Empty Rooms Fill with Light

Fall always come in with a bit of a sigh. The letting go after a long haul. A shift that is needed in the bones, but that arrives on crow wings with a tinge of sadness all the same. There is something so beautiful about an Autumn field, that copper expanse gone to seed. When the options of what can be cultivated grow slim, and the things that must be done to tend the future become clear. Harvest what is ripe. Compost the rest. Till under, bed down, grieve, rest. The callings of fall are as golden and entire as a tumbler of whiskey, enjoyed on the porch at sundown. There is a slight burn to the necessary abandonment of it all.

I won’t lie to you, it’s been an intense time. Fires in the west with ash falling down like rain. Waters in Houston and South Asia flooding from home to home. The repeal of DACA and fear for the 800,000 Dreamers who are risk of being kicked out of their homes. Irma leaves rubble in the wake of her winds. Here in my own community we’ve lost two beloved herbalists in the past few weeks. Loss ripples out like autumn winds through the fields.

Liminal moments like these are strange. That space between the endings and the beginnings. You don’t quite know where to put your feet. In my last missive I wrote about the uniqueness of this season of Long Summer, how to ground into this in-between time and dig into the Earth again. As I sink into the final days of Long Summer, I find myself seeking out the comfort of these season’s medicines. To navigate by nourishing and clearing out the debris from within my own being.

There is the desire, as the sun dips down into the harvests of Autumn, to really let go. To empty your rooms, and your inner thoughts. To fill boxes with everything you never wore this past summer, to upend the pots into the compost. To let go so you can create space. Space to fill, not with new objects, but with the necessary exhale of your being.

The Philosopher Zhuanzhi says, “Empty rooms fill with light.” There is something about the emptying of grief, or just the plantings of old, that always opens us up to further light.

Last month I got the opportunity to travel around Japan and I was struck, wherever I went, by the way in in this emptying and filling, this Mukayu, takes form. Coined by Zhuangzhi, Mukayu means “non-existence” or “non-purpose,” the freedom of emptiness. Mukayu is the purposefulness of not doing. It’s the richness of a wall left blank, a thought allowed to dissolve, a life left entirely open. It is the fullness of an empty schedule and a cup anticipating finely steeped tea. It is the act of witnessing amongst the tumult. In Japan, a country of Zen and quiet manners and moss, they talk about the idea of existing in a “countryside of Mukayu.” To me, this sounds like the exact medicine needed for dense times.

So wherever you are in the cycle of grieving, rejoicing, birthing, reuniting or saying goodbye, may today be a moment of rest for you. A pause to empty, so that you may take it all in. A time of unburdening, of letting the tap run until the water is clear once again. May you find yourself in a countryside of Mukayu and at peace, if even just for the space of a single exhale. With the oceanic unknowing and the autumn fields of endings and possibility, and your home (the home you can always return to) in the countryside of simply being.

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