Tuesday, September 22 was the 2021 Autumnal Equinox, nature’s official start to fall. The word Equinox is Latin for equal night, implying a balance between duration of light and darkness. The equinox occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator, marking the shift to shorter days and more darkness.
It’s perfect timing, because the world feels pretty dark these days. The incessant wildfires ravaging one coast while hurricanes lay waste to the other. Protests and calls for justice that have injured many and broken the hearts of all. The ceaseless political name-calling on both sides driving people into divisive camps of us and them. Evictions and bankruptcy. And, oh yeah, I almost forgot. A global pandemic that has killed almost 200,00 Americans, more than World War I and Vietnam combined.
Everywhere you look, bad things are happening to good people. Tragedy and trauma abound. It makes you question if there is indeed a reason for it all.
But then I remember Nature and her innate intelligence. Fall is a season of dark, of dying, of lying broken on the ground. Life promises us fall, just as Life promises us falling. The fall happens in many ways, large and small. We lose our health, our minds, our financial security, our sense of self, our patience, our car keys, our loved ones. We are called to have faith, to trust that everything happens for a purpose. Yet we are not necessarily designed to understand that purpose. Sometimes we must simply endure the fall.
As a yoga teacher, I try to teach my students to fall well. In standing poses (like King Dancer Pose, pictured here), you find balance by holding two opposing forces in harmonious tension. You push forward in one direction and pull backward in the other, attempting to maintain equilibrium. That’s rarely easy and falling is a given. So we also practice falling well, staying mindful as we go down and then surrendering to gravity for a bit to catch our breath.
Falling well requires acceptance. Acknowledge that you’ll be pushed off balance, that at some point you’ll be the pebble in the Cosmic rock tumbler. And remember that acceptance is not the same thing as approval. No one is asking you to say that you’re on board with the pain or grief, just that you recognize it as an integral part of existence. Toppling is a given, but so is being pissed at the Universe for the cruel twist of fate.
Falling well requires resilience. Do you simply throw in the towel or do you brush yourself off and try again? Sometimes it takes a huge fall to truly know where you stand in life. How you get back up says a lot about your character.
Falling well requires grace, to minimize the risk to yourself and others as you topple. Protect your head and your heart as much as possible. Let go in such a way that you land on the “meat rather than the bone.” Don’t fight the fall, but surrender and relax into it (this is why people who are drunk often avoid getting hurt in car crashes. They just flop into the impact).
Falling well requires a release of the ego. Consider children and how clumsy they are. They are arguably the best fallers because they are not self-conscious about falling. They just accept it as part of their existence, tumbling into and rolling with it without shame. When I first learned to surf, my surfing instructor told me that if I would let go of my ego, then “falling is just another way to fly.”
Falling well requires trust and hope. It’s all too easy to buy into the illusion that the fall is our new reality; that it’s all we deserve. But a fall, no matter how horrendous, doesn’t have to be permanent. It might take a long time. Consider how long winter feels around these parts. But spring will come.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. It might not be for us to understand that purpose. It might simply be our job to be present, searching for steadiness but accepting our time on the ground. So if you’re currently in a season of fall too, take heart. The sun will return, shining more light on your days with every cycle of moon.