Ahhh, bountiful Autumn. It’s so kind of nature to let go of her abundant creation of the past year, in a grand final display of fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals. And so kind of her, too, to offer us this opportunity to recognise and be grateful for our own ‘harvests’, and make way for the growth and expansion that will lead to next year’s.
Finding time for gratitude
Unfortunately, being grateful on a personal level doesn’t happen as easily as donating some tinned food to the local harvest festival. There’s rarely time to reflect on what we as individuals have completed or produced over the previous year. Finishing things generally means we can simply get on with the next job. But it’s essential that we follow the rhythm of the earth and make time for ‘completion’, for the sake of our self-worth and our peace of mind, as Mark Williams and Danny Penman note:
“If you can practise cultivating a sense of completeness – even a glimmer, right now, in this moment, with the little things in life, there is a chance that you will be better able to cope with those aspects of mind that keep telling you that you are not there yet; and not yet happy, not yet fulfilled. You might learn that you are complete, whole, just as you are.”
Letting go of old leaves…
Autumn’s lessons don’t end with gratitude. As well as encouraging us to acknowledge what we have and have done – our own cycles of creation – nature instructs us to graciously let go of some things, too.
Trees don’t desperately cling onto their leaves because they might need them next year. Yet us humans have a tendency to defy the cycle and hold onto what we’ve produced or collected – those decayed leaves, that old negativity, those old ideas, those friendships or relationships that don’t serve us… Like plants and trees, we need to return to our essence, value the life lessons, and eliminate what we no longer need in order to blossom and reap our harvest next year.
Your body, the tree
It’s not just the events, objects and relationships in our lives to which we can apply Mother Earth’s lessons in gratitude and letting go. Our bodies need attention too – the right kind of attention, a nourishing and helpful kind of attention.
We have an odd relationship with our bodies. On the one hand we identify with them strongly. We tend to despair when they become sick, suffer agonies over how others perceive our appearance, take it personally when they show signs of ageing, and sometimes spend large amounts of time and money in order to look our best. On the other hand, we neglect them, fill them with unhealthy foods, and use them in ways that cause them damage.
Being grateful for what our bodies can do results in a tendency to look after ourselves better, and it allows us to grow older and less able gracefully. Why? Because gratitude brings us joy. It’s a deeply healing practice that allows us let go of resentment towards our bodies. Have a go with the exercise below, be flooded with gratitude, let go of old criticisms, and notice how your body is seemingly relieved to be appreciated.
Practising bodily gratitude
- Notice each part of the body in turn and say thank you. It’s important to articulate the words clearly in your mind.
- Notice any sensations that are arising as you focus on each part of the body in turn. And say thank you.
- Feel extra gratitude if the part of the body you’re focusing on tries to help you each day, but struggles with pain or illness.
- Notice your body’s functions: the heart breathing, like a faithful old friend; the lungs pumping away, day and night.
- Notice your senses. How fortunate you are to have functioning eyes, ears, a sense of taste, smell, touch, balance!
- Notice the act of being aware – your ability to think, reflect, and remember. Even the ability to pay attention.
- Notice the joy in your heart.