The Stillness of Falling Leaves
There is something about the stillness of falling leaves which draws us to listen.
I remember times when I was growing up exploring our neighbor’s woods. It was full of mature hickory and oak trees. I could play for hours with only my imagination and the trees all around me.
The woods were a quiet place of stillness and solitude. In autumn the leaves on the trees changed from green into a spectrum of colors. As they turned color they eventually, one by one, descended from the branches of the trees to the ground.
The falling leaves transformed the woods. The stillness of those leaves floating down captured my attention.
I remember autumn Saturdays when we would rake leaves in our yard and listen to football on the radio. There was a stillness in the raking as well as in watching leaves fall.
We would rake all the leaves into one big pile. There were often, looking back, a few leaves which had fallen while we were working. Raking the leaves was a task, it seemed to me, which was not possible to complete.
Our parents preferred it when we worked in stillness. I think they appreciated the respite from noise. When my sisters and I were still it meant we were not arguing.
I learned to enjoy the rhythm of the raking, even if we were never really finished. Like sweeping, we rake with our backs and our legs as well as with our arms.
Autumn became my favorite time of year. The fresh green leaves on the trees flash into flames of color and float to the ground in stillness.
I can sit in a rocking chair and listen to falling leaves for hours.
Now I live where autumn is a state of mind.
Listening to Falling Leaves
It is a challenge for me to listen to falling leaves as a contemplative practice now. I live in a place with more palm trees than hickory trees.
Listening to falling leaves may have seemed easier when I was younger, but I am sure I missed a lot.
It was easy for me to experience leaves as things which got in the way or took time. Yes, I appreciated crunching through leaves on the ground. I wished, at the time, it were possible to complete raking and get all the leaves to stay in the pile.
Now I have had opportunities to practice listening to falling leaves in many places. Each place offers its own flavors, while listening to falling leaves takes me home.
When we listen to the stillness of falling leaves it is not about the sounds the leaves make. The leaves are not competing, trying to either race to the ground or hold onto the tree longer.
Falling leaves are sending their signal to us. They are trying to help us see summer is over and we are headed for winter. Each of them lights their flare and floats to the ground.
There are two months, they tell us, between Labor Day and Halloween. They want to help us use our time wisely and not waste it.
We do not need to hurry. There is time, and we can spend some of it listening to the sacred stillness of falling leaves.
I am rediscovering this truth I used to know when I was younger. Falling leaves are telling us there is time to walk in the woods, time to rake leaves. Our work will never be completely finished.
What would it be like to take some time to sit in the stillness of falling leaves today?
Practicing the Stillness of Falling Leaves
It may not be convenient for all of us to spend time with falling leaves this week. We have busy lives full of important things to do. Some of us live far away from where leaves are falling.
Fortunately we do not necessarily need actual trees to experience the stillness of falling leaves.
Some of us will want to do homework to prepare. We might want to watch a video or a film with leaves in it or read a book about trees or autumn. Lighting a candle which smells like trees or leaves might help.
As we begin to practice the stillness of falling leaves we sit still, close our eyes, and take deep breaths. We remember what leaves look like as they fall. Seeing the leaves fall in our minds eye, we listening to their stillness. These are not leaves blown down in a windstorm, but leaves falling gently in stillness.
We may feel the breeze on our skin, cooler than it was just a few weeks ago. The leaves flash their autumn colors to remind us to take time to listen.
We sit in our rocking chairs listening to the stillness.
Spiritual Life is Like Falling Leaves
Many of us feel confused and a little lost about spiritual life. We think we have seen what it has to offer and are not interested, but we cannot forget it.
For me, spiritual life is like the stillness of falling leaves. We may not be paying attention, but spiritual life is trying to tell us something.
Seasons are changing. We need to pay attention. It is not too late, but we need to be awake and get ready.
We sit and listen to the stillness of falling leaves so they can tell us their message.
The spiritual life we think we know is green and pleasant. Some of us are experiencing spiritual life becoming something wilder and more colorful.
Many of us would like spiritual life to be orderly and rational. We want all the leaves to stay in the pile.
It is easy for us to forget spiritual life is also about jumping into the pile once all the leaves are raked together.
When can we sit listening to the stillness of falling leaves today?
What do falling leaves have to tell us in their stillness this week?
[Image by lecates]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.