Each year, as the Earth completes its annual journey around the sun, the balance between night and day shifts. It is only twice a year that the Earth is evenly struck by sunlight. These moments are called the equinoxes.
The first equinox of the year is the Spring Equinox, after which the days begin to lengthen, culminating in the summer solstice—the longest day of the year. After this, the daylight hours begin to decline until, finally, we reach the autumnal equinox, which then leads into the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.
But this is only the physical, the surface of what the autumnal equinox is—the outer, celestial journey mirrors an inner, universal, and very spiritual journey. To think of the Equinoxes and Solstices in terms of a life, the year is “born” on the winter solstice, matures at the spring equinox, and reaches the prime of life at the summer solstice. The autumnal equinox marks the descent into old age, and, finally, the moment of the winter solstice marks simultaneous death and rebirth, starting the cycle anew.
Autumn holds a spiritually unique place. Many mistake the mystery and decline that surrounds and follows the autumn equinox for darkness and evil, but in reality, it is about endings—a very natural thing. Every journey must find its end, and autumn is the bittersweet embodiment of this.
The physical death and darkness experienced by the land as we approach winter represents something else, as well. It is the external embodiment of the darkness all people contain within themselves—everyone is a blend of day and night, good and evil.
Autumn, paradoxically, is a time of simultaneous bounty and withering; crops are harvested, even as the natural world begins to fade. If we make sure to align ourselves to the progression of the seasons, autumn serves much the same purpose, but on a spiritual level. Consider, as autumn sets in, the areas of your life that need to be let go of, consider what no longer serves you, gets in your way, and needs to wither.
At the same time, consider the dream-seeds that you planted at the beginning of the year, and that have been steadily growing. Allow those dreams—that bountiful harvest—to be reaped. Enjoy them as you replace those parts of yourself which do you no good. For example, perhaps you wish to be more assertive. At the beginning of the year, maybe. Autum is the time to then allow the fearful part of you to fall away and be replaced by confidence. Come the winter solstice, you will be born anew, and this will be a part of you.
How can we get in touch with the spiritual side of autumn in our modern age? By being mindful and being present. Turn off your devices and simply take a walk. Make your pilgrimage of leaves, being mindful of the color of sky and grass and leaf and stone, of the feel of the air, of the scents and textures and sights all around you. As you do so, ask yourself, “What do I need to release? What are my burdens?”. Pay attention to what nature is doing around you—after all, everything has a purpose, including the changing of the seasons. They remind us to keep changing, to not allow ourselves to become stagnant.