The Autumnal Equinox has passed, there is a New Moon in Libra tonight, and we have just entered the first full day of Fall. Time to get ourselves ready for the upcoming changes as we move across this threshold into transition. How can we jump start our systems—body, mind, emotions, spirit, and energy?
Begin by spending a few minutes quieting your mind, stilling your body, and focusing in on how your body is feeling. Notice any aches, pains, tension, or tightness. Perhaps your neck is sore from too much travel, or your feet hurt from over doing it on that last hike of summer? Perhaps you’re just a little more tired than usual, or feeling extra hungry. Simply notice how your body is feeling, and then consider what you might need to do a little bit more of (exercise, sleep, better nutrition, stretching) and a little bit less of (overeating, sitting, bending over the computer, or spacing out in front of the television or computer. Make a short list of 5 simple steps you can take today to make yourself feel healthier, more balanced, and happier. For example, a list might include: take a 15-minute walk, fix a pot of vegetable soup, take a nap, go out for coffee with a friend, or go to the library and get some books.
Next, think about what has been on your mind this week. What have you spent the bulk of your time thinking about? Include what you have worried about, what you have been trying to figure out or solve, obsessed over, or been delighted by. What have you spent your little gray cells pondering, contemplating, and planning? You might want to make a pie chart to illustrate for yourself the amount of each day you had something on your mind. How much time did you worry, for example, as opposed to the time you spent looking forward to something or enjoying what you were doing, reading, writing, or creating. For those issues that you worried about, have you taken concrete steps to deal them, or are you still wondering how to deal with someone or something? For example, it’s near the end of the month, and for many people, this is a time when funds may be running short before pay day. Have you called to handle outstanding business, or do you ignore calls and reminders?
To relieve mental stress, be proactive. Even when you cannot see how you are going to meet a deadline or commitment, there may be a small step you could take to relieve yourself of some mental stress. When you observe how you spend your mental energy, you might notice when you feel the greatest relief or sense of well being. For example, if I’m very hungry and am trying to solve a problem, it’s very likely that I won’t be able to find a solution until I take care of my hunger. Or if I have budgeted down to the wire and cannot pay one important bill, it feels good to call and make an arrangement so I am not living in fear and getting more stressed out. Spend more time focusing on what you can do, and what you have already accomplished. If you are feeling overwhelmed with what remains to be done, make a quick list of all the chores, assignments, tasks you have already completed—today, this week, this month, or over the last few months. Get some perspective. Your mental exhaustion may not have anything to do with what you did this morning; it may have everything to do with your not having taken a real break in weeks or months. Mental tasks require energy, nourishment, rest, and perspective. Stop at the threshold and get some perspective on where you are in your journey. How did the summer go for you, and what is ahead? Just notice what’s going on, and take some time today to rest in between.
What is going on with you emotionally? Think of something that has happened over the last week or two where you had a very strong emotional reaction. I’m thinking about all the resistance I felt over an upcoming trip and reunion. I really did not want to go, and spent an inordinate amount of emotional energy feeling resistant. When I finally made it to the reunion, I had a wonderful time. I could not have anticipated the joy I would feel over being with old friends, or of having fun like I hadn’t had in some time. My emotional responses have kept me feeling invigorated and have inspired me for days afterward. Our emotional experiences, are tempered by and nourished or drained by our mental attitudes and our physical well being. One feeds the other or incapacitates us. For those with chronic or serious illnesses or injuries, this interplay between body, mind, and emotions is crucial for keeping our immune systems working to heal instead of lowering our immune systems and slowing or causing our conditions to worsen.What emotions have you experienced the most recently, and what kind of balance are you maintaining? What are you doing to raise your emotional well being; what are you doing that is causing you to become depleted? And what small steps can you take to lean more towards healing and health than unhappiness and fear? When doing meditation, we learn that acknowledging what is causing us pain, grief, sorrow, or anger is healthy to the point that we see what is causing our pain and then start making changes to relieve or alleviate the cause. For example, if I hated my job (which I don’t) , but did not feel I could quit or find another job, I would need to do something to make the experience more tolerable. I perhaps need to plan and take some time off. I need to find outside interests to connect me to what I do love, or maybe I need to start learning how to do something I’ve always wanted to learn. Perhaps it’s time to learn to knit, or golf, or swim, or learn French. If I’m working really hard, I need to be taking good care of myself as well. I need good amounts of rest and time off having rejuvenating experiences. Perhaps I’m going to do a weekend away in the City, or head down to Big Sur for a weekend at one of the campgrounds or local inns. Maybe organizing a tennis game or two would be helpful. Spending all our time focusing on problems or obsessing on what we don’t like, is not healthy. Do something you do love, and change your focus. Lift your spirits in simple, little ways too. Clean the kitchen and then reward yourself with a new set of potholders or tea towels. Doing something constructive and uplifting makes us feel better emotionally. Notice what your emotional temperature is, and if it’s low, take steps to lift if up, one small step at a time. Do something for someone else. That’s a good place to start. You don’t need to commit for the next year, but make an apple pie for your neighbors or share some of the pickles you just canned with a friend.
Spiritually, where and how are you feeling connected? Where do you find purpose and meaning in your life? How do you seek purpose and meaning? Do you have a regular prayer or meditation practice? Where do you find serenity and inner peace? Walking in the woods or along the seashore? How do your senses put you in touch with the natural world? What do you read, listen to, or study that fills you with inspiration and peace? How do you feel connected or disconnected with other people? With the Divine or sacred, however you define that? What rituals, practices, or traditions help you feel connected and help you find meaning? When we fail to acknowledge our deeper desires for connection, meaning, and purpose, we tend to feel our spirituality challenging rather than uplifting. Sometimes we have dry spells, and those are times we may need to create some ways to reconnect, find meaning, or seek new ways to understand our own spiritual journey.
Our lives are always changing, and at each new stage, we leave some ideas, beliefs, experiences, and desires behind. There are times when we feel in between—neither here nor there. Those are great times to sit mindfully and take stock of what has been, what is now surrounding us, and what possibilities are presenting themselves. The spiritual dimension of our lives helps us bind the other parts of life together. We need to feel meaning, purpose, direction, and affirmation as the unique soul we are and as the part we play within all our relationships and our communities. This is a wonderful time to take stock, as we would our pantry or closet when we prepare for seasonal changes. Take stock, during this week of passage, of the life you are living, the gifts you have to choose how to live life from now on, and what it is that nourishes, lifts, and supports you on your journey. Figure out who and what needs to hear your thankfulness for the part they play in your life. Who and what are you grateful for, and what are you grateful for in how you are living your life? This is a time of harvest and bounty. Take stock of what you have harvested in life, and allow yourself to celebrate your bounty.
As you take stock of your resources, body, mind, emotions, and spirit, take some time to recharge your batteries. Place your hand over your heart, and bring to mind those people, moments, or experiences that bring you great pleasure. Maybe it is being with your animals (horses, dogs, cats, or alpacas). Perhaps you will think of those who you love deeply. Perhaps it is how you feel when you are deep in prayer or meditaiton. Or maybe the emotional thrill you get when painting or sculpting or singing will put you in touch with your best memories, feelings, and thoughts. Allow all the feelings from whatever it is that lifts you, to fill your own heart and then radiate out throughout your entire body, mind, and spirit. Allow yourself to enjoy what it feels like to recollect deep love and affection, and let it remind you how good life can be. Happy Autumn.