Seasons of Self September/October: Embracing Change

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by Lynn Woodland

Early fall is a time of great transition. The September 22 equinox marks the point at which darkness begins to exceed daylight for another six months. The increased quantity of darkness encourages a shift in attention from outer-directed activity to a more inward focus.

In fall, the harvest is collected, the fruit eaten or preserved, and the seeds extracted while the lush greenery of summer fades. We may want to cling to the last vestiges of summer yet we know we can’t keep the dark and cold at bay for long. Change is forced upon us, ready or not, and many of us catch colds in this season as our bodies struggle to adjust.

Psychologically, even though spring, with its rush of births and new beginnings, creates just as much change and stress in our lives as the fall phase of dying away, we tend to associate “birth” with joyous emotions while “death” evokes feelings of fear and sadness. It requires true vision and faith to see that just as every birth leads to death, every death leads eventually to a new birth.

Early fall is the perfect time to prepare for the transition into winter by shoring up our physical well-being, as the adjustment from warm to cool adds stress to our bodies. Being attentive to our physical health now can help us through the winter season of cold, flu, and seasonal depression. What’s more, physical symptoms can give us tremendous insight into our ability to flow with change if we’re willing to understand them.

Listening to any physical manifestations of dis-ease can uncover deeper levels of meaning and purpose.

Our physical symptoms communicate to us in a metaphorical language. If we’re willing to pay attention, we can learn a great deal about our needs, imbalances and our path of healing. Often, our thoughtless, habitual expressions literally describe the physical symptoms our body manifests.

I became especially aware of this when I was Director of a Center for Attitudinal Healing in Baltimore, working extensively with people dealing with physical illnesses. A woman with cancerous tumors in her leg frequently said, “I can’t stand it!” Someone with food allergies regularly said, “I can’t stomach it!” and a woman with skin cancer spoke of things “getting under her skin."

A good way to understand the language of your own physical symptoms is to consider the metaphorical meanings of the affected body parts and functions. For example, hands are for handling things. If you have pain in your hands ask yourself: are you holding on too tightly in some way? Are you trying to “handle” everything yourself?

Do you have difficulty “reaching out” for love and support? Are you having difficulty “grasping” something?

If your neck and shoulders hurt are you “shouldering” more than your share of responsibility? Are you being “stiff-necked” and overly rigid in how you see things? If you are a woman dealing with breast issues, have you been suckling the world until there is nothing left for you? Do you feel in some way inadequate about yourself as a woman? If you have heart problems, have you felt “heartbroken”? Have you closed your heart to warmth and love? Have you lost your joy and passion for life? Play with metaphors such as these to find ones that fit the way you feel.

Addressing the situation can powerfully support and sometimes even alleviate the need for other treatment. For example, during a time when I felt sorely burdened by the pressures of life (“shouldering” more than I could carry, so to speak) I developed a painful “frozen shoulder” for which a medical professional prescribed several months of physical therapy. I “treated” my emotional condition by giving myself a highly uncharacteristic several month break from work. I played more, worked less and made relaxing a priority. As I felt less stressed, my shoulder improved so quickly that I did not need the physical therapy. Illness is a wonderful catalyst for change. Rather than indicating something we’ve done “wrong” (as is sometimes suggested in a new-age distortion of mind-body psychology), illness has a way of helping us meet unaddressed and perhaps unrecognized needs for growth. Just like the fall season, it forces change upon us, ready or not. Whether we resist these changes or meet them willingly, illness often gives us permission to explore much-needed options we wouldn’t have allowed ourselves to consider otherwise, ranging from slowing down a bit to completely restructuring our lives.

We can, of course, choose health and embrace change before a physical condition forces it upon us. This can be the best form of preventive medicine. This season, consider paying closer attention to your body as we move into the dark cold of winter. Let your symptoms tell you when you need to take a “health day” or reach out for help, or ponder the bigger ways your life may feel out of alignment with your highest good. Choosing health in this way may require stretching beyond your familiar “comfort zone,” but the pay-offs are well worth it.

Lynn Woodland is the author of Making Miracles — Create New Realities for Your Life and Our World, from Namaste Publishing. This article is an excerpt from her year-long, online “Miracles Course” coaching program for living a miraculous life. Lynn welcomes your comments: <lynnwoodland@comcast.net>. For information and free downloads see www.LynnWoodland.com.