Fall Equinox: Autumnal Breezes of Gratitude

Editor’s note: Over the course of 2023, at the eight stations in the Wheel of the Year, Bart Everson will share with the Gaian community a guided, breath-based meditation. It is our hope that these meditations will help you to observe and to celebrate Gaia’s journey around the Sun, and to explore possible meanings embedded in various parts of the cycle. The particular meditation featured here is appropriate for the fall equinox, which comes in late September in the Northern Hemisphere and late March in the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you may wish to listen instead to the spring equinox meditation.

Listen to Bart’s Meditation above or read the transcript below.

This mandala was created by Bart Everson with digital tools as a contemplative practice and a celebration of the fall equinox. Grain represents the harvest, and if you look closely you’ll see the center is made of leaves turning color; the background pattern represents the transition from the light half of the year into the dark.

This meditation is dedicated to the Great Mother — Gaia, Mother Earth, mother of us all — and to the seasonal moment of the autumnal equinox, the fall equinox. This comes in late September in the northern hemisphere, late March in the southern hemisphere, and it’s the time all over the world when day and night are roughly equal.

So I invite you to get comfortable, be seated, or lie on your back, or whatever works for you, just as long as you’re feeling supported. It’s best to set aside any tasks, to-do lists, whatever may be on your mind. It’ll still be there later. I invite you to set it aside and take a moment to sit with me, for us to sit with each other.

And just notice what it’s like, wherever you might be. It’s great if you can be outdoors. And in the background, you’re hearing a recording of some autumnal breezes in a forest in Lower Saxony in Germany. I invite you to bring your attention just to lie lightly on your breath.

So as we sit here enjoying this autumnal ambiance together, I invite you to cultivate an attitude of acceptance for whatever it is that’s going on around you, for whatever it is that you’re experiencing right now: in your life, in this moment, in this day. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval. I hope you’re experiencing something good, but maybe it’s not. But whatever you’re experiencing, it’s real. Can we cultivate an acceptance of reality?

Feel the autumnal breezes as they flutter through the trees. (Image from cocoparisienne via Pixabay)

Noticing the physical sensations. If you’re aware of any discomfort, just accepting those for what they are.

And when you’re ready, I invite you to bring your attention just to lie lightly on the breath. Just noticing what it’s like to breathe. And notice how your breath is like a cycle, like a circle, a continuous cycle that you’ve been performing, mostly without even thinking about it, for your entire life.

Notice also how this cycle mirrors so many other smaller and larger cycles within us and around us, the cycles of Gaia.

And in particular notice how the cycle of the breath is like the cycle of the seasons. Breathing in and breathing out. It’s like the cycle of the year. As we inhale, it’s like the light rising through half of the year. Days are getting longer. More and more light, and more and more of the life-giving energy from the Sun.

The fullness of your breath—it’s like the solstice, and then you’re letting go, exhaling. And the exhalation is like the other half of the year, where the light subsides, and we have less hours of daylight and less of the life-giving energy of the Sun. Breathing in, the light rises; breathing out, the light subsides. And at this moment, the fall equinox: we can find that in the cycle of the breath. It’s right there in the middle of the exhalation.

So let’s look at that. Let’s investigate our exhalation. What can we learn from it? What wisdom lies there, and in this seasonal moment? We can even enhance this focus, if you like, by exhaling through the mouth. Inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth.

You can visualize this, if you like, as an autumnal breeze. Perhaps you can even feel autumnal breezes blowing through your life, depending on where you are and what the weather’s like.

With each breath out you can visualize your spirit flowing out like a breeze, flowing out from you into the world, into the greater being of Gaia, with each exhalation.

As we inhale, we’re breathing in the light and life of the other half of the year, but as we exhale we’re letting go, saying farewell to all that. And we acknowledge that it can be, sometimes, difficult to confront loss. It can be challenging to recognize what’s going on.

Among the many responses that we may have to letting go of this breath — one response that we can cultivate is gratitude. Gratitude for the breath that has been. Gratitude for the light and life that we have enjoyed, as we step into the dark.

With each breath out, you can feel that autumnal breeze flowing out from you in gratitude into the larger world, into the larger being of Gaia. Gratitude — for what? Let’s enumerate.

Gratitude for the body. This ecology of microbes and cells, where your spirit and your soul is nurtured, that is one with your spirit and your soul and your mind and your body. This is where all your dreams and desires are born. With gratitude for the body, we breathe out into the world an autumnal breeze.

Offering gratitude for all things autumnal, including delicious apples, squashes, and other fall crops. (Image from castleguard via Pixabay)

We have awareness, perhaps, if you’re like me, of some aches and pains. Can we cultivate an attitude of acceptance? Can we cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, even for these aches and pains? If you can, breathe that out.

We feel gratitude also for the people, our friends and family, our co-workers, our co-conspirators, the people who struggle for justice with us, all the people that we know and love. We breathe out gratitude, flowing out with each exhalation, out into the larger world that includes them.

Perhaps you can think of just one or two people who might be a little difficult, with whom your relations are not ideal. If it’s at all possible, can you cultivate a feeling of gratitude even for those people? Breathe it out, let it flow into the world.

We have gratitude also for the society, the social networks of people we don’t necessarily know, the culture and the customs and the systems and the processes that uplift and sustain our lives. Breathe out gratitude for that, for the society. It can be a challenge to acknowledge, to feel gratitude even for that society, even when it seems to hold us back, even when we become aware of manifest injustice around us, inequities, painful problems. If you’re like me, it can be difficult to feel gratitude for these things. If you can manage it, breathe it out, or at least breathe out the resolve, that we may ever work for justice, ever strive for a more just and humane society.

The road to justice winds through many seasons. (Image from Valiphotos via Pixabay)

Breathing out also our gratitude for the ecosystem in which we’re embedded, all the myriad beings, human and otherwise, animals, plants, fungi, microbes, without whom we surely could not exist — a larger, more-than-human community that uplifts and sustains us. The very food that we eat, the water that we drink, the air that we’re breathing right now, all of which is created and sustained through our local ecosystem and the larger interlocking ecosystems of the planet, which constitute the Great Mother, Gaia. Breathing out our immense gratitude for this immense being in whom we take part, in whom we participate. And acknowledging maybe there are some things going on, that concern us, some aspects of the weather and the climate that have been difficult, changes that can be frightening. If we can cultivate gratitude even for this — breathing it out, letting the air from our lungs flow out into the world like an autumnal breeze.

It seems right to end each meditation with a note of gratitude. But this meditation has been entirely dedicated to gratitude. So let’s end with a note of reciprocity. We’re not merely grateful for all the things we’ve enumerated, but we’re giving back. With each exhalation, we are returning a little bit of air to the greater atmosphere around us, a little bit of carbon dioxide that will nourish the plants that in turn, create oxygen for us. With each breath in, we enjoy the gifts of our ancient ancestors and the other beings of Earth that have created this atmosphere that sustains us. With each breath we give back and make our contribution. So we exist in loving reciprocity with all beings, with the Great Mother.

Thank you and go with Gaia.

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