In autumn here in Massachusetts, I often preempt the landscapers hired by our landlord and rake the leaves in our yard myself. In doing so, I not only avoid the gas fumes and deafening noise of their leaf-blowers, I also step into a kind of spiritual practice. Raking leaves, in the quiet of a crisp fall day, is sweetness for the soul. The slow movements back and forth are deeply meditative. My body moves gently and unhurriedly with the natural rhythm of the seasons. I listen to the sounds of blue jays and chickadees calling and pause silently to watch when a butterfly or bumblebee alights on the periwinkle ageratum flowers. Gratitude fills my heart. I feel intensely the beauty of nature all around me. The sun on my face and hands, the slightly cool breeze, the smell of fallen leaves and the earth itself. At times like these, I am fully present, fully connected to the spirit within me and everywhere around me.
We miss this connection when we fill our lives with machines and technology (leaf-blowers, snow-blowers, cell phones, WiFi, etc.). The health hazards associated with them are now more widely known, and the toll on our physical and spiritual bodies is great. So much better to adopt life-affirming practices such as raking leaves or hanging freshly washed clothes to dry instead of saturating them with chemically created smells from dryer sheets. Choosing organic locally grown produce instead of commercially grown GMO-ridden foods. Cutting back on cell-phone use and social media habits and talking to our neighbors and friends in person. All these are sacred spiritual practices really. Ways of living in harmony with others and with our Mother Earth instead of thoughtlessly using her to fulfill our manufactured desires for short cuts and convenience.
Life in essence is not fast food or fast cars. It’s not noise and frenetic multi-tasking. It’s the contemplative moments of connection to something greater—nature, God, mystery—that we will recall at the end of our lives, not what we have “owned” or achieved. The rush to consume and fill our lives with objects leaves us empty-handed in the end. Life and death are one continuous process, nothing ever lost or gained but awareness. We learn this when we align ourselves with the seasons; when we garden, or shovel snow, or rake leaves. “Chop wood, carry water,” before and after enlightenment, as the saying goes.
As we become more conscious and aware, we open ourselves to more natural, life-affirming ways of living on Earth. We connect more personally and less superficially with the people in our lives. We start to eat more wisely from natural healthy sources. Sometimes we walk or bike instead of drive. Intentionally, we begin to opt out of the easy solution or quick fix in favor of the more integrated and holistic choice. In other words, your version, whatever it is, of raking leaves in the fall. It’s not hard to find ways of coming into balance with life and nature. The harmony you will experience within your heart and soul will fill your life with a new sense of connection to all lives everywhere.