In recent years I have noticed that November has been sneaking into the number one position for my favourite months. I suspect that whatever month is occurring is my favourite month at the time, but November has certainly been capturing my heart of late. My walks at the lake and the woods have been lengthening each day as the beauty of the season has made it far too challenging to stay in, and the outdoors has felt more like home.
This week my usual 1 and ¼ hour walk extended to nearly 5 hours as I wandered off track and through every possible trail I could create. It was breathtaking. November was saturating my senses with the magic of nature’s Alchemy, the energy of transition infusing the space between every leaf and with such an intensity of gold it would be impossible to feel anything other than blessed with riches.
I had been walking for about an hour as I took a fork in the path my timeless journey through this wonderland was interrupted as I passed a woman with a dog. The woman seemed depressed, in a bubble and completely unaware of the beauty around her; she was barely aware of her playful friend. I watched the dog bring her a ball and she threw it with the energy of somebody burdened by the intrusion of her space. My mood changed slightly from joy to mild irritation and I turned away and wandered off in another direction to continue the overfilling of my senses. The glory of the woods brought me quickly back to my previous lightness of being and I carried on.
Another hour passed. I had taken many diversions and had arrived back on the path not far, as the crow flies, from the last point I had been on. I was somewhat surprised to again cross paths with the woman and her dog. I assumed that she was walking very slowly or pausing often and for long periods. She still seemed disconnected from the world around her as if there were no beauty to behold and no joy at being in the world.
I noticed my mood dropping again, judgement was arising in me. One part of me wanted to see if she was OK and the other part was annoyed, impatient and wanting her to stop emanating misery into this perfection. I changed directions again and walked away from the path. Immediately my spirit lifted, but I had to wonder momentarily at my reaction. Yes she had sadness about her, and she seemed not to care about her joyous little dog, but why was it such an issue for me?
My head ranted on about people living in bubbles, with their heads to the floor, not embracing the magnificence of life, but fortunately the rest of me was quickly bored by this dialogue. My inner silence returned and I started clicking away with my camera again.
At the third hour I was stunned to cross paths with the woman and her dog again. Three times? This was beyond co-incidence, especially as this time she had wandered off the path too. “Pay Attention!” the voice of my intuition commanded. I was not best pleased. I wanted to pay attention to that which delighted me, and that was the woods not the woman; but mystery is a story I cannot resist.
I stopped walking and watched. I really watched her and then I really watched myself. Her mood, her depression, her disconnection, the devoted dog now slightly weary from unacknowledged efforts … all these observations now bubbling up inside me. I was getting angry and I knew it was nothing to do with the woman; there was no way that she could be responsible for my emotional state. No, she was a symbol and she represented something buried in me, and that made her a key.
Instead of turning away again and walking in another direction this time I stood still and faced the experience that I had previously been quick to avoid. With genuine curiosity I asked myself to reveal the source or cause of my reaction.
My first question was obvious. I was allowing, at least as far as my conscious mind was concerned, to let an external situation affect my inner state. Was that true? I could see a trigger, but what was my story? That people who are lost in their own world and who are emanating depression and unhappiness are causing me to be unhappy. What a story. Where did that come from? If it were true I was now condemned to permanent misery as we lived in a world unfortunately abundant with such characters!
As a few autumn leaves left their tree so too did a few blocks in my mind tumbled to the floor to expose old memories. My mother had, at times, been very depressed and unhappy, frequently troubled by life and unavailable to the world around her. Her life had many difficulties. Suddenly a memory was offered up and there I was, age 7, making a decision to not be “too much”, “too frivolous”, “too high-spirited”, because if she was down it that was unkind, selfish and maybe at times, even dangerous. MISTAKE!
Oh the torturous confusion of childhood and trying to work out survival strategies. I had in that moment agreed to shut myself down every time I saw my mother unhappy, my reasoning stating that to carry on being OK when someone was an unwise course. I had in one foul swoop just handed over my power to be happy to the outside world, and had also, indirectly, made my mother responsible for my happiness. Yuck! Many memories came flooding back, of how every time I walked into a room and detected depression, anger or any kind of unhappiness I shut myself down, and at the same time created a growing and now repressed anger as a result. I couldn’t take being in the house and became depressed myself if the weather left me house bound.
As a child I may have chosen that strategy as a form of self preservation and protection from overwhelming and suffocating low moods and depression. I could definitely relate to the dog that would try and try and try to break the bubble the woman was in. But childhood strategies often develop into personality and character and I look back now at my inability to be with my mother’s pain even as an adult, as the ill equipped child inside was still operating, reacting behind the scenes of my awareness. More leaves fell, this time with my tears.
I had developed a mask of being OK when I was hurt, angry and in despair. Many of us do, but we do so at a young age and we may not have the opportunity to see it and heal it until much later in life. The pain of the mask that says “I happy” when I am not, “I’m sad too” when I am not, “I’m fine” when I am angry, frustrated and in despair is a burden to our spirit. Our masks cost too much of our true nature to maintain and keep us from our capacity to feel at one with the world.
And for all natures wonders, it might jsut be that the withdrawn woman turned out to be the most beautiful thing in the woods today, and that is quite something amongst all of that intoxicating natural treasure. She was certainly the real gold for me that day. She was the key to unlocking old trauma and freeing me from a childhood decision or vow that could have continued to imprison my spirit. I silently thanked her and wondered if she had noticed our paths crossing and if there had been any exchange of keys.
I walked another two hours. I did not see her again, but I know that if I had seen her it would have been with as much appreciation and gratitude as I had for the amazing autumn and her Gift of Alchemy. November, for now, is my favourite month. It is laden with pure magic, as all Nows are. November invites us to uncover and face the world naked. When we do we realise our connection to the whole and we discover the true light and strength of our spirits. As each leaf falls leaving more space and allowing more light through, so the falling mask reveals more and more Delight. Go naked in the woods, seize the energy of nature’s alchemy. May you find the many exquisite treasures of your own being.
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