Joyce Rupp | Autumn and Impermanence
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Autumn and Impermanence

Autumn draws me into a reflective embrace. The misty air, the golden leaves, the noisy call of geese winging their way southward, all these lead me inward. I relish autumn’s quiet way of doing this. At the same time, I resist autumn. Mainly because it pokes “death” in my face everywhere I turn. I don’t want to let go of summer’s warmth and energizing green. I resist the inherent message of impermanence reflected in this season.

Change, loss and transition, much like that of autumn, surfaced during a four day event I facilitated a few years ago. One person broke her ankle, another went by ambulance for heart-attack symptoms. The mother of a participant died and one woman developed a serious eye infection. That’s a lot of “falling leaves” in four days. These experiences of impermanence held messages that life as it is now will not last forever. It will continually change. “Invest in life,” those events seem to say, “but do not grasp it too tenaciously.”

Letting go is absolutely essential in order for change to occur. All the major spiritual teachings hold this belief – we can’t grow unless we let go. So, who of us passionately desires relinquishment? Not me. This call to love what is but not cling to it has been a longtime challenge. Every autumn I turn and face the big question: how to cherish who and what I have but to hold these gifts freely, with open hands and heart. I think I am getting better at it but I still sense some latent resistance.

My Canadian friend, Austin Repath, wrote a book that encourages me in my attempt to live fully and let go peacefully. In Last Rites: a trilogy of love and transformation Austin relates his life-long inner search for meaning through stories immersed in thought-provoking symbolism. I’ve read this small-sized book twice and plan to go back and read it again when I find myself pushing against transitions that are difficult.

Autumn leaves sailing to the ground speak of an innate vulnerability that is part of everyone’s life. I realized this anew when a participant in our Compassionate Presence program described her farewell to her 98 year old father. The two of them shared a deep love for one another. As he lay dying he whispered to her, “I tried to stay here as long as I could for you.” The beloved daughter held him and uttered these releasing words, “Dad, it’s okay for you to go and join Mom.” What immense love is in this final surrender.

If we want to be spiritually transformed it is essential to include letting go as part of our journey. Each autumn I now seek inspiration from those dying leaves gathering in ever deeper layers on the ground. As the trees let go of what enabled them to sip of the nourishing rays of summer sun, their falling leaves will eventually become a rich humus to nourish spring’s greening growth. If I stay open to the inner and outer changes that naturally arise, (if I dance more and drag my feet less about impermanence), my life can be a nourishing source for personal and world transformation. I hope the same for you.

©2018 Joyce Rupp