I realized something the other day as my husband and I were driving out to the Mt. Hood National Forest: deciduous trees get all the glory this time of year.
Their bright, flashy leaves draw us in and announce to us that Autumn has arrived. Feeling their crunch under our feet or throwing them up in the air over us is a joyful experience, and the leaves are kind of the signature of the season.
But what about the quieter changes taking place?
What about all the other trees, the ones that don’t seem to change much throughout the year?
I always thought that evergreen trees like pine or cedar grew up, dropped some cones and maybe a few needles along the way, and were mostly unchanging throughout time. During our weekend trip in this spectacular forest, I wondered if that was actually true. Nothing is unchanging, right? So what happens inside of these seemingly ever-stable trees during the Fall?
It turns out that evergreen trees go through changes of their own each year, but it’s much more subtle and less “out there” than their fiery deciduous cousins.
Evergreen trees shed old needles every few years, and before those needles drop, they turn yellowish brown. This process is totally natural, but a lot of people mistakenly believe that this change means the tree is sick or dying. Some trees only shed needles on the inside of the branches, making their transformation almost invisible unless you look closely.
In my work with people who want to make a shift in their career, there’s a lot of pressure to make big, sweeping changes - changes that are apparent and obvious to others looking in on their lives. And some people do make those changes, very quickly - one day their leaves are all fiery oranges and reds, and I know they’re ready to make the leap.
Others, however, are like the evergreens. They’re much slower to make changes, and sometimes the change taking place is so deep inside of them that it’s difficult to see. For months and months, it can seem like nothing is really shifting, and then one day, they have a branch full of old brown needles that are ready to drop.
We are each our own kind of tree in this transformational season, and we may even be different kinds of trees throughout our lives.
The past few years of my life have been like that of a sugar maple tree, ablaze in the Autumn and undergoing major changes every year. Other times, however, I’ve felt much more evergreen - as if nothing on the surface was changing until one day, it did.
Trust the natural changes that want to take place in your life, even if you feel like the leaves aren’t dropping quickly enough.
The leaves on any tree change color and drop from the branches without thinking or being made to - they simply respond to the changing environment around them and go when it’s time.
Your leaves are your thought and behavior patterns, the parts of your past that need to be integrated, and aspects of life like your career, relationships, etc. You’ll know when they’re ready to change color and drop off your branches because your intuition will tell you they are.
You’ll have a sense that something needs to change, that you want more from a part of your life, or you’ll hit rock bottom and be forced to look at a tree full of empty branches and ready for new growth.
This process is much simpler and more graceful when we’ve developed a relationship to our intuition and can sense the shift before we’re faced with a crisis and forced to change.
Have you heard about the concept in Chinese medicine and other ancient belief systems that says that sickness begins in the spirit, or the aura, or whatever word fits for you? The idea is that disease is a manifestation of an illness that began long before we could see it in the physical body. If we can develop a strong relationship with what’s happening in our energy systems, we can sense a disturbance and address it before it makes us really sick.
The same is true for our intuition and the changes our souls want us to make. Sometimes life pushes us to the edge with a crisis that forces us to look at some things we wouldn’t see before. Other times, we’re given the opportunity to sense something that’s not yet “real” and make the change without needing to go through crisis.
Try not to hang on to the leaves that want to turn brown and drop to the ground.
Try to trust that your intuition, or your heart, is at work and able to show you what needs to change and when - even if you feel like a Bosnian pine tree that hasn’t dropped needles in five years.
Intuition is one of the most amazing and accessible tools that I focus on in my work with people, and I’ve seen its ability to transform lives and careers.
Everyone has intuition, and some of us need help tapping back into its wisdom from time to time. Intuition will be the focus of an entire day in my upcoming group coaching series for women, A Wild New Work. We’ll spend time exploring how intuition manifests for each of us and look at what it might have to say about our worklives and what we’re here on this earth to do.
If you’re a working woman in Portland who has a sense that some needles or leaves need to drop in order for new growth to come in, I hope you’ll consider joining us starting October 29th. You can learn more at this link.
No matter where you are in the world, I hope you’ll make some extra space for your intuition today, whether it’s by journaling, sitting quietly outside, or just holding your heart and taking a deep breath.
Let the seasonal changes of your soul carry you - they will if you let them.