Autumn Leaving

September 9th, 2013


The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it,

move with it, and join the dance.”

– Alan Watts




Here in the Northern hemisphere at least we are entering the season of autumn. It is a time of refocusing after what is usually a more relaxed and less tightly scheduled summer break. It is also a time when the cycle of new projects begins. The school term starts, corporations begin new business cycles and we may find ourselves part of open house presentations, ‘kick-off’ events and the like.


While this may sound quite festive autumn is traditionally associated with change in the form of death, separation of the old and harvest time. The Grim Reaper with his scythe to harvest souls from their dying physical forms is the traditional metaphor we give to death and change in our culture.


In traditional Chinese medicine autumn is also associated with the completion of a cycle, endings and the exit from the world of form. It is represented by the most solidly formed of the five elements, the metal element.


Everything emptying into white[1]


We currently live in a dualistic, relative world however which means that the closer something comes to perfection or at least completion, the closer it has also come to changing once more. In autumn this takes the form of dying leaves, harvest and the gradual fading of the rich colors of summer.


White is the shade used to represent death in many Asian cultures and is the color worn at funerals. As all of life’s colors are contained in white light so shall they all return to it.


Coping with change


The life you lead. The life you could have lead Michael Leunig. All rights reserved

The life you lead. The life you could have lead
Michael Leunig. All rights reserved


It is precisely because of this mixed state of events that outwardly new and positive events may also be met with a tinge of sadness and melancholy. In every new beginning we experience the death and departure of the old and familiar, never to return or be the same again.


The mother seeing her child go off to their first day at school; closing the door on a much loved house as we move out and head on up the road to a new one; A letter or email confirming we have graduated into university; a new job offer; the final papers of a divorce; sitting in a plane waiting to take off on a new adventure; a business settlement or a major purchase and so on.[2]



All of these may mark a completion or realization of a desire for change. So why are they often marked by sadness? To understand that we need to understand a little about the mechanism of change.



The Minister of Change


In Chinese medicine each organ energy system is given a title.[3] Can you guess which organ is given the title ‘Minister of Change and Evolution’? It is in fact the humble colon. Why would it be given such a grandiose association?


No matter how sweet the food of the past was there comes a time where holding onto it will make us sick. Letting go of the old is just the other, necessary side of taking in the new. Even though this is obvious at the physical level of digestion and elimination it is surprising how difficult this can sometimes be at other levels of our life.


When we think of change we often think of the new things that come with it. Many of us wanting to make a change focus on the thing or situation we want to create, not the one we have now. If we could change just based on desire however we could manifest whatever we want. So what is holding us back?


The limiting factor in change lies not in what we want and do not have but rather in what we already possess and have not let go.


This might be anything from an idea or hope we cling to or a principle we identify with and cannot see past to a situation we are too fearful of leaving. Even situations that have been rewarding in the past can hold us back if we do not release them now.


Letting go and change: Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die


Scot heaven


While the experience of union at any level brings us joy, the experience of separation is sadness. We find sadness and the grief process accompanying it uncomfortable. It is a natural first response to try and avoid that discomfort.


If we only follow this first response however we will miss the opportunity to enter consciously into major changes in our life. What we need to be conscious of is that every choice involves a degree of discomfort or suffering – even the choice to remain the same. In every case we must give up some alternative choice or path.


Once we realize this discomfort is a part of change the sooner we can include and embrace it and allow ourselves to enjoy the excitement of the new. Only then are we freed from the illusion of security and control and are free to plunge in and enjoy the dance.


Till another Monday dances our way once more,



[1] The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. All rights reserved

[2] In the psychology of satiated desire this is called morphic dissonance. The dissonance being that strangely uncomfortable feeling of loss mixed with the satisfaction of a desire realized.

[3] Chinese medicine is based on a Chi-energy model, not an anatomical one. Each organ is therefore not seen so much as an anatomical structure as a set of correspondences linking many functions and aspects not associated in Western medicine. These can include the season, emotions and behavioral characteristics and so on.




© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:














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