One of my favorite things about fall, or the traditional fall that my northern friends get to enjoy is the; drying up of the leaves, the impending barren nature of the trees, and dwindling of the sun. In a way, these things are an end to the life cycle – the beginning stage of the final death, that is winter. Now this is a bit morbid, but it is important that I believe (and so do other yogis) that the life cycle and the idea of impermanence, is treated with normalcy and respect.
Knowing that change is ongoing, that nature, and that we are finite; puts things into perspective. It is difficult to explain these more philosophical points to children. That is why analogies such as the autumn season are great for introducing the concept in a not-so-scary way, specifically if we are teaching them to be yogis.
In yoga philosophy, one constantly works to release those things to which they cling to (i.e.expectations or certain outcomes) – which is called aparigraha. When we can move through life without clinging to everything we want, or think we need, we ease our suffering. We can recognize that most of those desires are fleeting. We realize that the materials are also not permanent. We might get a popular toy and then it breaks, or something else that is cooler the next month! When we can let go, as it were, we experience contentment, or santosha.
What happens is amazing. We begin appreciating what we have and who is our lives. Why? Because we know that it’s fleeting. We sense that each day is special and unique. You can teach this concept, or the beginnings of it, by pointing out how the leaves on the trees were once budding and small, then turned a lush green, and now are exploding into vibrancy one last time before they leave the vast arms of their trees. With each of these stages, the tree and the earth beneath it is beautiful and therefore we enjoy that present moment.
We tend to be frightened of change. We need time to ease into it. Looking at the fall leaves, the dipping temperatures, and even the fun new fall flavors is the perfect bridge into comfort with this impermanence. It is easy for kids’ to understand, even if it isn’t explicit. After all, before we learn how to solve the quadratic equation, we learn about squares and factors. Isn’t that itself a lesson in change too? We constantly learn more by building on what we do know?
So, take a brisk fall walk and talk about how it will be nice and cool, with bright leaves for a few weeks and then it will be even colder. Pretend to be trees together and “drop” your leaves!
Breathe in the cooler air and walk through the rustling foliage. Help your child enjoy this present moment because it will soon be different!