09/06/2013 12:21 pm ET Updated Nov 06, 2013

Legacy: Learning to Let Go

Summer naturally and gently lets go to autumn's gradual birth. Days are shorter, nights are cooler, farmers and squirrels harvest, trees dress up in their colors, their final seasonal celebration before the leaves let go.

"September is a pivotal month during which the outward-directed energy of summer begins to shift inward..." -- Joan Borysenko

Aware or not, circumstances demand that we too let go... Allowing grief for what's lost, making amends, forgiving ourselves and others to free ourselves from resentment and anger, to appreciate the present moment, and to open to what's to come in this new season -- these are ways we can cooperate with this natural cycle of change. Like nature, we can harvest fruits of the past, celebrate the present, and open ourselves to the future.

"The year has been building itself up, and now it begins to let go -- the natural cycle of the cosmos, the rise and fall, the impermanence and the continuity, all express themselves in this turning." -- Alan Lew

Living in cities crowded with people and things, we either don't have the opportunity or don't take it, to realize and accept the nurture from experiencing ourselves as a part of nature and applying its lessons to our lives.

September brings its newness. Energy is high as teachers and children return to school. Graduated high schoolers begin a new phase of life -- as college or trade school students, or seeking work, all experimenting with and growing into the independence and interdependence of the adult world. Jews world over celebrate the Spiritual New Year, asking forgiveness for wrongdoing of the past year and praying for inclusion in the new year's Book of Life.

One of nature's lessons is that autumn (and even winter) is not death but transition -- preparation for a new beginning. As the squirrels and farmers harvest to eat today and preserve for tomorrow, so plants and trees withdraw their energy into their roots to await the time when the soil will again be warmed by the sun and sweet spring rains.

"The end of one [thing] is the beginning of the other. Conversely, decline and destruction necessarily precede renewal; tearing down is necessary before rebuilding is possible. And all these things -- fullness, decline, destruction, renewal, tearing down, rebuilding -- are actually part of the same process, points on a single continuum..." -- Alan Lew

Amichai Lau-Lavie asks, "I wonder how many of us are holding on very hard to some piece of personal history that is preventing us from moving on with our lives, and keeping us from those we love..."

Those are important values questions related to legacy in a couple of ways. If I fight letting go, I'm stuck in a past that continues to recede and leaves me more and more barren. Though far beyond childbearing years, I want to continue birthing new babies, creatively supporting the present and the future with the gifts born in later years: energy, wisdom, and love.

Legacy also relates to the second thing Amichai says, "holding on is ... keeping us from those we love." I don't want to sabotage my relationships because I'm unable to be present to others, full up with what I'm not letting go of. I don't want my legacy to be a model of someone who can't or won't let go. I want to be a real and contributing part of the loving environment that children and grandchildren thrive in. I want to celebrate younger generations in my family and beyond, honoring their uniqueness, their budding minds and souls, their capacity for hope, their potential to make this a better world. If that means I need to let go, may the Holy One help me with the strength to do so now.

Suggestions for Action:

1. Reflect and write about something you're holding on to that's in the way of your most important values and the way you want to live your life. (This may take several journal sessions and some quiet time.)

2. Write memories, story snippets, and hopes and visions that you have about what you're holding onto and what you want to move toward.

3. Choose someone(s) you want to share this with. Write a legacy letter to someone you love -- perhaps letting go with an amend or an apology, perhaps expressing why the value of letting go is important to you, or both. Conclude your letter with a hope, a wish, a blessing that encompasses you and the person with whom you are sharing these most sacred words.

4. You may have more than one thing to let go of. There may also be other people with whom you want to share insights and feelings as a method for letting go. Write as many legacy letters as you need to prepare entry to this new season of your life. You have power over your perspective. Your cup need not be frozen half full or half empty; it can be brimming over to celebrate the coming season.

May your glass be full with this season's apple cider or hot chocolate,

Rachael Freed

NEW Her new book, "Your Legacy Matters: Harvesting the Love and Lessons of Your Life, A multi-generational guide for writing your ethical will," is now available, September 2013. 2012 editions now available of Rachael Freed's "Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations," "The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman" [also available as pdf downloads at and "Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient," and "The Heartmates Journal." Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and works with financial, health, and religious organizations focused on legacy principles and practices. She has seven grandchildren. Her home is Minneapolis, Minn.

For more information, visit her website: