Every autumn, I hear an upsurge of anxiety, grief, longing, groundlessness, and joy among my highly sensitive population. Sometimes it will sound like this:

“I’ve been feeling more anxiety lately and I’m not sure why.”

Me: “Well, we don’t have to know why, but if you were to drop into your body do you have a sense of what it might be connected to?”

Closed eyes. Dropping in. Breath. Quiet. Then:

“Maybe autumn. It’s so beautiful but it’s also so melancholic. I’m having a storehouse of memories emerge, and some of them don’t even feel like mine. It’s like the ancestors are closer during this time of year.”

Yes, I feel that, too, and it makes perfect sense. After all, it’s not a coincidence that Halloween and Dia de los Muertos fall during this time of year. Those who live closer to the earth know that the ancestors come near when the winds change and fall arrives. It’s the season of death and dying, both literally and metaphorically. If literal death is in your realm, it’s time to go deeper into a layer of grief. If literal death isn’t in your field, it’s the time to go deeper into the archetypal, metaphoric, and ancestral realms.

For Autumn is the quintessential season to illustrate the key features of transitions. Where winter is the season of reflection, spring the season of rebirth, and summer the season of celebration, autumn is the time when we align with the action of nature and ask ourselves the central question of any life transition: “What is it that I need to let go of?”

Perhaps it’s your habitual thoughts of worry or anxiety; perhaps it’s your tendency to nit-pick or criticize your partner; perhaps it’s getting angry at your kids; perhaps it’s the inner critic, the voice that’s constantly telling you that you’re not good enough. Whatever it is can be blown down to the ground alongside autumn’s leaves and decompose into the earth when we choose to focus consciously on what needs to be released.

Autumn is also the time when memory often floods the emotional body. As your kids leave for school, you may remember those early school days from your own childhood. Whether the memories are positive or negative, you might find yourself pausing for a moment in the bittersweet realm of nostalgia where you become exquisitely aware of the passage of time. Another summer over, another school year beginning, another autumn at your doorstep.

If the memory is positive, you might dwell for a few moments in the happy feelings. If the memory is painful, it’s an opportunity to allow the feelings to swell up inside you until they bubble into tears and you notice how they roll down your cheeks like the leaves dropping outside.

As the leaves change color and fall, as you sit in front of a crackling fire, as you watch the golden, late afternoon sunlight cast itself across the yard, ask yourself, “What is it time for me to let go of?” And when the answer appears, throw it into the leaves and the fire and the sunlight and ask for autumn’s aid to help you let go.*

And remember this: the more you can name the deeper emotions embedded inside the anxiety, the quieter the anxiety becomes. And with anxiety shifting out of the driver’s seat, we can more easily harness the tremendous healing potential of this season.

If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, hang onto this for six months :).

Partially excerpted from my book, “The Wisdom of Anxiety.”

What are you noticing this autumn? What happens when you can name the top-layer messenger of anxiety and drop into the core, underlying emotions and invitations?

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