Death, Change, and the Eternal Self


Well, the rains have returned to the PNW, and here in Portland I can feel the deep relief emerging from the land and the trees. A Western Red Cedar lives in my back yard, and I could feel her energy withdrawing a bit during the excessive heat this summer.

The Red Cedars have had a particularly difficult time with the changing climate, and I’ve been grieving the real possibility that they most likely will not make it through if this trajectory continues. It’s taken some time, even with the first few weeks of rain, for Red Cedar to fully again occupy her strength and medicine. But I feel she is back. And I’ve been pouring on the love to her each day.

It is an interesting time we’re living in, change being so quick and apparent. There’s more being created and innovated than ever before, alongside a greater level of dying - leaving behind of old ways, literal species extinction, and things turning obsolete.

Change inherently carries with it a letting go, a loss, or death, of what previously was. Life is always changing and morphing, of course, and it is a false notion to believe in any sort of permanence in our lives. Yet it can be hard to reconcile the changing and dying when we’re not ready to let go, or when the rate of species extinction is unfathomably painful.

And while there are certainly things we can and must do in order to shift the trajectory of destruction, there's also a way we can be with our lived experience that can offer us solace. I strongly believe in the importance and purpose of grief as a sacred emotion of transformation. And alongside grief, we can also lean into a trust in something wider that can hold our grieving hearts. If there’s any season that can offer us wisdom for this, it is the Autumn season. Autumn gains richness in change. It revels in the release and death process. It show us how to find, and lean into, the true bones of our lives, as well as the part of us that is impermanent; the part of us that doesn’t die, but remains as outer circumstances shift.

Autumn helps us tune into the thread of ourselves that speaks from beyond this life. Yes, we hear the voices of the ancestors and spirit beings more acutely now. And we also have the opportunity to listen deeply to the voice of our widest self that has been through countless deaths and still remains strong and assured.

There’s always a moment during the mid-autumn where I feel the palpable sense that I can no longer do as much as I could in a day, even as compared to the early autumn months. This cyclical message from my body is always welcomed, as not an invitation to slow down, but a requirement. Alongside the relief, I have to admit a sense of grief that emerges as I must let go of ideas about what a productive day looks like. I must let the change ensue.

And I am met with evening fires in my fireplace, slow movement and stretching, journeys with the plant spirits and other guides. I fill in the space with my spiritual self, as it widens to show me the only thing I know to be true: that there is so much more to life and this universe than what we see. And I open to being with that which lives beyond.

Autumn’s spiritual side is an invitation to attune to what really matters in our lives. And to ask ourselves what core sense of being remains in the dying?

Can you give yourself room to feel into this part of you as the nights stretch out, and the darkness awakens?

What draws your own spiritual nature out?

What brings you into that very sense of eternal?

And while being in this wider sense may not change the fact that the climate is changing, and that the Red Cedars may not survive, it does offer perspective that we can lean into as we both feel as well as act in service to our greater Earth Community. Living in this spiritual perspective without feeling and action is known as spiritual bypassing. But we cannot abandon the spiritual for the sake of action. We need both. So lean into the spiritual now. Let yourself be held in the knowing that there is more to what we can see and know. Lean into the spiritual as the nights elongate, and Autumn wraps you with her dark cloak of wisdom.

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