The Coming of Fall
Once a year, at least here in the Midwest, everyone celebrates death and decay. Sound odd? Well it's true. And I'm not referring to Halloween either!
Fall is coming soon, and everyone revels in the beautiful colors as the season changes. But the reality is that this is the death of nature all around us. The flowers die, the vegetable plants die, the leaves die and fall off of the trees. But the process of this happening is seen as extremely beautiful and one that everyone typically wants to capture in photos. In fact many people travel great distances just to observe the beautiful colors of a Midwestern Fall.
So why is it that we don't see our own death, or that of loved ones in this same way? We are certainly as much a part of nature as any tree or flower. And we could not exist were it not for the rest of nature. The trees, the flowers, the chirping birds, we are all very much a part of this.
I think it's because we know that nature renews itself and is reborn in the spring. But we have a hard time believing that this is true for us as human beings. Yes, as an integral part of nature it only would make sense that we too will be reborn. And this can happen many times before our physical death too.
We desperately cling to the idea of who and what we are; yet each day we are not the same. The person you saw in the mirror yesterday is truly dead and gone. Each cell has changed, each thought has passed, and every notion of who you are is only a memory—and a memory that is more delusion than anything else. And the suffering that we bring upon ourselves by grasping at this perception is tantamount to our self-loathing and despair.
But what if we let go of this desire to be what we were or what we think we are? What if we just allow ourselves to be whatever we are today without any preconceived notions? Doesn't that sound refreshing? It's light; it has infinite space and possibilities. It's springtime of the self!
And this can only be achieved if we are able to revel in the decay and death that may be upon any of us, accepting whatever discomfort and disappointment we are facing. Trying to push these unsatisfactory feelings and circumstances away are only a way to avoid reality. Fall must be allowed to give way to the frost and barren landscape of winter before any of us can see the blossoming of spring.
Most of the people I know are not fans of Midwestern winters. I am one of the few who has no problem with the cold and ice and slippery roads. I accept that winter is a part of nature no different from any other season. And I understand that while it may seem to last forever, winter is impermanent like everything else. And this too is the case when we find ourselves facing the seasons of our lives. Some days are mild, some beautiful, and some are so cold it chills us to the bone. Yet even on those coldest days, if seen with open eyes, the beauty of each tiny snowflake, the snow-covered landscape, and the children making snowballs and sledding down the hill can warm most of our hearts at the deepest level.
What we each have before us is a day that encompasses everything that it is supposed to be. Regardless of the season, the beauty is present if only we open our eyes. And I found this to be so evident as I walked for hours today stopping to rest from time to time. I sat beneath some mighty oak trees, and I thanked the trees for offering me shade from the heat of the sun. I thanked the wind for blowing a cool breeze that cooled my overheated body. I thanked all the plants for supplying the wonderful oxygen that my lungs were inhaling and giving me life. And then I looked down and saw one brown leaf. A dead leaf that had fallen from the tree above me. And I understood that the tree had no clinging or expectation, no sadness or regret. The tree offered me so much, with no expectation and no reward from me. It was simply being a tree. And I think that tree was my teacher today. Teaching me to simply be. To be present, accepting, and to offer whatever I can without selfishness or desire. To understand the coming and going of this life, without needing it to be anything else other than what it is.
With this awareness, it is impossible not to be filled with an abundance of gratitude. Today is truly like no other, and this moment is the one that counts. Enjoy this day.
David "Nissarana" Schmidt has worked in retail sales and corporate management and now runs his own online guitar business. Born and raised Roman Catholic, Schmidt left those roots to experiment with a religion of his own creation before becoming a Christian and then journeying into several Eastern philosophies including Sufism, Taoism, and Buddhism. He has published in his local temple's newsletter, and studies under Bhante Sujatha, recently named Chief Sangha Nayaka (Patron) of North America. David blogs at Well Happy Peaceful, a blog intended to share what he continues to learn as a student of the dhamma.