Finding your essence by cutting back
Imagine a gorgeous rosebush in the fullness of her bloom: overflowing with fragrant flowers, dripping with honeyed scent, full of wild, buzzing bees.
During the summer, we are like this rosebush: lush, busy, sensual, full of distraction and sensual delight. We romp late in the perpetual daylight, drink pink wine on patios, dance attendance at outdoor barbeques, and romp enthusiastically into nature. Our lives are full of social engagements: weddings, friends, and (in Vancouver, at least) eating an inordinate amount of salmon.
Summer is an invitation to expand, open our petals, and – like the bee – follow our nose hither and thither for a taste of everything. Our lives are rich in feeling, sensation, sunshine, and good company.
And then the weather changes.
We look up into a darker sky, feeling the first raindrop or chill in the breeze. The bbq invitations dry up, the paddleboards and kayaks go back into storage. Patios begin to offer blankets and heating lamps. Our own petals begin to brown and drop away, revealing the skeletal branch system beneath.
The emerging beauty of the fall is stark, skeletal, clear. The sudden clarity of the air and bite of the cold is an invitation to slough off excess, prune back the extraneous, and reconnect to the core of who we are. By pausing and pulling in, we can consciously define who we are and what we want. Rather than explode rampantly into a million summertime distractions, we hone in, narrow down, and clarify what is most essential.
In our yoga practice, a summertime practice embodies flow, feeling, and lush sensuality. Like the roses, this practice is a rich and nourishing affirmation of our vitality and expression. However, sometimes this freedom – unchecked by structure and form – can become a method to avoiding the heart, the kernel, the sticky points. When we freely move according to what always “feels good,” we can skirt challenges, avoid – if you will – eye to eye contact, and miss opening our dense and gnarled center.
An autumnal practice invites straight lines, clean energy, and direct movement. Rather than flow around the muscular obstacles that arise (stiffness, weakness), we narrow our focus and direct ourselves into the heart of the challenge. Head on, unflinching, we reclaim the length and strength that comes from structure and form. As we hold ourselves to the standard, our essence is revealed. When do we want to turn away? When do we want to flit off rather than move through?
Embrace the autumnal invitation. Strip away distraction – both in your practice and in your life. Clear away the non-essential in order to expose the power and heart of your own essence. Concentrate your energy into the very bones of who you are and what you want.
- If you only had one goal for the next three months, what would it be?
- Can you narrow your focus down to what is most important to you?
- Clean the house, clear out the basement, de-clutter your closets. Pare down your schedule.
- What no longer reflects who you are?
- What have you been holding onto that is more distracting than revealing?
- What holds you back from letting it go? What do you gain if you do?
- Rather than flow around obstacles, move through the heart of the weakness, the stiffness, the restriction. Mindfully channel your energy to stay.
- Give yourself time at the end of each practice to move your attention inwards, to refocus on you and your breath.
- As you leave your practice, take this quality of introspection into your interactions.
“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cezanne