Our stories are marked by rhythms of life and death—or to put it simply: everything changes. Connecting to the rhythms of nature grounds us in a larger, collective story and empowers us to honor the more personal patterns of our individual lives. This post is the third of a four-part series in which Mandy reflects upon the pattern of nature and its relevance to our personal development. (If you missed part one or part two, you can find them both here.)

“You have set sail on another ocean
without star or compass
going where the argument leads
shattering the certainties of centuries.”

Janet Kalven, “Respectable Outlaw”

Naperville therapists

Photo Credit: Bigstock (SementsovaLesia)

Today, we welcome the autumnal equinox, one of two points during our year when the Earth’s axis tilts neither toward nor away from the sun. Soon, each night will outlast each day, until spring comes again.

If we liken our year to one day and one night, then today we’re approaching the sunset. This season, our sun fades into the west.

This season, we welcome the darkness.

I’m always both relieved and sorry to see the light of summer go. I love the way the earth cools down, and also the way we warm ourselves up—with sweaters and spices and cider and fires. I love the way sad music makes my longing get louder as life outside gets quiet. But I know that soon I’ll miss the light. Sometime soon, I’ll feel a little too cold and a little too sad. And my longing will get a little too loud.

Have you noticed how darkness and longing go together? While light allows us to focus on what is plainly in front of us, darkness invites us to imagine what might be. Darkness brings us face to face with the unknown; it asks us to pay attention to what is uncertain, to what is unseen, and to what we wish could be. If we’re willing to accept the invitation of darkness, to linger with our unknowing, then we’ll come to know well the ache that lives within us—our longing for a world we cannot (yet) see.

Many of us know and love stories about heroes who venture into dark places—forbidden forests, enchanted castles, and wild, tempestuous seas. We admire these brave men and women, and we want to be like them—or at least, we think we do. We want the treasure that heroes find, but we don’t want to face the dark wood or sail into the great unknown to find it. We’re afraid that if we leave the comfort of our well-lit homes, the storms out there might kill us. Monsters might eat us. Also, our friends will think we’re crazy.

In fact, the storms out there might kill us. Monsters might eat us. Our friends will probably think we’re crazy, and possibly disown us. But it’s equally true that the loss of all we think we know might lead us to deeper wisdom. Facing the great unknown might lead us to the treasure we most long for—the treasure our world most needs us to find.

So, when all you see is darkness, listen to your longing. And when your discontent begins to whisper, asking you to cross some unknown sea, sail away! You might be afraid, and you might be alone. Others might beg you to stay, or resent you for leaving. (In truth, they might envy your courage.) But leave you must, if you hope to find what your heart longs for. And one day, may you sail back home, bringing your treasure with you.

The following clip is from Disney’s Moana. Here, Moana wrestles with her longing to leave all she knows and embrace the call of the sea:

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Mandy Hughes

Mandy Hughes

Mandy is a licensed professional counselor. She counsels adults, adolescents, and groups and has a particular interest in helping survivors of trauma and abuse navigate their stories of harm with self-compassion instead of shame. Mandy is passionate about empowering her clients to live more integrated, vibrant and hope-filled lives.

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Mandy Hughes

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