By Michelleanne Bradley
Samhain. This year.
Fall has always been my favorite season. The colors brighten and intensify, leaves drop to the ground, the days grow shorter and nights grow longer. The rhythm of the earth seems to drift to where the natural turn is to drop the frenetic pace and settle into rest, reflection—the turn inward.
I love the dark. I live in Southern California, and Fall comes in the form of burning hot temperatures and winds sometimes accompanied by fires that scorch our landscape before the Autumn rains begin. So different in my youth when Halloween often looked like costumes under winter coats in Central New York, and snow in late October was not an impossibility. The only constant between the two was the dark, when I would want to sleep more and longer, my body clock reacting to the tilt of the earth and change of the seasons.
This year in my celebration of Samhain, the Sabbat that is the beginning of the most sacred part of the turning of the wheel of the year, as always, I clean my altar, replace my broom, give thanks to those who have gone before me and pay homage to them during this time when the veil between the worlds is thin.
This year, when I begin the practice of assessing what has worked in this year and what has not, these six weeks between the Sabbats of Samhain and Winter Solstice, there is much juiciness to all that is held in that mirror, and perhaps more than I would have anticipated. But perhaps it is because of my own internal check that the veil thins in me as well. I view this as a way of smoothing out the wrinkles in cloth, or observing the ripples clear leaving still waters. On this night, I draw on my ancestors and those who have gone before me to fortify and hold me in their wisdom and love as I prepare to release that which no longer serves.
I love the view of practice on the Pagan wheel of the year and the Buddhist wheel of life. I love that within these practices, we return over and over, where we can see our view change, our perspective change and the way that we hone our practice. I have come to soften my view of my own life—my own practice—to see it more from the perspective of the turning wheel as opposed to a linear progression.
Buddhist practice tradition brings the rainy seasons retreat—a 90-day retreat at my home monastery which closely coincides with the six-week period between the Sabbat of Samhain and the Winter Solstice. During agricultural times, this would be the period after the second harvest, when we would assess what worked this year and what did not; this is the time to rid ourselves of that which no longer serves. The crops have been brought in, the fields rest and restore.
Self-care has been a challenge for me. This is not new, but it certainly has become more acute this year.
I always look forward to the time of releasing that which no longer serves, but this year, that release feels more urgent. And I always look forward to the assessment of that which no longer serves, but again, this year, that desire is deep seated and has moved through my practice in both Buddhist and Pagan circles. Almost everyone I know has these same issues with self-care.
This year, I am changing the narrative.
This time of the change from Samhain to Solstice, I am devoting time to both practice and to self-care, as I work through that which needs to be released and discarded, and that which is needed for lightening my proverbial load. I will draw on the practices from both of the traditions that entwine to make up my heart. As we collectively draw back the bow to launch the trajectory for the year to come, my prayer for all beings is to shed that which no longer serves and remember self-care as a part of the wheel of our practice.
To touch the strength of our ancestors on this day when the veil is thin, deepen within this time of dark, and rest.
Editor: Dana Gornall