When Autumn arrives each year, bringing the pungent scent of decaying leaves, I feel myself relax and lighten up. Of course, this is due to the lens through which I view the season.
I associate this season with the theme of release. Thinking of things like composting after the harvest, the slowing of growth, preparation for winter, closure, and honoring.
It’s a perfect time to reflect on my life over the closing year, which I do in a ritual that I call my year-end life review. It’s a process of thought-provoking self-discovery that I have been using for decades now. I return to it over and over because of the deeply rich emotional and spiritual payoff it brings me.
This type of reflection is often referred to as "ruminating." The word "rumination" is defined as:
“A deep or considered thought about something (or) to go over in the mind repeatedly, and often casually or slowly.”
And notice how the root of this word is "Rumi?" It’s very likely you’ve heard of him before. Rumi was a Persian Sufi mystic—Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūm—--who lived in the 1200s. He wrote very deep and inspiring poems and prose that sprang from his reflection on life and love.
One line that reminds me of this time of year is:
“Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.”
Why in Autumn?
I live in the northern hemisphere and find that doing my year-end life review in the Fall works really well. This is due to both a spiritual reason and a practical one.
Spiritually, I'm aligned with the energy of release that's surrounding and encompassing me. Practically, the timing aligns with the end of the calendar year (late September, October, November, and part of December). I start the review in October and finish in November so I avoid the December holiday chaos.
Those who live in the southern hemisphere might do this review in March, April, May, and June, aligning with the half-year mark of June 30th. While your Autumn doesn’t occur at the calendar year-end, seasonally it's year-end!
When the trees release their leaves and temperatures drop, that's “meteorological Autumn." The year-end life review works best when nature's in the process of release.
The Four Phases of Change
In case you haven’t noticed, nothing in life is stable . . . except change.
Some of us love change and some of us hate it. I’m one who doesn’t care for it much. However, I know the danger of getting stuck in those “velvet ruts," as one of my dear colleagues calls it.
I thank the Creator for my Hermetic Qabalah spiritual training, and my coach training with iPEC, where I learned a comforting way to look at change. It’s the four phases in the cycle of change that really helped me become friends with change, and now I actually recognize it as a gift from my Creator.
I describe the four phases of change metaphorically, as womb, birth, life, and death. I also relate each of these phases to a season in nature: Winter is womb. Spring is birth. Summer is life. Fall is death.
Fall is death in the sense that it's the phase of release, or "toss in." This phase is when you know a change is needed in your life, and you have a high level of willingness to let go of the outdated aspects.
In this phase, we often long to release them. We own the issues motivating us to make the change. We bring out our tools to transform our lives. We “cut the cord” to what no longer serves us.
Each season has its own energy and purpose. The bottom line is that when we understand and apply the deeper lessons in the seasons of nature to our life, we experience more harmony, balance, and happiness.
The Value of Rumination
Over the years of watching me take time out to do my year-end life review, my family and friends, of course, got curious. One by one I shared with them about it. This evolved into a community around me of souls who really wanted a fuller and richer life. It was from this heart family that my not-for-profit School of the Soul, the Tree of Life Sanctuary, sprang up.
Now we gather at year-end, near the winter solstice, to share the results of our year-end life reviews. I’ve heard some summaries that have floored me! Poignant stories of bravery, devotion, loss, and liberation.
One person described the process as "clearing away the cobwebs." Another felt it was like preparing the soil in her "life garden," where she was turning over the soil and adding the "fertilizer" of the past year’s challenges to make herself strong and healthy and ready for next year’s "seeds."
When you listen to a person share their soul story amidst trusted, kindred spirits, it’s something you’ll never forget. I’m getting chills just writing about it!
A Method of Uncovering the Divine Within
What I've come to realize is that a year-end life review is a form of uncovering the Divine within us. Since I've devoted my life to the uncovering of my Divine Self, and supporting those who are also seekers of the Divine within, I now teach this year-end life review each year in November. It’s in the format of a two-part virtual gathering that covers a three-step process.
If you’d like to join me, here’s the info.
Regardless, please know that no one needs anyone to teach them how to do a year-end life review. You have the capacity to create your own ritual that’s just right for you.
Set aside the time before the holiday squeeze. Start with an hour a day for three days a week. That might be all you need. You’ll be amazed by what you discover about yourself!
As Rumi described it,
"Your heart is the size of an ocean. Go find yourself in its hidden depths."
Written by Laura Abernathy