October, the Month of Transformation
October is my favorite month. Having grown up in Michigan, thoughts of the changing color of the leaves, the first hard frost (or snow), warm cider, apples, hoodies, and brisk walks all come to mind. I always loved Halloween as a child (the candy was great, but the costumes were truly my favorite), and each October I celebrate another year with my husband. September brings in the fall equinox, beginning our journey into the longer nights. But October...October represents transformation.
One aspect I miss most about living in Michigan is the fall color. That transformation is so striking and apparent. It can be dramatic or subtle, majestic or delicate, it can happen quickly, or over time, and regardless, it is a process. The leaves have stages of transformation - the degree and rate of intensity, the loss of pliability and moisture, the fall to the earth and eventual return to the soil, nourishing and enriching it to begin the cycle of growth again in the spring.
Samsara, a concept in yoga philosophy, is the cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth and in that philosophy, it is believed that our souls experience this pattern many times, until we finally reach liberation or Moksha. But we also see this cycle all around us on a daily basis, from the stages in our life, to the start and end of our days. We even see this on our yoga mat, with our practice beginning with Sun Salutations and ending with Savasana (corpse pose) and eventually stepping off our mat into the world, with the hope that the end of our practice will nourish and enrich our day as we move forward.
As with any action, the more we repeat something, the more ingrained it becomes, the deeper the impression on our psyche. If we repeat something enough, that impression can become so deep, we are unable to make a different choice or respond in a different way, influencing the way we interact with ourselves and others. This is called a Samskara, and can be positive or negative in nature. And when we reflect, we may choose to increase those Samskaras that move us forward, decrease the ones that no longer serve us, or a little bit of both.
Nature is demonstrating that this is a time of transformation, shedding, and retreating to refuel. Perhaps we can embrace the power of change and the opportunity to transform our patterns, or alter our Samskaras.
Often with change, we are drawn to the dramatic, the majestic, the quick. But, can we be inspired by the variations in nature and consider the subtle, the slow, the incremental? Can we begin by simply reflecting on our mat? Is there a common thought that I experience in a particular posture? Is there a posture I avoid, is uncomfortable, and inspires self judgement; is there one that I favor, that makes my body and mind feel strong and supported? Those thought patterns are Samskaras. Can we challenge ourselves to focus on increasing the the ones that feed and nourish us and let go of those that are holding us back as we feel them rising up in our practice? Let us liberate ourselves from the perpetual anticipated outcome, transform our experience on the mat, and carry that into the world.
"Sometimes we find that we like our thoughts so much that we don't want to let them go." ~Pema Chodron