Late morning on a sunny September day. The house is quiet but for the sounds of cars passing outside, accelerating up the hill, their engine noise the only intrusion upon an otherwise tranquil sanctuary.
I have spent the past hour simply resting on the long grey sofa, covered with a blanket of soft white wool, appreciating this refuge I’ve fashioned as a healer’s home. It is my ongoing endeavor to create spaces of rustic elegance and beauty where the soul feels nourished and at ease, soothed by rich textures, warm hues, gentle sounds, and even scents (nothing synthetic, only natural). The art of sanctuary is a subtle one, yet even more essential in a city for all the noise, energy, and chaos that surrounds and fills our days.
Too frequently my mate and I have moved over the many years together, roaming domestically and abroad, following a spiraling path and the curious summons of soul. Saying ‘yes’ to unlooked for opportunities when they arrived, embracing the willingness to be nomads, while generally lacking any sense of real community due to repeatedly rolling on.
What great relief I feel to have escaped from the Southern California desert, that artificial world of greater Palm Springs and Coachella Valley, a place where Earth’s changing seasons seem nearly non-existent. Heart and soul rejoice to once again have a tree-filled wilderness nearly at my doorstep, even if I have not lost myself in its rugged, sensory soulscapes the way I would like to. What with the extended process of moving house and settling in, the daily demands of work, family, an ongoing shamanic training, clients, sacred ceremonies, and the full, bright days of high summer, my wild wanderings have been limited.
Only now, as the solar light weakens slightly, its golden intensity diluted, does the calendar feel spacious enough to go exploring in undomesticated places. Never mind all the projects for L.R. Heartsong on the white board in my home office: finishing the new book To Kneel and Kiss the Earth, along with the 2nd edition of The Bones and Breath, building a new website and overhauling an old one, constructing an online course(s), launching a men’s group on the Sacred Masculine, promoting a 2019/2020 mentorship intensive, and more.
Yet in a matter of days, I will be boarding a plane headed for South America, there to spend more than a month in the deep Amazon, living in a thatched-roof hut while studying with indigenous Peruvian curanderos, vegetalistas, and ayahuasceros.
As with harvest time, the result of long labours, much is now happening and unfurling for me, bearing fruit at last.
In this gently gilded moment, however, I am simply soaking in a tranquil space, pushing all else aside. Appreciating the sunflowers in an etched glass vase atop the round, copper coffee table, and the light playing around them. “Fall,” as most Americans call autumn, is decidedly arriving. Apart from the just-perceptible shift of energy and cooling temperature of the air, the deciduous trees along our street and around town are slowly changing their leafy garb from green to gold and red, a visual display that grows more stunning each day.
I missed it last year, residing in the desert, but now once again I feel the first touches of an enchantment coming upon me. A faint glimmer of autumnal magic, ever so welcome. Surely each of us can use a bit of reenchantment amid the humdrum of our daily lives, and I confess that is partly what nature, personal rituals, and ceremony creates for me.
Not surprisingly, in the past few days, England hovers at the periphery of my awareness, coming to me in unexpected flashes and images of places there I’ve been. These sensory impressions are so vivid that I often feel that some part of myself – a multidimensional soul aspect, or perhaps even a parallel existence – is somehow still residing there. Arguably Britain is at its glorious best in summer, yet it is always in autumn that I most miss that verdant isle. It haunts me frequently, calling to me like a siren or lover. Who can say, perhaps there is some deeper magic afoot as we enter the ‘witchy’ time of year, with Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve drawing near.
Resting on the couch, gazing out the large northern windows towards some distant hills and buttes, my awareness feels diffuse and expansive, like crystalline mist, as so often during and after intensive shamanic work. A bit spacey and light-headed. Dizzy, almost. I am very conscious of other dimensions, the trees outside and their faint energetic orbs, the garden down below, and other energies present, including a couple of what might be called nature spirits or subtle beings.
The yard and garden of our rented house has changed energetically since my arrival, already reflecting the ceremonies, humble offerings, prayers of gratitude, and communion that form the core of my spiritual path. As something of a mystic, the touchstone of my embodied, earth-based practice is to be consciously immersed in the living web, the suprasomatic sentience: connecting through open senses and heart to what IS.
And all of it I can feel, even resting upon the couch in the living room, looking out at a blue sky strewn lazily with soft white clouds.
A welcome moment, this. Even our two English Whippets, the Sussex duo, are resting quietly. It’s their third nap of the day, though only late morning. The world’s fastest couch potatoes, those two. Bless their swift, silky paws.
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I have migrated from the couch, though not far. The recently acquired, large desk in my writing room is covered with posts from the Soul Artist Journal being placed into order for my upcoming book. Thus I am penning this piece while seated at our well-traveled dining table; a rectangle of polished dark wood where I have spent uncountable hours over the past years, eating, sharing stories, musing and writing. In some ways, it feels more like my preferred desk than that formidable escritoire in the office.
In this latest house, the main room, dining room, and kitchen open into and connect with each other in an open floor plan. Windows abound. Seated at the table, I admire the sunlight streaming warmly through the three windows framing the green leaves outside, in particular the two trees closest to the house. The magical, protective rowan is adorned with vivid clusters like large peppercorns or holly berries, while beside it a stately juniper is decorated in the purple-blue seed cones used to make gin, or in my kitchen, to occasionally add depth of flavour to autumnal dishes and sauces. Such lovely tall green beings, I praise them every day.
My gaze drifts to three glossy, red pomegranates resting in a large handmade bowl gifted to me earlier this year on my 50th birthday by my beloved. I adore these delicious, healthy fruits, and here in the States their arrival in September always feels like a colourful, delicious harbinger of seasonal change. Flanked by a pair of yellow beeswax tapers in rustic, ceramic candlesticks, along with some variegated orange and yellow sunflowers with dark centres (courtesy of dinner guests last night), the tabletop decor seems the very essence of the autumnal equinox at hand. I suppose I could add a few gilded leaves for further effect but, really, nothing else is needed. Less is more. Simple, uncluttered beauty reigns here.
The slow turning inwards has already begun. I felt it in the air at the very outset of September, the lightest touch of a cool fingertip. Summer has faded, and Mabon (autumnal equinox), second of the pagan ‘harvest festivals’, is upon us. Comes now the lengthening of shadows and night, a deepening of mystery, and fecund earth dreaming. Turning towards rest, once more. All feels cyclical and right, an ongoing connection with the sacred spiral of life and our ancient ancestors who observed, honoured and celebrated these key spokes on the Great Wheel. How thrilling to be back in the Pacific Northwest as my most-favourite season arrives, a softer light and gentle melancholy calling me back to the kitchen where I am nearly always content to be, tending the stove and domesticated soul.
According to Ayurveda, the 5000-year old healing science of India, seasonal junctures are periods of heightened vulnerability; they are times when the Elements (Ether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth) in our constitutions tend to shift in dominance and we can easily fall out of balance – some individuals more prone than others, depending on their inner makeup and lifestyle. Ayurvedic principles have long been a foundation in my wellness practice, and as autumn arrives, I feel Vata dosha – comprised of Air and Ether, with qualities (gunas) of dry, rough, clear, mobile, subtle, light, and cold – subtly increasing in my own body. To remain in balance during the seasonal shift and through the coming Vata season (autumn and early winter), one does well to undertake a cleanse, and emphasize the opposite of Vata’s qualities: favouring moist, soft, dense, heavy, and warm in food, tastes, activity, environment, etcetera.
Generally, it is this time of year that my wanderlust arises, an impulse for travel somewhere rugged and untamed or, at the very least, long walks amid the whispering trees with a cashmere ribbon of scarf wrapped around my neck. From an Ayurvedic perspective this impulse is predictable and normal, as Vata is light and mobile like the wind, prone to movement and change. Yet this year, perhaps because I feel very much in balance, and further because I am quite content where we have recently landed in Central Oregon, I feel none of the usual restlessness or fidgety energy inside. Mostly I wish to keep turning slowly inwards and settling, settling, settling slowly into stillness. Breathing in, breathing out. And to the extent I am able, I will honour this inclination.
Seated at table with notebook and dear old fountain pen, a requisite cup of jasmine green tea beside me (from a favourite shop in London, sent to me regularly by a dear friend in England) to which I’ve added a slice of fresh ginger, I’m appreciating the liquid warmth, balancing qualities, gentle taste, and delicate floral fragrance rising in steaming wisps. Heading into the darker, colder months, I generally lean towards black tea or homemade chai most mornings, whereas in the afternoon I still prefer green or even white, replete with all their health building properties and antioxidants. I’m starting early on the aromatic green today.
Admittedly, there are a dozen things I ought to accomplish, from simple tasks to larger projects, including preparations to be in the Amazon for a month, but instead I am simply taking this rest. Allowing myself to begin the slow turn inward, towards doing less. Savouring the moment. Dreaming more. Sensing the veil between worlds slowly thinning as it does until Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve, one moon cycle hence. Though arguably, even in this doing little or nothing seemingly productive, I am still working: observing, gathering thoughts, making a few mental notes for my post.
Yet distinctly now, it has begun: doing less that I might stay in balance and harmony.
In the evening, I am unplugging earlier and earlier from the computer and illuminated screens, not using them after dusk; such is one of the tenets of a ‘Paleo’ or ‘primal’ lifestyle, helping the body’s natural circadian rhythms and production of melatonin remain in an optimal phase for better sleep and overall wellness. [Read the SAJ, “Finding Balance and Well-being: Unplugging at Dusk,” 2015] And yes, as the days grow shorter, so then does the working time.
Doing less. It seems almost blasphemous in a materialistic society so afflicted with hurry-busy disease. A notion that is idealistic, perhaps. Or privileged. Yet each of us holds the daily power to make choices that move us closer to health, balance, and wellbeing. As I so often queried in the years of writing the Soul Artist Journal, to what will we give the precious gift of our attention? Or, our time? Life is precious and brief, and I have come to feel that resting quietly, with senses open and heart ajar, is not at all a waste of time but rather a savouring… and ultimately worthwhile.
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In some ways, this embracing less versus more is a ‘soul practice’. The choice we make is to emphasize things that nourish rather than those that merely entertain, distract, or are habitual. Yes, our lives overflow and ring with too many demands, and there is always more to do, yet there is a deep, ancient wisdom in slowing down and choosing a more organic, soul-paced way of living. Aligning with seasons and the Tao, as it were.
Earlier, upon completing an hourlong, standing meditation whilst barefoot outdoors, in our modest garden I harvested two lemon cucumbers from a yellowing vine, along with two vivid, smooth, green jalapeño peppers/chiles waiting for me nearby. The dear cherry tomato plants are embarrassingly rich with small jewels in varying stages of ripeness, and I respectfully gathered a handful of them. How keenly I appreciate these gifts of tended earth, of concentrated sunlight (star fire, really), quietly humming with life and prana. Returning indoors, I placed them upon the kitchen counter, where their humble beauty in the sunlight falling on the cutting board so captivated me, I stood for several quiet minutes, tumbling further into deep appreciation for the simple gifts of life, feeling the expansion in my heart and chest.
Truly, there are uncountable moments worth cherishing throughout our day. Simple ones. Beautifully human ones, where one or more of our senses come truly alive. And it is a worthy practice to pause, to inhabit these gifts as deeply as we may… even for only a few fluttering heartbeats. Indeed, it seems to me that this exact sentiment lay at the heart of the Soul Artist Journal posts for nearly five years. And while the currents of life have steered my vessel down a different stream from that weekly offering, a genuine part of that giveaway remains at the core of who I am: celebrating a life for the senses and praising the ordinary sacred.
Breathe. Grow. Shine. Practice gratitude.
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Here, now, a wide sky aches with its song of September blue. Writing notebook and trusty fountain pen I have set aside to sit with my simple meal, a re-creation of the salade composée from last night’s little dinner party: wafer-thin slices of local Pink Lady apple, juicy coins of ruby plums, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a scattering of fresh tarragon leaves; the pretty mosaic drizzled with a bit of raw honey, lemon juice, and olive oil whisked together, and a sprinkling of Maldon salt atop. With a few slices of wild, smoked salmon alongside, it makes an elegant, inspiring lunch that seems a very celebration of harvest goodness and fruits of the season.
This is yet another moment worth savouring – literally – as nourishment for the bodysoul. A pause to reconnect with myself in the moment, appreciating the sweet gifts of Gaia, while autumn sunlight streams through the rowan tree beyond the window and casts cool shadows upon the glossy wood of our table.
In response to one of my posts on Instagram the other day, someone commented: “It is the simplest of things that bring the most joy and depth to our days.” Yes, indeed, I couldn’t agree more.
Friend, here’s hoping that as the slow turning of the season beyond our walls and doors begins in earnest, that you will welcome it within, too. Give yourself permission to slow down, unplug, and do less. Rest. Tune in and listen. Dream. Trust that such a shift is timely, needed and, ultimately, restorative of balance and your sense of wellness, both in body and soul (which are never separate).
As I so often encourage in these posts (and all those years of the Soul Artist Journal), may you dilate your senses and unlock the shutters of the heart, allowing yourself to linger in simple, ordinary moments that are worth savouring… if only we will take the time.
Equinox magic and blessings to all.
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