Mindfulness in autumn – and a poem by May Sarton

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Autumn in Orton (c) Suzie Grogan

We have written recently about how autumn can be seriously good for your soul, and indeed it can. However, for many it is a melancholy time, when thoughts of loss, or of letting go are to the fore. Some of the words we associate with autumn can feel sombre and muted – ‘fall’, ‘decay’, ‘mists’  – and tones are ‘muted’.

But today, as we start work on our autumn programme and gear ourselves up for our latest mindfulness courses, we wanted to use images of autumn as a focus and see this time of year as an opportunity to celebrate and treasure what has been and then let it go. There are ‘autumn words’ that are lively and full of joy – the ‘boisterous’ winds, ‘warmth’ of first fires and ‘blaze’ of autumn oranges – and as the poet John Keats said in his ode to the season – ‘Where are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they? /Think not of them, thou hast thy music too…..

But letting go can be difficult, and takes practice. You have to learn to take responsibility, forgive and cease blaming others. And you have to live in the present moment, rather than filling your brain with concerns about the past.

We often like to choose a poem for mndfulness on ‘let’s talk!’ and today we have found a wonderful ‘Autumn Sonnet’ by May Sarton, a prolific American writer who died in 1995. She was known for her honest, open approach to her writing and her thoughtful expressions of what it means to be human.

If I can let you go as trees let go
Their leaves, so casually, one by one;
If I can come to know what they do know,
That fall is the release, the consummation,
Then fear of time and the uncertain fruit
Would not distemper the great lucid skies
This strangest autumn, mellow and acute.
If I can take the dark with open eyes
And call it seasonal, not harsh or strange
(For love itself may need a time of sleep),
And, treelike, stand unmoved before the change,
Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep,
The strong root still alive under the snow,
Love will endure – if I can let you go.

May Sarton

‘If I can let you go as trees let go….’ what a marvellous analogy, with the recognition that autumn can be a time of recharge and the storing up of energy for new bursts of energy in the future.

Do you like autumn, or find it a time of year that prompts feelings of sorrow and loss? We would love to  know what you think.

Mindfulness courses taken by our specialist, Miranda Bevis begin on 1st October 2015. See The Terrace website for full details. 

How does the weather affect our mood?

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The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

Lodged by Robert Frost

For some of us, our mood seems inextricably linked to the weather. If you live in certain parts of the world, the weather can be relied upon, but in Britain even summer can be cold and wet, or one day hot and dry and the next cold and gloomy. As autumn takes hold the rain is falling, taking beautiful, bronzed leaves from the trees , making pavements slippery and sneaking under our brollies as a chilly wind blows huge grey clouds quickly across the sky.

Research suggests that the effect the weather – sun or rain – has on us is a very individual experience. For some, the heat of summer is unbearable. For others, like Robert Frost in the poem quoted above, a rainy, miserable day affects his human nature in the same way as it impacts upon the nature he sees around him. For many, winter becomes a time of unbearable sadness, literally, as ‘seasonal affective disorder’ (SAD) comes on as the amount of light fades and the days become shorter.

Edward Thomas, another poet of the early twentieth century, uses the image of rain in a quite different way. It is suggestive of solitude and loneliness, but it also has the ability to cleanse and to offer a new start….

From Rain

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude…

Edward Thomas

Perhaps it is how we look out upon the weather that is important. It isn’t simply the elements that cause our mood, it is part of a whole bundle of feelings and emotions. If we did not have clouds, we would not feel heartened as the sun breaks through them. If we did not have days of warm sunshine, the rain, when it does fall, would not seem so refreshing.

How do you feel about the weather? Does it directly affect your mood or simply heighten a feeling that is already part of your life? Do you have any coping mechanisms for days of weather that you find difficult to deal with?

We would love to hear your thoughts….

The many faces of autumn….

Autumn Leaves, by Millais

On ‘let’s talk’ we occasionally look at the way we sense our feelings are reflected in the work of artists, poets, film-makers and writers. Creativity and mood are very closely linked and many who find no other way to express their feelings find an outlet in creative expression.

The season is now definitely changing. We have temperatures in the late ‘teens, gentle warmth still lingers and any sunlight seems to glow across the landscape in a gentler fashion than in the height of summer. But there is little doubt that dusk is coming earlier and more of us are waking up for work before the sun has risen above the horizon.

Autumn means different things to different people. Many love it – the smell of bonfires, of the earth and the ripe fruit. Others find it lowering, having a sense of things dying and of the coming end of yet another year. Those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) come to dread the lower light levels and the feeling of darkness closing in.

As we know, more than one thing can be ‘true’. We can choose ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats to enjoy the sensual pleasures of the season and revel in the ‘last oozings’ of the year. Here is a reading by actor Ben Wishaw:

Or we can approach it like  François-René de Chateaubriand in Memoires D’outre Tombe

“A moral character is attached to autumnal scenes; the leaves falling like our years, the flowers fading like our hours, the clouds fleeting like our illusions, the light diminishing like our intelligence, the sun growing colder like our affections, the rivers becoming frozen like our lives–all bear secret relations to our destinies.”

But for an expression of BOTH truths, how about the words of Edward Thomas in one of his two poems entitled ‘Digging’…

To-day I think
Only with scents, – scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke’s smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.

Those ‘sad songs of autumn mirth’ are with us now. Live with them and enjoy them.

How do you approach the season? What does it mean to you? We would love to hear your views.