For everything there is a season,
a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die…
BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES 3:1-2

 

As I opened the front door to go on an early morning walk, a leaf floated onto the doorstep. It was heart-shaped and golden in color. I’d swept away a basketful of leaves the day before. The weather had been windy, and now it was calm with no detectable breeze.

The fallen leaf reminded me of that the ebb and flow of life. Solstice was approaching. It marked the onset of winter here in the Northern hemisphere. On the other side of the globe, spring would slide into summer.  Everywhere there was renewal and release, darkness and light, birth and death.

The leaf, which had been a bud a few months ago, also was in transition. On the tree, it had had many roles. Primarily, along with other leaves, it provided nourishment for the tree. Chlorophyll, a special plant chemical, absorbs and coverts the light of the sun into useable sugars and starches, which fuel the tree’s growth and stability, even in the shorter days of winter.

If it could have told me its life story, I imagine that the leaf would have said that it began its journey as a minuscule rise on a branch. It had sprouted using the energy from the prior generation of leaves. Then, it unfurled and became part of a new community of leaves.   Together, they had not only fed the tree, but also helped provide protection and a home for numerous birds, squirrels, and insects. They weathered a drought and seamlessly worked together to produce oxygen and make shade for the world.

Once the days shortened, the leaf pigment changed. The canopy of green slowly shifted to the hues of the sun. At the same time, there had been an inner chemical transformation. Not only had the chlorophyll given way to carotenoid to create the beautiful golden color, but also the tree’s cells were ready to release each leaf to the earth. Clinging wasn’t an option. Its next purpose was to create a layer to help the ground absorb water. As it decomposes, it will provide nutrients for the soil, so that a new generation can flourish.

I gently picked up the leaf and moved it to an uncultivated area along the street. There, it could continue its life journey.   It would be undisturbed by rakes, brooms, or mechanized leaf blowers. Somehow, I felt an appreciation toward this tree. After all, it had reminded me of how nature is a metaphor for life.

Prophets, sages and saints often point to the flowers, trees, seasons, and other parts of nature as ways to prompt our deep memory of eternal wisdom.   A leaf signifies truth. The sun and sunlight are symbolic of divine light and love. Many ancient religions view all of life as leaves on a universal tree.  On the surface, the leaf on my doorstep seems insignificant. It is one of trillions of leaves. Yet, its story reveals the richness of a life that simply receives and is a conduit for light.  That alone inspires me to adopt a light-hearted motto, “leaf it.” I hope you will join me.

Practice

This practice offers a personal connection with a leaf.

  • Prepare –
    • Find a fallen leaf from a deciduous tree and gently pick it up. If you are not near trees, then simply imagining a leaf is fine.
    • With the leaf lightly held in one of your hands, find a comfortable seated position.  You may choose where you sit, e.g., in- or outside. Wherever you are, allow your spine to be upright with its natural curvatures. If you are in a chair, place the soles of both feet on the ground.
      • Take a few easy breaths. Allow your lower abdomen slowly expand on each inhale and release on the out breath.
        •  Note:  Your hands can be resting with palms open either on your thighs, or on top of one another.
          • Relax any tension in your hands, jaw, back of the eyes, and at the base of the back of your skull.
    • Gently close your eyes, or keep them in a soft gaze.
  • Practice –
    • Without actively looking or touching, just notice the leaf.
      • Notice its lightness and texture. Feel its weight in the palm of your hand.
      • Continue your reflection on the leaf, without analyzing or forcing. Just imagine as though you are holding something precious in your hand. And, that you want to let its richness and beauty soak into your awareness.
        • If your mind is too active, try gently guiding it toward appreciating the leaf and its story.
          • For example, appreciate its life being fueled by a prior generation of leaves and then being the nourishment for the next.   Or, appreciate its ability to be steadily tethered during the intensity of the wind and rainstorms.
        • As your sit here, allow your breath to be smooth and easy.   Continually, release the tension in your palms, shoulders, face, neck, and behind your eyes.
      • Stay with this first part of the practice if your mind is distracted. If you feel you have been able to let go and just be present, then allow yourself to shift your awareness to your heart center.
        • Imagine your heart is like a leaf, free of human fears and worries.
          • Allow the tension around your heart center to release.
          • Imagine there is only lightness and expansiveness without a tangible beginning or end.
            • Remember, for this moment, you are a leaf free of human fears, attachments, and worries.
          • Continue a smooth, easy, and unruffled breath.
            • Stay here for as long as you are comfortable.
          • Transition Back Into Your Day –
            • Still seated, gently open your eyes if they were closed. With a soft gaze, notice the earthly light around you. Gently smile.
            • When you are ready, return to your day.  (If you picked up a leaf, eventually return it the earth.)

 

This verse from the Bible also appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.

HEARTH is posted each new and full moon and written by Kate Vogt. To learn more about Kate Vogt and her “Living Wisdom . . . every day,” please visit katevogt.com.   KateVogt©2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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