The Soul's Reflection in a Leaf | iHanuman


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The Soul's Reflection in a Leaf

I was talking with an old friend recently about the wishes of childhood that we have left behind, the deep desires that were once sent out into the universe with the superstitious blowing of a fallen eyelash, but that have faded with the passage of time.  To my surprise, I realized that although countless eyelashes in my younger years had been dedicated to one wish in particular, as an adult that desire no longer holds the same romantic appeal: I no longer wish to live forever.
Life is precious precisely because it is finite.  If human beings were immortal, the value of each day would lose its meaning.  At no time is this more apparent than it is during the fall season.  On the roads and in our fields, velvety blue and black butterflies are beating their wings for the last time.  Annual plants are shriveling and drooping, starting their process of dissolving back into the earth.  Hikers are crowding the trails and slipping into hidden swimming holes, taking advantage of these precious warm days before the winter sets in.  Looking up to the crests of the trees, we see vibrant colors starting to emerge, knowing full well that as this change gradually spreads throughout our forests in swathes of incomparable ocher and crimson red, it signals nothing less than the inevitability of death for everything that lives.
Something that interests me about the way in which the trees turn such gorgeous hues in the fall is the fact that the colors in the leaves themselves are not actually changing.  As the weather cools, the tree senses that it needs to reserve its energy for the cold, dark winter ahead and begins to withdraw chlorophyll from the leaves, into the stems, into the branches, and deep into the core of the tree.  The colors that emerge on the leaf as a result are not new, but rather were there all along, hidden by the green of the chlorophyll.
Just as the colors in the leaves were already present but were obscured by the vibrant green, yoga posits that our infinite nature is contained in each and every one of us, but that we are not able to access this deeper knowledge because our true identity is concealed by our mistaken belief that we are separate from everything around us.  According to the philosophical system of yoga, this misconception is caused by an identification with our finite ego-selves instead of our infinite identity as a part of universal consciousness as a whole.
In other words, we think that the beautiful colors that emerge from within the leaves aren't us, when in reality they were always there underneath the surface.  We believe that we are subject to death, when although our physical body will inevitably return to the earth, there is something within us that is far beyond the reach of mortality.  In other words: the leaves may die each year, but the tree itself lives on.
Although yoga offers us this framework for understanding that our essential nature is beyond the cycles of birth and death, it is part of the beautiful paradox of our embodiment as human beings that we have distinctly limited lifespans, and that we never know when our time here might come to a close.  Somewhere across the world, someone has a life expectancy that is less than half of the one that you enjoy.  Somewhere in your community, an ill or elderly neighbor is preparing to pass away.  Somewhere in your backyard, the wind is blowing the last leaf from a struggling sapling.  Your days may be long, but they are most assuredly numbered.  So search out a swimming hole and enjoy your last dip of the season.  Take a walk in the woods and go play in the leaves.


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