Fall Winnowing: Psyche’s Task & Yours

I’ve spent the last three days in personal retreat with someone who requested time in the old growth to deepen into her soul’s path. Our focus was to listen, to write, to inquire and to listen some more. There was a deep sharing of stories that define us, as we kept ears tuned for how calling shows up in her life. It was a time to harvest what has been and allow inspiration to emerge, to allow her to to move into the next steps of her life’s work.

This is the power of harvest. The power of autumn. This season has more and more meaning for me each year. In the autumn of life, I meet the turning of the leaves, the falling away, with recognition and curiosity. We know each other, autumn and I. This is time to harvest and preserve what is beautiful and useful and to leave the rest behind.

I’m reminded of the classic painting of winnowers in the field, shaking their baskets to sort the wheat from the chaff. Then there’s the story of the ultimate winnower, Psyche, from the ancient Greek tale. Having fled from Love (Cupid), and wanting to win back that connection, Psyche is given several hero’s challenges by Cupid’s mother, Hera. The last of these is to separate the grains from the lentils in a pile that reaches well over her head. Before dawn. It is already twilight.  And Psyche has had a very tough day meeting Hera’s ridiculous requirements already.

In the story, Psyche, aghast at the size of the pile, is so exhausted that she falls asleep. When the “rosy fingers of dawn” stir her awake, in front of her are two neat piles: lentils and beans.  It turns out that invisible spirit helpers had come in the night to make sense of the chaos.

The same is true for us. By sharing the moments when we’ve felt truly present in our lives, by listening to ourselves as we speak our life stories, by allowing space and time (with a good mix of silence), patterns emerge.

From those patterns, this: The Way of Things, revealed as I hear myself speak, as I invoke my path in writing, shows the calling that was always there.  I winnow by seeing the times I was totally present and my gifts came forth. Then there are the times I wasn’t, so much. The times I was challenged to be brilliant, the times I simply felt good enough, without needing to transform into something brilliant.

The memories and meanings that sort themselves out through deep story sharing are for us … to instruct us, to frame our being, to share with others as we explore the meaning and direction (and calling) of our lives.

What has life taught me, so far? Where (and how) do I feel supremely alive? The patterns emerge from the shadows as we are held in listening, as we hold the space to hear our own inner voice. There is magic in having a helper to assist in sorting the harvest. But we can also serve as our own witness as we write our way to clarity. Tuning into the internal resonance of the stories that emerge. From listening closely, our next best step emerges.

As we write, some things just come into focus. We find clarity for our ordinary lives, a felt sense for the next directions.  An inner knowing of the where and how of our own unique way in the world. There’s a growing understanding of how the Way of our lives shows itself as we listen … and find the words to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Be your own witness by asking yourself: what has always been so for me? What stories have family or friends shared about you that give clues to your unique way in the world?  Call or write someone close to you. Put the feedback in your journal and then let your pen show you the way as you find examples from your life. Enjoy the harvest as you return to Love. 

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