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  • Seasons of the Spirit: Autumn Reflections

    October heralds shortening days and crisp nights. Colors that we had almost forgotten exist in nature begin to appear in a riot of shades offered by trees and shrubs. We cannot hide for long from the inevitability of change as the glory and losses of autumn reveal themselves around every corner. The lengthening nights beckon us to turn inward to hearth and home, inviting us to inner reflection. Will we open to these invitations of the Spirit to expand and deepen our awareness?

    Autumn calls us to acknowledge the reality of changing seasons, and with it our changing bodies, minds, spirits, and communities. The spiritual life calls us to befriend the reality of change. It asks us to be open to the possibility of transformation, moving us into new understanding and new wisdom. While we pay lip service to the exhilaration of change, we are also aware of the ‘letting go’ and grief that are intrinsically part of the seasons of our lives.

    What illusions are we clinging to this autumn? What asks to be released in order for our souls to be freed? Is it the fantasy that material goods and “right order” are the only keys to a life of fulfillment? Am I captured by the illusion that if I achieve certain “states” of fame, fortune, beauty, riches, success—only then will I be happy?

    Abundant life has more to do with meaningful connections and “belonging to one another” (as Mother Teresa pointed out). To belong to one another means to stretch ourselves to take into account the reality of the larger world of which we are a part. Cultivating a spiritual life involves prayer, meditation and scriptural study, but also a practice of service beyond our selves alone. Forgiveness and kindness are the foundations of this service. We are to bear witness to the value of dignity for all of life, ending de-humanizing actions, and taking into account any life that is diminished or violated. We are one body on one planet learning to love life itself.

    Our spiritual life invites us to continue an ever-deepening quest for truth. Truth is the experience of integration (integrity) in which the walls of compartmentalization that hold our illusions in place become thresholds of opportunity. Here we come face to face with ourselves as we truly are: shadow and light, broken and healed.

    Will we choose to align ourselves with the truth? Dare we follow the road less traveled leading us to freedom, love, and hope reborn? Each choice we make can offer us this opportunity for growth and transform our very selves into hope.

    In these autumn days, may we include in our acts of service the expansion of justice for humankind, the fullness of love for creation, and the enhancement of Being, itself. May we recognize that God is Love, encouraging us to live as good neighbors to one another, good company to ourselves, and good companions to God, who beckons us into the Truth that sets us free.

    —Rev Dr. Ken Orth, Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction Affiliate, Winchester, UCC and Healing Worship Minister, Old South Church in Boston