain or low back pain--I can now see the misalignments that are contributing sometimes) and in terms of bathing me in the beauty of classical yoga teachings (the Sanskrit word for this is “abisheka,” being held by the teachings, when you feel that the practice is practicing you) is so top notch.
I just completed my third of four weekends and it wasn;t until I was just past that halfway mark that I realized I am so sad that the training will be ending soon. I will miss the beauty of the physical space at Maha, it’s like a little lagoon in the middle of Center City with stunning views of rooftop gardens, the clear forward-moving energy of Justicia, my teacher there, and the beautiful container of people who gathered for this training.
During the third of the four weeks, I also started to realize that I probably won’t return to Maha for awhile as the studio is so far from my home relative to my home studio and first love Studio 34 (which I can see from my house, I’m so close, and where I go to classes and teach classes multiple times a week). My weekly schedule is so structured that it’s unlikely that I’m going to trek downtown for a single class, especially since Maha classes are mostly offered on a membership model.
It’s not quite nostalgia that I’m feeling as this training feels new, with different people, and in a different space (Maha moved during the pandemic) than when I took this series of modules back in 2018. It’s more like a deep sadness and a twinge of regret that I won’t continue to have this safe container every-other-weekend to immerse myself and grow.
There’s a funny thing at the new Maha location in one of the bathrooms. Though the studio is flooded with natural light and incandescents otherwise, the light there in one of the bathrooms is an old fluorescent bulb. After you flick the switch and close the door, you end up sealed in complete darkness for several seconds. Then the lightbulb eventually makes that fluorescent clicking sound and fades on.
The first time this happened, I panicked, but after the third, fourth, fifth time, that I stood in the complete darkness of a bathroom not much bigger than most closets, that ritual of waiting for the light to turn on became somewhat soothing. Waiting for the light to turn up produced a truly comforting gap for me, one in which there is nothing to do but feel your feet on the cold tile, take a breath and settle into the temporary dark.
If you’re feeling sad about something ending, or are just generally washed over by melancholy or grief, know that the antidote is deep reverence, deep presence, and deep appreciation for life as it is.
Savoring is especially poignant and important in autumn. The leaves will be at their most gorgeous as they flash crimson yellow and orange just before they dry and die. I’m sorry to be visceral but autumn is a visceral season. It’s easy to feel gutted by the beauty and by the loss at this time of year and autumn is associated with the colon and the guts, with that deep unconscious low belly instinct.
If you’re getting that gut punch of grief this autumn, use it as a lesson to slow down and to let go of something that’s not so essential so that you can turn towards whatever it is that you love. Maybe you slow down to sip your tea, spend time learning yoga philosophy or just take a walk and appreciate the flash of color in your neighborhood flowers.
Learn to love your life as it is right now. This is it.
With deep appreciation for you and your presence.