September Journal
The prickle in the morning dew
lets me know that you have arrived.
You invite me to walk with you amongst the trees,
fragrent in their greeting.

The Earth is pleased to see you 
and the Wind shivers a welcome song.
I tell you how I missed you when you were gone.
You laugh as you skip through the forest. 

Harvest: Three-fold Nourishment

September heralds the arrival of autumn, the season most dear to me. I find the earth to be most giving in this season. Early autumn are the weeks of abundance, as produce ripens and the orchard drips with offerings. Autumn is also a season of heightened creativity. The embarking of a new journey of aquaintance with oneself and ones environment. The air once more becomes cool and fresh - an invitation to declutter our lives and seek inspiration from the natural world at our finger tips. The bounty of September goes beyond simply nourishing our bodies, but feeding the mind, the intellect and the soul. The call of the wild reaches deep within us, inspiring reflection, exploration and an inquisitive introspection.

This is not only the time of nature’s abundance, but applies equally to human nature. Autumn is the season when the labours of our spiritual and intellectual cultivation will reap the greatest yield. When the Earth energy is kept balanced and harmonious within, we achieve abundance and contentment. This does not refer to the amassing of goods or accolades, but rather a state of inner wealth and satisfaction. Abundance is a condition of the soul rather than a physical state. Autumn invites us to recognise the abundance that life offers us - from the bounty of the Earth, to the love and connection we experience with others, to the breath that sustains us, and the Divine Connection we can access at all times. 

Prāna: The Subtle Essence of Life

As the season shifts from summer into autumn the Air element takes over dominance from Fire. Vata dosha presides over our creative energy and desire for internal exploration and a deepening of philosophical curiosity.  We look for inspiration in the gifts of the Earth and from the mystery of Life itself. Attuning ourselves to the subtlties of the natural world and the very essence of existance. Air is the nourisher and the sustainer. Prāna is the life force energy. Bodily life begins with the intake of prāna and ends on an exhale.

This month the quality of the air changes - becoming fresher, cooler, and drenching us with prāna through each breath cycle. As the winds pick up it is more important than ever to stay grounded, firmly rooted, yet to glory in the qualties of the air element from a place of stability.

Practice... sensitising yourself to the quality of your breath. Taking note of it’s ebbs and flows. Depth and expansiveness. Note where and when the breath becomes stuck or finds it’s passage somehow obstructed. How does it feel to take control over the direction of the breath? To send it where it is needed, with focussed intention and soft insistance. Feel the ease that comes with loose and expansive breath cycles. The passage of the prāna through the limbs and beyond the material body. Allow the body’s boundaries to become blurred as energetic exchanges take place with the world around you. By sitting very still, experience the broad range of motion of the breath, and the creation of space inside the body and mind.

Creating Space: Simplicity and Possibility 

“Half the confusion in the world comes from not knowing how little we need.”
- Admiral Richard E. Byrd

We live in a world where we are constantly inundated with information. Whether or not this stimulae is sought or whether it is thrust upon us, the body and mind are in a constant race to process it all, meaning we are in a perpetual cycle of ‘catching-up’. Our energy is sucked away from us by every image that flashes by and every ping of a mobile phone. How are we expected to be productive, creative and intelligent when we are swimming in a sea of distraction and illusiory entrapment? How do we expect to cultivate a deep understanding of our true nature - who we really are - when we are constantly in a state of flux, breathing in images, statements, opinions, passionate argument and hypocrisy? In order to see the larger picture and set our lives in perspective, it is essential that we make the time to step back, slow down, and become situated in the present moment.

In a similar way, we are surrounded by things. We accumulate more and more in order to make our lives more ‘easeful’ or as badges of progess, icons of success. We end up being so weighed down with unnecessary baggage that it is easy to lose sight of what was originally so important to us. 

Chinese Medicine recognises all seasonal changes, but particularly the transition from summer to autumn, to be in the realm of the Earth element. There is a sense of stability in the slow, abundance of the softening days. We can revel in a feeling of groundedness and support from the earth as we move into the pinnacle of harvest. Regularity, repetition, steady routine and consistent patterns of action support us through this seasonal transition with care and heightened awareness to the shifts of our environment and internal landscape. 

The energy of autumn defines precisely why I felt inspired to move to the countryside and live in the way that I do. In the autumn we take stock of the harvest, of the bounty of the warmer months, and begin the process of withdrawing from outer life. The pace of life slows as we are no longer battling to be heard and noticed, but are content to rest in abundance, in that blissful transition between summer and winter. The early mornings are cool, the days bright, the air crisp. All around us the earth reaches her pinnacle of ripeness. There is a sense of ease that comes with these slower months. We fall into a gentle rhythm, in synch with nature’s cycle. We can allow ourselves to devote more time to turn our focus inwards. I see the summer as the season of nurturing our relationships with others - being more social and extroverted as the sun encourages us to turn our energy outwards - and winter is the season of nurturing our relationship with ourselves and with God. A deep-dive into spiritual practice and contemplative connection. Autumn is the transitional period in which we can explore our relationship with the natural world. Recognition that retreat is often the best way to advance, we can simplify our needs and wants, accepting the gifts of the earth with gratitude and humility, and looking no further for satisfaction -  becoming fully aligned with the energetics of the season.

Practice... can you create space where once there was clutter? In all aspects of life, can you rid yourself of things that no longer serve and open up for new possibility, being content to reside in that space of emptiness for some time - recognising it not as lack but as thriving potential. It might be easiest to begin by looking at your material possessions or attachments. Do you still need the sweater that has been collecting dust at the back of your cupboard for four years, or are you prepared to move on? The same can be said for beauty products, trinkets etc. Then you can turn your attention to areas that need simplifying internally. This is often a much more sensitive, and often less explored, area. The mind can become cluttered with old supressed emotions, or emotionally charged memories that we allow to play over and over, developing and transforming in our minds as ever growing challengers. We allow so much space and energy to be taken up by the ego’s desire to maintain a stronghold and keep us perpetually entangled in internal dramas. Sometimes these manifest as minor and superficial thought patterns, whilst at other times we may be working on some deep-seated trauma or unprocessed experience. 

Peace and Quiet: Cultivating Stillness

“All the unhappiness of men arises from one simple fact: that they cannot sit quietly in their chamber.”
- Blaise Pascal

As humans, we crave space and stillness. Even if only brief - the pause in a piece of music - the stillness after someone has made a statement - that gives us the space to absorb, to digest and settle. The moment of quiet that welcomes us home into ourselves. Profound experience is only profound when articulated by moments of stillness. Otherwise all experience becomes drowned out by the cyclical momentum of material existance. It is only when we become still - when we allow ourselves to be immersed in quiet - that we can truly experience the nature of Self. Developing a sense of self cannot be done simply by estabilishing exterior or material connection. Knowing who you are in moments of quiet, in periods of stillness and solitude, is to know yourself in truth. It is to differentiate between the roles you inhabit, the societal categories that you fall into, and the unchanging spirit soul that is uniquly yours.

“To me, the point of sitting still is that it helps you see through the very idea of pushing forward; indeed, it strips you of yourself, as of a coat of armour, by leading you into a place where you’re defined by something larger.”
- Pico Iyer

To be defined by something larger.

What would it be like to shed the layers of false self-identification? To become free to love and serve and devote without the fear that comes with trying to fit into a prescribed mould. Yet, as Pascal suggested, we choose to dwell in unhappiness as we resist sitting quietly with ourselves. As Pico Iyer writes, to sit still is to strip yourself of your armour. It is a daunting and often uncomfortable experience to release old notions and thought patterns. To become exposed. With nothing to drown out the mind, the ego chatters and the brain whirs. Unprocessed thoughts, emotions, experiences - real, imbelished, or imagined - swim in a chaotic and anxiety inducing pool. Easier not to go there, we think. Let sleeping dogs lie. But by neglected to step into the uncomfortable space of stillness and internal quiet, we are stunting our spiritual growth and development. We are blocking the path forward. The road to higher meaning and purpose in life. In such a way, our discomfort in solitude, in the quiet, can be our greatest shortcoming and the source of deepest unhappiness. 

Practice... making time each day to be in solitude - without phone or other technology - to be quiet and make space. This loose style of meditation could take a number of forms. Perhaps a walk in nature or a long bath, or a more structured seated meditation practice. Use this time to become aware of what IS. Paying no heed to the whirrings of the mind - the percieved problems or injustices you feel confronted by - or to the memories or stories of past or future playing out in a perpetual cycle. Instead find the freedom of being totally present. Finding the peace that comes with acceptance of the present moment in all it’s transient beauty. Become not a name, not an identity, but a living and breathing Being. Nothing more, nothing less. Get to know yourself as the witness of the thoughts, the emotions, and the opinions, as opposed to the mind itself.

Think of this moment of daily stillness as a Sabbath of sorts. In the Book of Numbers God condemns even the collection of wood on the Sabbath - a day to be dedicated to spiritual endeavour and stillness. A day of cultivation and abstaining from the material drive. For many Judeo-Christians observing the Sabbath is one of the most difficult commandments to follow thoroughly. It’s far easier to give up illicit sex or drinking alcohol than to forgo checking your phone whenever you want to. Constantly clutching for distraction, the conditioned mind will do anything in it’s power to turn the attention away from cultivating inner stillness and serenity. The death of the ego is something the ego, naturally, will battle against with all it’s might.

Perhaps the mind will convince you that you are far too busy to have the ‘luxury’ of dedicating an hour or so each day to mindful contemplation, spiritual practice, or ‘mini-Sabbath’. But it is precisely the busiest of people who require the most time spent in stillness. Pico Iyer tells a story of Gandhi waking one morning to tell his followers “today will be a very busy day. I won’t be able to meditate for my usual hour.” He went on to tell his bewildered friends, “I shall have to meditate for two.” Once we have established ourselves in the present, having found stillness and created space internally, we can go about our endeavours in a much more efficient and creative way, free from distraction, stress and frustration. No longer playing up to a constructed image of ourselves, we become free to realise our potential. We are welcomed Home. Back into ourselves. To rest in the peace that is Being. To return to the source that we know most intimately, yet have somehow forgotten. Emily Dickenson wrote: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church. I keep it, staying at Home.” 

Cultivation: Engaging the Intellect

‘To culture, or to cultivate, is to make something grow, whether plant, animal, or mind; while they all grow, only humans can turn that principle of culture upon themselves. To be human is to search for one’s unique inner powers and then consciously unfold, guide and nourish them. In most people those powers lie dormant; to awaken, to become fully human, is to see that of all creation, humans alone carry God’s nature within. As William Ellery Channing wrote, “We see God around us, because He dwells within us. It is by a kindred wisdom, that we discern His wisdom in His works.”’
- Laura Dassow Walls, Thoreau: A Life

Even as an adult, September has a feeling of ‘going back to school’. Although far from the dread this inspired in my childhood self, now this desire to engage in study and stick my head into more books is a source of excitment. As we develop as spiritual beings we are on a constant mission of cultivation. Too often we misinterpret our needs as being purely material, when really the invitation is to cultivate ourselves. To grow as Beings. To experience the world rather than acquire it, and to respond rather than react.

Once we have left school and entered into the world of work or family life, it is easy to neglect intellectual cultivation. We become increasingly one-pointed in our focus. We pick a “path” at an early age and then specialise to the point of excluding other fields of knowledge. We are encouraged to become so absorbed in our chosen subject that sometimes we lose sight of what attraction it held for us in the first place. The beauty is sucked out of it and we are left exhausted and uninspired. We spend our ‘down time’ watching TV or finding other diversions from the mind - pursuing escape, when in fact we are simply extinguishing the fire of the intellect. 

Modern invention has allowed us an extraordinary ability to gather information within seconds, however we have lost touch of the practice of sifting through and making sense of the information that we gather. It becomes easy to while away hours on completely mindless internet journeys, coming out the other end having lost time but gained nothing new. Another result of this sensory information overload is that we find it very difficult to form our own opinions without influence. Certain topics and opinions are sensationalised whilst others are neglected entirely. Complex matters are reduced to over-simplified, and often aggressively charged, hyperbole. We are encouraged to subscribe to packaged views and morals meaning we lose our freedom of discernment and ability to think for ourselves.

As a culture, we push for ‘success’ and pride ourselves in ‘mastery’. For this reason we are quick to abandon subjects or practices that we don’t automatically excel in, or that we don’t wish to pursue as a career. I could write a list a mile long of all the activities or pursuits that I gave up, either because I was frustrated at not being ‘the best’ at it, or because it didn’t line up with my chosen life path (- a rigid life path I’d already laid out and set in stone as an intoxicated and very confused sixteen year old).

Engaging your intellect doesn’t have to mean reading Goethe every night before bed (but hey, why not?). It could be learning to do a simple task in the garden that you have never done before. Or taking note of all the minute details on a butterfly’s wing as it rests at your window. For me, engaging my intellect has many different faces, however it always connects to my overarching desire to live purposefully and act in service of remembrance.

I realised several years ago that I had forgotten how to be a human. I didn’t know how to look after myself. That is, I didn’t know how to be self-reliant. How to provide my own food, source water, light a fire without hundreds of sheets of newspaper, or healthily support myself spiritually and emotionally. It’s not that I had fears of an apocolyptic scenario where suddenly the rug was pulled out and supermarkets ceased to exist (although it’s not a totally unreasonable fear). It was more that I felt that this knowledge is something inherent to the human condition, but many of us have forgotten it. I felt that I was missing out on a natural stage of human evolution and the rites of passage that tie us to the land. Many of us have become lazy and dependant upon a system that then has the power to manipulate us and our freedom of thought and quality of life. But this extends beyond necessities for survival and into all other aspects of life. How we conduct our relationships. Where we look for inspiration and entertainment.

Engaging the intellect can be as simple as making the conscious desicion to explore outside interests. To pick up a book instead of mindlessly flipping through channels late at night. Autumn brings with it an excitment about new possibility and exploration. A feeling of empowerment comes with the months of harvest. We feel safe and held - better able to expand our minds - a platform from which to go on explorations of the heart. This time of ‘going-back-to-school’ is an opportunity to take a closer look at the things and practices we take for granted in our lives. Now is not a time to look at what others are doing or to create expectations for ourselves. Instead we should keep our eyes firmly on the road down which we travel. It is an opportunity to engage with our own language of creativity and awareness. Starting only the conversations that offer us growth. Creating nurturing space. Expanding our fields of vision to encompass those areas, so long neglected, crying out for our attention. Become empowered to pursue those things that you would were fear not within your vocabulary. Be highly intentional and plant seeds of inspiration, without harbouring expectation for the outcome. Dare to fail.

Journalling: Honouring the ‘Visits of Truth to your Mind’

‘“Keep a journal. Pay so much honour to the visits of Truth to your mind as to record those thoughts.”  Emerson’s point was that solitude and journal keeping work together: solitude is not for empty reverie but for the productive habit of exploring, pen in hand, “what facts of moment lie in the memory”, facts that would illumine the gross and heedless world into meaning and life.’
- Laura Dassow Walls, Thoreau: A Life

Had it not been for Emerson asking the young Henry Thoreau whether or not he kept a journal, it is likely some of Thoreau’s greatest literary works of Transcendentalism would never have come to be. As contemporary beings we have become very good at documenting all mundane aspects of our daily lives - from what we ate for breakfast to the outfit we picked out for the day. This is almost exclusively done through images, perhaps with very condensed written explaination - words amputated for convenience or usurped by colloquialism. But ‘visits of Truth to the mind’... do we honour these? Or have we become so preoccupied with sharing the most minute and mindless elements of our daily existance that we have left little time for even having illuminations, let alone writing them down?

Journalling takes on so many different guises, meaning different things to different people. Not all journals need be profound or earth-shattering in their content. However, for me, having a journal provides the means of attempting to set into words the experiences that have meaning or are in some way charged, from the deeply personal to the universal. It is an often flawed attempt to translate spiritual matter into a language that we can recognise. An attempt to make sense of the irrational. Or simply to glorify that which we cannot fully know. The fact that we are perhaps doomed to failure in this endeavour is entirely besides the point. As Jo March points out to her sister Beth at the beginning of Little Women, ‘the secret to good writing is never to write what you know’. The most beautiful and highly regarded resonances of life are those that can never be truly understood. Love. God. The pain of Seperation. Death. All familiar to us, yet entirely alien at the same time. For how can one fully express the potency of any of them? And yet do we not have the urge to try? To make poetry of that which is always just beyond our linguistic and intellectual grasp - this is true creation. True expansion.

To sit down and take note of those things that you find illuminating, whether in love, despair or indifference, is to glean a greater understanding of yourself as a person. As words flow through you onto paper - sometimes with great urgency, other times with languor, and other times with some struggle - you gain an insight into the workings of your mind and the resonances of your heart. It is to come to your own conclusions and opinions. Perhaps hard won, but all the more potent for the effort and sincerity.

September is a month of transition. The gentle turn of the season, inviting us to withdraw softly from our outer life. To reestablish our relationship with Nature and contemplate what it really means to Live. With honesty, integrity and softness. To explore our creativity through words, through study, through prayer and through stillness.
Wishing you all a month of nourishment, creative abundance, and Nature’s medicine.

x x