Its our natural state to go to ground at this time of year; a bit like the glorious red maple leaves which, in my garden, are being mulched by rain and heavy dew to become next year’s earthy sustenance wherever they fall. We go to ground not to vacate ourselves or deplete but to go into our most authentic selves more deeply, refinding the soulful aspect that brighter days tend to chase away with their spotlight and busy-ness. No wonder this time of the year is known as All Souls; for its not just the souls of the dead but all of our spirits that shake off flesh and bone and take off to fly free in all the hours of dreaming and slowing down as days become dark and cold. This hibernation is more akin to the seed that is fuelling itself with new imaginings of what it wants to be next year; the metamorphosis that looks like dying but which is really all about creativity and aspiration. Yet when we focus on the physical reality of being grounded to colder days with far less daylight, perhaps more pain, it can feel clod-heavy, sodden, desolate; yes, a kind of death.
I recognise in myself a long-running pattern when this season turns. Perhaps it only started when chronic pain got-going; perhaps even sooner than that, but I tend to evacuate the body at this time of year. Like households that bolt-up their shutters and throw on dust sheets to head up-country when the season gets inclement, I see how it’s as though I say “Bye, see you later” to my family and vacate the body from late September until about a week before Christmas; entering a dream world made-up of days where I lose myself in painting, music and deep contemplation…barely functioning in a practical sense, hardly talking, keeping well away from a world that might exacerbate or highlight my limitations. My brittle body gets left like a shell on the floor as I spiral myself upwards through the crown of my inspiration, my pain all-but forgotten as I lose myself to my dream-world of art and meditation, of epiphany, of reverie. Anything that tugs at my ankle to force me down to the practicalities (there is one particular thing, every autumn) becomes the resented pain-bringer that forces me back to inhabit the cold-draughty house of my skin and bones when it is anything but the season to do so; and I struggle hugely at that time. But for the rest, I shrug and say “I just can’t” and let myself do what I have to do.
This year is different; I’ve worked hard at grounding my vata-ness through warm, sweet, salty diet and proper sustenance, fluids, rest. Yes, I’ve done it…feeling more in the body than I can recall at this time of year and its a bizarre thing, like finding yourself in your summer-house at the wrong time of the year. Like a house on the beach, I’m finding the view very different…and not so inviting. My body is in its usual autumn brittleness, my fingers gnarly and limited, my spine so uncomfortable I can hardly sit on it, I hurt to walk, ache to stand…yet I’m very much here to notice it; there’s no escaping it all now I’m back in my body. All those things that I usually avoid since they tip me over my pain limit are suddenly all around me; I notice “the news” and people’s worries, get drawn into their dramas, feel all their angst, even making it mine if I don’t watch myself. No longer able to focus exclusively on what I have to do for myself, I’m back in the “real world” with a vengeance and its been difficult to cope with on top of all the physical challenges this time of year brings, which feel more “real” than ever. Its even made me question the wisdom of the Ayurvedic diet I was prescribed for that assumes I want to be brought back into the body; but do I? I sometimes wonder. Not when it’s all about pain; when even turning over in bed means pain. When I do yoga and its pain. When I walk my dog to see a sunset and yes, its pain.
How do I resolve this conundrum; perhaps its the best of both worlds that is inviting me to try it, as I’ve been exploring across all aspects of life lately. What if, now I’m in my body, I still get to choose when to leave it; to take excursions, on demand. So, when I can’t sleep for pain, I meditate. When I can’t do much yoga, I do what I can and I feel grateful. When I can’t do much else, I watch the birds in the garden and I smile. After months of abstinence, I find I am wanting to paint again; to listen to music more, to play music when my fingers allow me to reach all the notes. In other words, I somehow manage to release myself even more than when I lost myself altogether since it is now relative to the other half of my experience, which is all about sensations in the body and which there is simply no denying any more. Its early days, but there is a new sort of richness to feeling everything, tasting it, sharing it with others, even feeling the cold…then saying “enough now” and ducking out to somewhere that is entirely self-directed and free of it all; which is more spontaneous, creative, detached, unconditional and free.
The dreaming hibernation of winter becomes more real, more conscious (and less accidental) somehow, when you do it like this; like a lucid dream just one step from creating an aspirational life that is like this all the time, making the seasons blur…as when springtime comes early and lights a winter’s day with early blossom. When it happens like that, its possible to stop expecting things only because they always happen that way and to open to brand new possibilities. I feel like I’ve gained more time; as though months that once felt stagnant just stretched and opened wider to fit more possibilities in. The high-points of life seem more rooted in the present moment (not some sort of abstract other-world known only in imagination) and start to happen more readily in the midst of everyday life; a left and right hemispherical marriage of sorts, blurring boundaries from one type of experience to the other. It feels like a melting pot of reality and so-called non-reality; or like some sort of alchemy is on the verge of taking place, birthing a new paradigm. Like I said, early days…but its a new version of being grounded, without the old resentment and a wide open heart.