It is once again late August, and the seasons are changing. I can practically hear you shouting your objections. “But it’s still summer!"
Consider this: In Chinese medicine there are actually five seasons, not the four that we recognize in the West. For the Chinese, late summer is a season all its own, with its own mood and qualities to be savored. Each season in that tradition is related to one of the five elements: air, water, fire, earth, or metal. Late summer is related to the element earth. It is the shortest of the seasons, lasting only four to six weeks and is absolutely distinct from summer in how it feels to us. There is a change in the quality of the sunlight and in the air itself. The farmer’s markets are absolutely exploding with produce. The sun goes to bed a little earlier each day, and our thoughts turn naturally to endings and new beginnings.
You can always tell when we have transitioned into late summer because your friends will begin to mourn the loss of summer and begin to feel melancholy about the coming of fall and winter.
My son is feeling very melancholic indeed. I just drove him back to college this weekend. His summer was one long sunny day, full of travel, adventure and celebration. He came skidding back to school with barely enough time to unpack his suitcase after a trip abroad, and repack it to move into the dorm. The transition is proving to be painful. I have advised him to give himself the time and space to process and unpack the memories of his fabulous summer and then move into late summer- this brand new season-with appreciation for its challenges and opportunities for growth.
And while it is easy for me to give him advice on how to handle it, seeing him struggle with his sadness at leaving summer behind has made me think about my own transitions. I know from experience that in difficult transitions (just like in my yoga practice when I am moving from pose to pose) things can seem pretty shaky. I want to grit my teeth and rush through the transition in order to just get to that next place, phase or pose as quickly as possible. I can’t really envision what is next and that can be scary. Letting go of what we know and reaching for the next thing makes us vulnerable, and while being in transition has the potential to bring us new opportunities, there is also a feeling of being exposed. There is magic in transitions and strength in change. There is also wisdom and stability in making transitions mindfully, both on and off the mat.
In September, I will face a challenging transition of my own. I will end my term as President of the Board for Sea Change Yoga and focus on my job as Executive Director. I will begin working with a new Board President. It is a natural change of season for this organization and will result in new opportunities and growth, both personally for me and for Sea Change Yoga. And yet, although it is good and natural and healthy, there is some melancholy as I look back at the past season and prepare to let go of one and transition into another. I will take the advice I gave my son, and take the time to fully unpack and appreciate the memories of the past two years, and then I hope to step into the new season with grace and appreciation for its challenges and opportunities for growth. After all, I practice yoga to remain strong, balanced and focused, and those are the very qualities we need when facing transition.