Last weekend, because I’m not proficient with ceiling fan instillation, I was relegated to working in the flower beds. The Lamb’s Ear and the hostas waved dry and empty stalks. The decorative grass was seedy and eating our front porch. A few other things, no longer recognizable, were completely dried up. The place was a mess of dead leaves.
In the hour I spent hacking and chopping and trimming and scooping, I gave a lot of thought to the the autumnal processes. Plants, after living the glory of full bloom, offer new seeds to disperse into the world and then, generally, spend the next several weeks in hospice. The classy ones, like the oak trees and burning bushes, use brilliant hues to say their goodbyes while others simply shrivel up and the next thing you know, you have empty branches.
Nature pretty much self-directs this process. Trees aren’t shocked when they end up naked; in fact, so goes the cycle of life. In order to have new life, we must rid the old growth. The simple truth remains: nothing new will grow where the old hangs on past its season.
This past week I participated with my yogis in what we call an “Ayurvedic Reset.” There are several components, most notably the mono-diet of kitchari. I ate it for lunch and dinner all week; kitchari is considered the “child’s pose of food”, a gentle place to find your breath again.
Quite honestly, I enjoy kitchari… about once a week or so. The last batch I made ended up tasting quite awful to me. Part of me wanted to join in for the fish tacos and call my near-week’s abstinence “close enough.” So many other things sound more delicious. Like tacos. Or, by the end of a reset week, maybe even leather shoes. Or chalk dust. Honestly, I love food so much that restricting me to one type is nothing short of torture.
So why participate in such practices? Life is short, eat the brownie used to be the motto of my college years. Which is true. I’ve decided never to turn down a plate of my grandmother’s noodles for similar reasons.
If you get into certain spiritual circles, fasting often comes up. You can’t swing a cat without hearing “every time I get hungry I just pray.” And that is nice. Well done. I’m glad people find that element of the fasting practice helpful. I do not.
But here’s what I’ve learned: by limiting my diet, I practice how not to limit my joy.
Food brings me joy! It’s a love language. I believe Shauna Neiquist will back me up on this. And, as you would have it, Rob Bell. He spoke to me personally on this. Well, through his Robcast, recorded weeks prior… but I heard it while in the want-to-quit middle of my reset and it resonated deeply. He said we tend to mis-believe our joy is limited to only the food, drink, habit or sensation we’re craving.
And I thought back to my flower beds. Each branch sprouts only one leaf at a time.
A healthy tree will bloom over and over, enjoying new seasons with something different on its fingertips. What if the same is true for our souls? We can practice enjoying something, and then set it aside so to allow room for something else just as joy-worthy to sit down for a spell.
So perhaps we take a cue from the trees and realize we need to let a few things go? Just for a time, a season, a purpose – let them fall. Because when we do, we will likely find something new is able to grow.
I want new things to grow in my life, but I don’t get to have that without a regular cycle of letting things go. “Clearing space” is a mantra I keep close. This can mean getting rid of stuff that was once vibrant. But nothing blooms year-around (at least not in these parts) without manufactured conditions; hibernation is key for a plant to offer something again in the spring.
And so it goes for our souls. It’s time to let go of the things which have passed their season. Perhaps not forever, but for now. If you want something new to grow in the future, it might be time to put things into right places. And maybe, right now isn’t the time for new growth. Right now is the time to get settled in for the long winter’s peace. Some things, including you, are allowed to go dormant for a season.
As the trees show us, letting go can be quite beautiful.