How to celebrate the Autumn Equinox

The last kiss of Summer is upon us, and the Autumn Equinox is here. The days are shorter, the nights becoming longer. We are shifting out of the summer yang energy (vibrant, sunshine, upward, male energy) and towards the yin energy (restful, water, receptive, female energy) that begins with Autumn. I’m taking my cues from Mother Nature that it is time to slow down a bit, and begin to turn some of my energy inward.

Equinoxes are unique events that happen twice a year; once in the spring, and once in the fall. The equinox occurs when the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive the sun’s rays about equally, and the daylight and nighttime hours are approximately the same. One really remarkable thing about equinoxes is that they are experienced by every person, everywhere in the world, at the same moment (although the actual “clock time” will depend on what time zone you live in). 

Equinox Symbolism

The term equinox comes from the Latin word aequinoctium (aequi-, meaning “equal,” and nocti-, meaning “night.”). The equinox represents balance in nature: opposites like night and day, light and darkness, or yin and yang.

During the equinox we have the opportunity to find that balance within ourselves. This is one of those things that sounds simple, but requires a little effort. Balance is not a state we can stay in constantly. Most of us do best with mono-tasking, which means it is easy to get off- kilter because we have been spending our energy, time, or attention on one thing, and maybe neglecting other things. This is a time to evaluate where we are at and how we have been spending our energy, and re- calibrating.  Human beings are complex. We are not all light, nor are we all darkness. We have both inside of us. Think of it this way: even when we stand in the light, we cast a shadow.

Don’t be afraid of the shadows

We shouldn’t be afraid of our shadow side- and yes, we all have one. What is a shadow side? It is the inner part of us that is the least known to our conscious minds. It could be the dark parts inside of us, or it could be vulnerability, fears, grief, and hidden hopes. Marie-Louise von Franz (a renowned Jungian psychologist and scholar) wrote: 

“Whether the shadow becomes our friend or enemy depends largely upon ourselves… The shadow is not necessarily always an opponent. In fact, [it] is exactly like any human being with whom one has to get along, sometimes by giving in, sometimes by resisting, sometimes by giving love—whatever the situation requires. The shadow becomes hostile only when [it] is ignored or misunderstood.” (quote from “The Realization of the Shadow.”)

The fall equinox is meant for us to give attention to our shadow side, and to seek to understand what it needs. Remember that the fruits we are harvesting now had to be planted as seeds, in darkness in order to grow. Before we can experience “en-light-enment” we have to be willing to experience our own darkness. The key is to let gratitude accompany us along the whole process, so that all the lessons we learn in the darkness come with us to the harvest. Then, we let go of everything else (i.e pain, fear, grief).

Autumn Equinox traditions

Historically, the autumn equinox was a celebration of gratitude for a bountiful harvest, known as Mabon. My Celtic ancestors would have celebrated collecting a plentiful harvest, collecting seeds for the next growing season, expressing gratitude for the earth, sharing their abundance, and preparing their homes and themselves for the winter ahead.

Today, you may want to celebrate in ways that are similar and also reflect modern life. Ideas for personal/ inner observance of the transition to Fall include:

  • Finishing projects you began earlier in the year
  • Clean house and donate items
  • Preserving food (canning fruit and veggies, making jam, salsa, and applesauce, drying fruits, collecting nuts and seeds, etc.)
  • Reflecting on the fruits of your labors so far this year (What have you been cultivating?)
  • Letting go of the things that no longer serve you
  • Processing grief
  • Create your own mental health toolkit
  • Expressing gratitude to the earth and to the people that have supported you
  • Meditating on the balance of yin and yang energies
  • Start a gratitude list
  • Go on a hike or walk in nature
  • Arrange a cornucopia
  • Donate to a local food pantry or shelter

There are also so many fun activities that you could do to celebrate the autumn equinox with friends and family:

  • Making leaf crowns
  • Visit an orchard and pick apples
  • Drink spiced cider or wassail
  • Doing crayon rubbings with different kinds of leaves
  • Make an autumn tablescape with small pumpkins, gourds, leaves, and walnuts or acorns. Add a couple of candles.
  • Bake bread
  • Host a gathering with a caramel apple bar (provide apples on sticks, caramel sauce, and all the toppings for people to choose from).
  • Have a bonfire
  • Dip colored leaves in beeswax and make a garland for your home
  • Go on a lantern walk
  • Make flower/ leaf/ rock/ stick mandalas

Here is a script for a guided meditation you can practice around the autumn equinox, and an optional release ritual at the end.

Autumn Equinox Meditation and Release Ritual

Find a comfortable seated position. Begin to focus on your inhales and your exhales. Let your eyes gently close if you like. Just sit and breathe for a few minutes, mentally following the path the air takes as it enters and exits your lungs. As thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, and then let them pass by without judgment or dwelling on them. Allow your body to relax.

Imagine all of the plants and abundance that the summer months have brought. Picture ripe fruits and vegetables being harvested from an abundant garden. See vibrant flowers, winding vines, and fragrant herbs ready to be cut and dried. Imagine the sun’s energy being absorbed into these powerful plants and transformed so that they can grow and offer us oxygen, nutrients, and beauty. Let your mind be fully present in the conditions of summer. How does it look? Feel? Smell? What thoughts come to mind? 

Now imagine the lengthening of shadows, and the earlier onset of the sunset and night time. Notice the air becoming crisper and the leaves’ transition to brilliant reds, oranges, and golds. Mentally welcome autumn as if it was a “second spring, when every leaf is a flower”. See the leaves falling from the trees and other plant life changing. Know that this is a necessary and beautiful part of life and the cycles of the seasons. Smell the sweet and spicy aroma of fallen leaves decomposing into beautiful rich soil. Bid farewell to the summer light and surroundings. Inhale the new light of autumn. As you observe the leaves falling from the trees, bring to mind something that you have been grieving, or that you have been holding on to- but that no longer serves you or supports your highest intentions.

If you are ready to release that thing from your life, whether it is your inner negative self talk, a habit you’d like to be rid of, resentment, or unhealthy co-dependency, imagine that thing as a crumpled brown leaf, trembling in the wind, nearly ready to be separated from your tree.  If it feels right, let yourself feel gratitude for the things you have learned and the ways you have grown because of that thing.  See that brown leaf flutter to the ground, and then be lifted up in the breeze to join dozens of other swirling leaves that have been released from their trees. All of these leaves will break down over the next seasons and become rich, fertile compost for the new growth in the spring.

Return your focus to your breath. In and out, in and out. Now breathe in, to a slow count of four. One count for each season. Hold the breath in for another count of four. Let the breath out evenly to a count of four, and finally, hold the breath out for another count of four. Repeat this breath three more times. Stretch your arms and open your eyes, and mentally welcome Autumn.

***Optional release ritual:

Instead of imagining the thing you’d like to release as a leaf, you can collect a leaf of your choice ahead of time, and take a moment during the meditation to write a word or short phrase on the leaf with a pen or marker. Then, walk somewhere that you would like to release your leaf- either to the wind, into a stream or lake, off a footbridge, etc. Let your leaf go. Finish with the breath work.

This release ritual could alternatively be done by writing your word onto a stick and tossing it into an autumn bonfire.

Ho’Oponopono- Inspired Meditation

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” Powerful words, at times difficult to receive, and even more difficult to say. This Ho’Oponopono- Inspired meditation guides you on a journey of equanimity, reconciliation, and forgiveness, based on the traditional Hawaiian practice of the same name. (Written about in Change We Must, by Nana Veary, and Hoʻoponopono Contemporary Uses of a Hawaiian Problem-solving Process by E. Victoria Shook.)

Ho'Oponopono- Inspired Meditation

Ho’Oponopono- Inspired Meditation

To begin, place your hands over your heart center and if you wish, allow your eyes to close gently.

Focus on connecting to your higher self that resonates gratitude and love. Spend a moment here, breathing in gratitude, breathing out love. In, out. Gratitude, love.

Now focus on expanding your connection to include source energy. You may consider this as divine energy, universal consciousness, or the Love of God. However you best visualize it, imagine that you have tapped into it, and that energy is filling you, running through you, and surrounding you with light. Imagine that any time your own loving energy runs low, this conduit of higher energy replenishes you, so that you always have enough gratitude and love at any given moment.

Now bring to mind someone you have minor frustration with. Perhaps this is a dearly loved person who you have some unresolved issue with. Or perhaps it is someone you feel mostly neutral about, but there is something they have done that has annoyed you. Whatever the case, imagine they are sitting right in front of you. Imagine that the light and love energy surrounding you now encompasses both of you. See this energy having a softening, massaging effect on each of your emotions. Imagine this person looking into your eyes and sincerely saying, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” It does not matter if you believe they would truly say this or not. Just imagine that they have. Take a deep breath. Allow yourself time to accept this.

In return, send the same phrases back. Look into their eyes deeply, and say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” Say it as sincerely as you can. Imagine the light/ love energy melting any remaining coldness, sorrow, and frustration between you. If it feels right, you can wrap your arms around them in an embrace, or simply smile at them, knowing that you have let go of the thing that was holding you back from them emotionally.

Now bring to mind someone else, perhaps someone that brings up deeper frustration or resentment for you. Again, see the divine/source energy expanding to surround both of you, and seeping into your hearts. Imagine them looking into your eyes with compassion, and sincerely saying “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” Again, even if it is highly improbable that they would actually say this to you, imagine that they want to, and that they have made the effort to say this from their heart. Imagine what their face would look like, and the tone of their voice, in the way that you most long for. Breathe in love, and breathe out gratitude. Take your time here.

Now look deep into this person’s eyes, and repeat the phrases back to them. Tell them, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” You may feel some resistance to doing this. Be gentle with yourself. This is very human and understandable. Remember that every person is your own mirror, and oftentimes we do need to forgive the people who have hurt us, because we have harbored unkind, resentful, judgemental, or even hateful thoughts toward them or toward what they did. Holding on to these feelings is hurting you, and you will feel so much lighter and peaceful once you release them.

You may find it helpful to consciously tap into that channel you created at the beginning, to source energy (or God’s love, or universal consciousness). Imagine it filling you with the strength to forgive and love those who have hurt you, and the wisdom to create healthy boundaries that will allow you to have an open, and protected heart, both.

Repeat this exercise as many times as you would like, with as many people as come into your mind. You can even say these words to yourself, or to a younger/ different version of you.

When you feel you have come to the end, let all the images fade away, and take one or two more deliberate breaths, gratitude in, and love out. Stretch your limbs, and blink your eyes open. Smile. Take this feeling of gratitude and love with you into your day.

If you enjoyed this guided Ho’Oponopono- Inspired Meditation, check out our guided Progressive Relaxation Body Scan post.

How to Use a Wrist Mala for Meditation

Sodalite Wrist MalaEver notice yogis or meditators wearing beaded bracelets and wondered what they were for? Or maybe you know that these wrist malas are meditation bracelets, but wondered how to use a wrist mala for meditation? I will explain 4 ways to do this, but first, just so we’re on the same page, let’s talk about…

What is a mala?

A mala is a string of beads on a necklace or bracelet, used as a tool to help you focus on your meditation. It can also be used as a way of keeping count of repetitions of whatever you’re doing. 

Malas are such a great meditation tool because they offer a very tactile, tangible way to focus your attention. This is great news for those of us who get bored or distracted easily, or who deal with chronic or acute anxiety. It’s also a wonderful way to introduce meditation to children.

Full malas have 108 beads, with a larger “guru” bead, stone or tassel at the bottom. They can be worn like a necklace when not in use. Wrist malas are worn as bracelets when not in use and traditionally have 18 or 27 beads, again with a tassel, or a larger “guru bead”. 

Guru= teacher (those who have brought you to this point in your life, who have nurtured you intellectually and spiritually). It can represent literal teachers, friends or partners who have helped you to stretch and to become better, and it can also represent God. We start and end at this bead when we are keeping count, without ever passing over it, as a sign of gratitude and respect.

How is a mala used?

There are four main ways to use malas (either full malas or wrist malas; even a set of prayer beads works great):

  1. As part of a gratitude practice
  2. In the repetition of mantras or positive affirmations
  3. To keep count as you practice breath work (or pranayama)
  4. Wearing as a reminder of your intention and to absorb positive energy

Using a malaHere is a video summary of the 4 ways to use a wrist mala.

You can stick to one practice, or mix them up- it’s totally up to you and what you feel you need on any given day. Do what feels nourishing to you.

Now it’s time to put your mala to use: Drape the beads over your dominant hand, as shown in the picture. Begin at one of the beads next to the guru bead. For each bead, practice

      1. Taking one deliberate breath, 
  1. Identifying one thing you are thankful for, OR 
  2. Repeating a mantra. 

Use your thumb to advance to the next bead to keep track of how many repetitions you are doing. Stop on the last bead before the guru bead. If you want to continue, turn the bracelet around and follow the beads in the other direction, again stopping just before the guru bead and reversing directions until you are finished. Repeat as many times as you would like, whether it is just one round of the bracelet, or six rounds (to get to the traditional 108), or somewhere in between.

How can I get a mala?

Kyanite Wrist MalaYou can purchase or easily make your own wrist mala. Plan on using 15-22 beads, depending on the size of the beads you choose and the circumference of your wrist. (8mm is a standard size, but you could also use 6mm or 10mm beads. You would just need to adjust the number of beads so that it fits your wrist.) This doesn’t need to be fancy. You can make your own- a piece of string with plastic beads on it could work. Your local craft store will have crystal or stone beads if you want to make something a little more long lasting and aesthetically pleasing.

The Wild Goose Meditation Shop on Etsy sells many beautiful wrist malas. We also have a limited number of ready-to-make kits if you are more inclined to make your own. Check out our tutorial video here.

Setting an intention for meditation and yoga

Do you set an intention for your personal meditation and/or yoga practice? Or, do you wonder if there’s a point? Is it just a new age-y way to say you’re setting a goal? And what should your intention be, anyway???!!! If you’ve ever been stressed during yoga or meditation class about what this whole intention thing is, keep reading!

Setting an intention is a powerful way to align your head, your heart, and your body and attract positive energy into your life. It is a bit like making a goal, but there are some important differences. Understanding these differences between a goal and an intention might point you in the right direction.

Imagine that you’re planning a hike up to a beautiful vista- you’re not there yet, but you can clearly see where you want to end up when all is said and done. A goal has to do with reaching this *future* destination. An intention has to do with the journey you are currently on toward that destination, whether you arrive at the top or not. It has to do with being immersed in the *present* moment.

If you just love making goals, there’s nothing wrong with that! So go ahead and picture where you’d like to see yourself at a specific, later date- this is your destination, your goal for the future.

Now let’s focus on the journey- this is how you’re going to get there, starting right this minute. What do you want the journey to be like? Is there a feeling or quality that you would like to cultivate- in life in general, the next month, the next minute? Keep in mind that your intention is something you can attain, moment by moment, regardless of whether you reach a future goal- or not.

For clarity, you might want to ask yourself:

  • Who/ what matters most to me?
  • What am I most thankful for?
  • How do I feel when I am my happiest self?
  • What words resonate with me?

Examples of possible intentions include: peace, unconditional love (giving or receiving), balance, equanimity, optimism, forgiving self or others, courage, focus, patience, flexibility, faith, connection, embracing change, soft/open heart, resilience, etc.)

Once you have an impression of what your intention should be, try to distill it down to as few words as possible- focusing on what you want, rather than what you want to avoid. This is the feeling you want to come away with, after your practice. It is the quality you would like to color your life, your goals, your successes and your struggles with.​

You might find it helpful to write this word or phrase somewhere you’ll see it often, or create a “trigger” by associating your intention with an object you see or handle fairly often, like a piece of jewelry or a pocket stone, etc. For me, the wrist mala (meditation bracelet) I wear daily reminds me of my personal intention. Do whatever works for you!

These instructions can help you identify your intention for your life right now. However, you can always set a time- specific intention that is just for the duration of a yoga class, a difficult conversation, or some other short- term activity.

Now that you have identified your intention, you have a couple of options. First, you can just mentally set it aside. Yep! Your subconscious mind will remember it and help you create the connections you need. Second, you could use that word or short phrase of your intention as a personal mantra to repeat with each breath you take while you sit in meditation or do your yoga set. It’s totally up to you and what feels natural in the moment.

Got a question about setting an intention that we didn’t cover? Feel free to leave a comment, or send us a DM on Instagram. <3