Beyond the acknowledgement of changing hours of sunlight, I've never given much attention to the Autumn Equinox. But this year, I craved the balance this time of year brings.
In joining together with some instructors and friends at The Hive Collective, where I teach yoga in Chemainus, we marked the balance of light and dark together, and each of us found something of what we needed. There was some healing in this process for me, and today I want to share some of the knowledge and understanding I gained of this time of year.
Lineage of Concept
Two of the eight limbs of yoga living are the Yamas and Niyamas. These are the moral codes and habits for living your best life. It is here that we find the Yama called Brahmacharya, which can translate to "right use of energy". Often times, people focus on the idea of celibacy, which certainly had relevance for monks practicing yoga and meditation who had relinquished all possessions and worldly endeavours, but for most people, this Yama can have broader meaning more relevant to life today.
In today's world, many societies seem to over-emphasize the importance of being busy and over-scheduled. It's almost as though the amount of things you need to do or accomplish dictate how successful your life is. But in reality, using all of your energy to do "stuff", isn't really how life is meant to be. It's important to find balance - sure there are certain things that we need to do in order to continue living (working, eating, going certain places to achieve these things), but taking breaks from doing is also important (spending time in quiet, quality time with self and family, doing things that fill your soul instead of your pocket, resting).
Another concept of Yoga lies in opposites. We cannot solely focus on lightness, nor can we solely focus on darkness. The world exists with complimentary concepts, and Autumn demonstrates this beautifully. Many lovers of Autumn, enjoy how the cool, crisp air, encourages them into a cozy state of blankets, sweaters, and scarves. These two states of temperature compliment each other beautifully. This time of year, there is also relatively equal daylight hours as there are nighttime hours, encouraging us to both work/play and rest. There's a balance of bounty of harvest bringing us nourishment for winter and also the shrivelling of leaves as they die and join the forest floors of decay. Additionally, we witness the brightness of the leaves as they contrast the grey-coloured skies.
Applicability in Life
As we yield into fall, I invite you to consider, are you still trying to do it all? Does this bring you happiness or stress? Is it necessary or self-imposed? What can you let go of this season?
I think "right use of energy" is the perfect motto for this time of year! As we start to slow down from the busy summer, we can take a leaf out of a tree's book and start to let things go. Prioritizing self-care and letting go of the need to "do it all" can be very powerful, and for many people, this feels counterintuitive. I'm definitely guilty of wanting to over-schedule myself, to do all the things, and to feel a sense of accomplishment as I do so. But over the past few years, I've been practicing the power of saying "no". It was really difficult at first, and involved me literally sitting on my hands during staff meetings. Over time, it got easier, and more fulfilling to say no and prioritize self.
In addition to over-scheduling, we can apply this by letting go of thoughts, emotions, memories, and concepts that have been bothering us. As humans, we sometimes like to hold onto these things, as it can help us feel validated, or prevent us from making similar choices or mistakes in the future. But usually when we hold onto these things, they drag us down, they carry weight, and it continues to affect us until we finally release them. We don't need to forget things like this, but we can actively choose to move on from them. Doing a meditation, visualizing sending thoughts away, participating in a burning ceremony, or simply journalling our thoughts onto paper can be a great way to let things go.
I've always been a believer in giving it your all, pushing through in times of difficulty, saying yes to all the things. As I practice yoga more and more on and off the mat and connect deeper with myself, I realize that doing it all is not sustainable. Doing it all is not necessary. For sure, resilience and perseverence are important and appealing qualities to have, but so is finding equanimity, finding balance. I've been practicing this the past few autumns - as life as a teacher is super busy this time of year - and each year I get better at practicing this, and enjoy it increasingly.
Other ways I've practiced letting things go are by journalling thoughts onto paper, actively releasing them from my mind into something concrete that can allow me to let go. Sometimes I visualize closing a door where a thought or worry is when it isn't the time - for example, I have doors for work life, business life, personal life, health life - and it allows me to focus on what's most important in the moment. From time to time, I've also done a burning ceremony. When I was younger, I would write letters to exes, and when someone passed away, and would find a quiet moment to burn these in the woods. It was cathartic as fuck, and something I've always meant to come back to, but never felt I had enough reason. However, this Autumn Equinox, myself and the ladies at The Hive wrote on a leaf what was no longer serving us, what we needed to let go of, and I returned to this special ceremony, this time surrounded by a supportive kula (community). I didn't know what I would write as the day quickly approached, but the words came in the moment, and there was an immediate exhale of release and forward movement. Since then, I've been open to a new chapter of life, and opened it with open arms.
A Beginner's Guide to Yamas & Niyamas https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/philosophy/yoga-sutras/path-happiness/
The Yamas - Brahmacharya - right use of energy https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/philosophy/the-yamas-brahmacharya-right-use-of-energy
The Yamas & Niyamas https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/philosophy/the-yamas-and-niyamas
How to Do a Burning Ceremony https://youaligned.com/lifestyle/how-to-burning-ceremony/