Originally published in October 2007 under the title “Fall Cleaning 101” in “811“, a San Luis Valley newsweekly, in my weekly column “Wise Words from the Valley Shamama”

In my own life, I feel the impulse to go in so many directions; my sons attend school and play football, my husband and I have several businesses, we are busy, active people, and our lives are so very full.  There is no end of things that need to get done; and it’s just not possible to accomplish it all if I want to get some sleep at night!  To make sure I’m taking good care of myself, and that I’m being as effective and powerful as I can be, I must be discerning: where is the best use of my energy?  Where can I get the best return for what I expend?  What may have seemed very important at one time, but now doesn’t feel like a priority? What can I allow to fall out of my very full basket?

We’re all familiar with the term “Spring Cleaning”, but did you know that Fall, as we prepare for the new year and all it will bring to us, is just as prime a time to whisk away what’s old and outdated and doesn’t serve us anymore? Clearing out the cobwebs – be they literal or figurative – makes room for new opportunities and gives us the newly-sharpened vision to notice them, and the increased energy to respond to them.

There is a natural wisdom to the process of letting go of outdated energies. In order to lay fertile ground for the new growth in Spring, the previous season’s growth is released, composted and utilized as the foundation for the next. In essence, nature uses its past, without clinging to it, as a building block for its future.

After all, Autumn is a time of harvest. We industriously process the bounty of summer to prepare for the lean days of winter, canning and freezing, reaping what we’ve sewn all year.  This is an auspicious opportunity to do the same in our own lives, in our own personal harvest.

Take a look around you. What can you celebrate as well-tended, successful fruit in your life?  What goals have you met this year, and what need some more tending and nurturing?  Which seeds did you plant that didn’t sprout?  What can you clear away so that your inner landscape can rest over the winter?

Ever since I made the decision to align myself with the rhythms and patterns of nature, I’ve noticed a strong desire in Autumn to deep-clean my home, to rake through the closets, to cleanse my body through fasting and to, energetically, get rid of what I don’t need. To clear away the extra.  It’s as if an innate part of me wakes up to the crisper air and the changing angle of the sun and is reminded to get busy preparing for the stillness of winter. When I have ignored the urge, I later find myself feeling like I’ve missed the train.

While Spring and Fall seem like the most natural cycle of change, the truth is that each season gives us a prompt to reflect, to go inward for a pause and review of our lives. In our very busy days and in a culture that trains us not to value those quiet moments of inner dialogue, we can gloss over our body’s own subtle messages and just keep charging full steam ahead.  What a missed opportunity to see the same beautiful changes in ourselves that we see in our natural surroundings as the seasons shift gears.

Yet somehow, there’s always a slight sense of sadness in western cultures that comes at the onset of Fall, as if we are experiencing death or loss. Can you feel it? Instead of acknowledging that we’re made of the same matter the mountains, sky, water and animals are forged from, and therefore subject to the same natural cycles, we create artificial identities for ourselves, refusing to follow biological patterns, and then get confused when things break down or when we’re worn out from resisting. In doing so, we rob ourselves of the critical rejuvenation the season was meant for.

How will you trim your branches and clear the way to reflect on and celebrate your victories and the abundance of your personal harvest this Fall? How will you spend this season to ensure that, when the next one comes, you’ll emerge energized and ready to keep moving forward in the life you want for yourself?