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A Season for Sadness

It’s the time of year again—Fall.

The subtle shift from summer to end-of-summer always makes itself known to me the first weekend in August. I see a leaf here and another over there beginning to change colour. Flowering plants look less vibrant, just slightly wilty. I feel the beginning notes of the Great Letting Go.

Now with the Fall Equinox behind us, the signs are no longer subtle. Some garden plants have already surrendered to the frost. Mornings hold onto the night chill longer, and evenings lose the day’s warmth earlier.

My late mother loved this time of year. She exulted in the colours of the leaves, the gathering of the harvest, the shift from light meals to soups and stews.

I have to be intentional about noticing the beauty. To me, the colours in the leaves, while beautiful, are the last hurrah before naked branches. All of the things that have brought me joy over the past months—blossoms, green trees, warm sunshine, beautiful outdoor spaces—are giving way to signals of sadness—dead plants, naked branches, chilly weather, closed up picnic areas and campsites.

Only in recent years have I begun to practice surrendering to the sadness.

Life and loving mentors have patiently helped me understand that sadness is part of the full spectrum of living, and deserves honour in my being.

When I spend time with sadness, allow it to speak to me rather than trying to fix it or banish it, I gain a deeper understanding of what is important to me. I pay attention to what has brought me joy. Rather than futilely trying to recapture it or resenting the fact that it is now past, I soften into the moment and make space for what is.

Sadness becomes a doorway to my own soul. In sitting with it, I recognize that something I value is slipping away. I let myself feel that loss. Allowing myself to feel it connects me with the truth of my experience. Life isn’t always #blessed. Sometimes it is sad and hard and tearful. As I connect with what is true for me in this moment, the feelings make their way through me.

In the flow of attention, the grip of the feelings loosen. I can feel them moving out of my being in a kind of cleansing, taking with them my attachment to that which is passing, making space for something new.

I am also noticing as I continue to give sadness my attention that there is space in me to notice beauty and comfort and delight at the same time. The more I resist sadness, the more of my attention it takes up. When I soften around it, give it its place of honour in my inner world, it opens me to more. I can feel both/and.

In nature-based spiritual traditions, the time between summer solstice and winter solstice is the great turning inward, the tending of the inner life, the descent into my own depths. How appropriate that, for me, the season is heralded by Sadness, that messenger from within

May I accept its invitation to be attentive to my own heart, and to tend myself with gentleness and compassion.

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