November is a time to let go the blooms and prepare for the somber quiet sparse beauty of winter. I remember a few weeks ago how brilliant so many trees were in my neighborhood. How much we enjoyed staring upwards and admiring the dizzying colour display of maples in October. These same trees are now bare. But in that bareness, there is a unique stark beauty. Seeing through the dense forest, my eyes can make out the lay of the land, the rocky uneven ground cluttered in dry leaves. If I stop and look I can see nests in the branches previously hidden by foliage. I can see the rays of the sun shimmering between trees, changing angles in the afternoon. There is much to see and enjoy if we slow down and really look with fresh and willing eyes.
The mind creates our experience out of the contacts we have with the objects of the world: sights & sounds, tastes and smells, touch, voices of people and their actions toward and around us. Some are pleasant and we try to make them last, even though they are fleeting. Some are down right unpleasant and we push them out of our awareness, thereby incurring a lot of stress and suffering . Needless suffering, I might add, as experiences of discomfort are receding all by themselves. But can we remember this in November?
The cold, the wind, the icy rains of November test our patience. Being with all this harsh weather tests our resilience in the face of discomfort. Can we lean in and be with whatever nature brings us? Especially now, knowing that cold will be hanging around for months to come?
Consciousness is co-created from the constant flow of episodic events and our brain making them available to our awareness. We are not in control of the ebb and flow of pleasant mixed with the unpleasant, but imagining we can control our experience, we go to great lengths orchestrating our environment in attempts to shape events to our liking. We do this in our own peculiar ways. This is the time of year I am busy searching travel sites for a warm and sunny holiday from the cold. While feeding the escape fantasy, I know that I am happiest when I can go outside and look at nature even this time of year. So, I am cautious not to get so lost in dreaming of warm and sunny places, that I forget to look, see and feel what is here now, on these short and cold days of November.
This is a unique time of year to return to mindfulness. Each change in the outer landscape has the power to bring our awareness back to some change in our inner experience. We are reminded of the three flavours of being alive: unsatisfactoriness, impermanence and no -self. Today, I am contemplating impermanence.
The breath I just took will never be available to me again. If we can manage to remember that letting go is already natural to us, we see that we just have to stop resisting. This breath is on its way out, I am ready for the next one. The dates in the calendar remind us that soon this year will have run its course and we prepare for another year of life. Letting go what has already happened is inevitable. Yet with the colder and darker season coming upon us, this is precisely the way we are challenged, to let go what is gone and turn toward what is always abundantly available: a different, spare beauty in the landscape preparing for the dying season. A dying that is also part of life. A dying that is necessary to make way for the new life of the coming spring. November begins this process, of life forms receding, clearing the world for future growth. Our invitation is to witness what is already on its way made possible by the clearing out, the emptying out, the receding of the remnants of summer.
One way to escape being caught in regret, a sense of loss, or gloominess, is to actually turn toward what is happening right now. Really savoring what is available in each moment re-kindles in us the sense of connectedness to all of life.
Andrew Oldezki writes:
“It is the radical transience of the world that makes it both tragic and beautiful, like the cherry blossoms in Japanese aesthetics. The tragedy is that nothing actually exists; it is ll passing away in the instant it is formed. The beauty is that we have the means to be aware of this, a poignancy of this tiny corner of reality.”
Someone once said about letting go: “you donʼt have to let go; you just need to stop holding on”.
I am now going to tune into a beginnerʼs mind, and walk outside with non directed, yet moment to moment awareness – open to this November Beauty – move right in and look to see what I have missed up to now. For it, too, is on its way, through moment to moment change and will soon be gone.