October 16th, 2022
This week’s Living Arts Weekly is written by Judith Frizlen, author and early childhood educator. Judith is also the instructor for our on-demand online course, Creating Home Away from Home. You can find Judith’s books in the LifeWays store or read more from her at her website.
Courage to Bring Light into the Darkness
It is the first October weekend and I feel it not only in my body, but in my soul. Golden September has come and gone, and with it summer’s expansive mood and warm, sunny days. Nature has entered the season of autumn when the human soul experiences Michaelmas time.
That’s when we look to the Archangel Michael for a picture of courage and the sense that we are protected. We know that strong winds, dark days, and cold temperatures are coming. What does it take to meet them with calm confidence?
It takes a willing body, a warm heart, and a clear head. How do we shore up on them? I have learned about the rhythms of the soul through conscious personal experience supported by the study of anthroposophy.
When I was introduced to Waldorf education over thirty years ago, it was for my children. Waldorf education served them well and the underlying philosophy of anthroposophy did the same for me.
In the Waldorf community, I learned about soul development aligned with the cycle of the seasons. I’ve come to understand how nature impacts our souls and how to support soul development through that understanding.
Currently, I am sitting on a comfy couch in a warm room looking out at brightly colored leaves on branches swaying in the wind, summoning the courage to go out into the cold. Today’s goal is to put away the outdoor pots, furniture, and solar lights that brightened our summer at the lake house.
To perform even this small task on a cold and dark day, it takes courage. I am writing to build it, to remember how to meet this seasonal change. Last night, it was dark by 7:15 p.m. and today, the sun’s light is dimmed by thick cloud cover. We have entered the season of darkness. I know this is true when I observe nature and notice how I feel in my soul.
I am not alone in feeling this transition into the darkness of autumn as one that lays bare inner challenges. We need inner strength to meet the outer challenges. Thinking of people in Florida facing the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, I wonder how they can meet it at this time of year. That puts my own experience into perspective. Although the darkness of autumn is all around, my city and tiny lake house are intact.
My challenges are small in comparison. But still, to raise morale during this time of darkness from the Autumn Equinox until the Winter Solstice, when the light begins its gradual return, I need to fortify my soul forces. Inner demons rise up – calling me to take notice.
Inner demons may be the voice in our heads that tells us we cannot do something, or that we must do what others are doing, or that it is unsafe to be ourselves. The voice is not telling the truth, but it may be persistent. It reminds me of the Michaelmas story of slaying the dragon from the Waldorf curriculum.
Courage to Face Demons
The autumnal task for the soul is to notice the demons and to slay them, so they lay at our feet rather than knocking us off our horse. It is not easy, but it is important work for it helps us to meet what is coming. When it is done seasonally, it becomes easier – it is the right thing at the right time. Nature nudges us to remember.
These are the practices that support me in cultivating courage in autumn:
- Let go of what I no longer need. That includes material items that create clutter in my home and also soul effects; for example, regret and its more emotionally intense version – guilt. Anything that does not serve me in the physical or soul world, I can let go, forgive myself, and move on, knowing that greater forces in the universe will take care of what needs to happen when I do my part. This lightens my load and creates space for something new to enter.
- Gather up what I need to be strong in the weeks ahead. I begin by bringing the sensory experience of autumn into my home. It grounds me in the season and delights my soul. The golden yellow pillows on the couch, the orange cloth on the sideboard, dried flowers in the vase. We eat heavier foods and layer on clothing. I choose uplifting books to read and keep company with those who carry the light and pray to let it begin with me. Aligning with the season, my soul is comforted by creating time and space to meet the mood of autumn, engaging in the inner work.
- Kindle the light within. While the light outdoors is dwindling, the light in my soul needs tending. We light candles in our home at dinner time and we gather in community to celebrate the festivals like Michaelmas and the lantern walk. With festivals, we celebrate the light within the soul that is expressed through human kindness. It is also time to cultivate gratitude for all that is, including the harvest. When we nourish kindness and gratitude in our souls, our light shines forth and warms all who encounter it, including the one who is kindling it. The spirit is enlivened.
Those are some of the ways that I find courage to enter the season of darkness and to be the light. Letting go of whatever does not serve me, strengthens the will. The act of gathering up resources for the task of the season fortifies the soul. Kindling the light within through thoughts, feelings, and deeds brings the light of spirit into the dark, enlivening the spirit and fulfilling the purpose of the season.
To clarify my intentions this autumn, I wrote a letter to myself in which I outlined the tasks, soul gesture and spiritual work I will carry into the season. Choosing to let go of projects and focus on completing others has brought simplicity and clarity to my work. I feel lighter and happier, with more courage, calm, and confidence to meet the dark days ahead.
They are a given, a part of the season. What I do with them is a choice; it is up to me. Let me be a light in the darkness.
Thanks for reading my thoughts about Michaelmas time. I am grateful for the kindness of readers. Warm wishes to you!