Spring is about expansion and leaping into action, while Fall is a time of turning inward. One is an outward expression of energy and the other an inward one. . This means slowing down, being more with our inner self, and having more time to contemplate. This is an essential and necessary aspect of life, just as it is for our planet, and there are ways to make this transition less complicated and more fulfilling. Here are five ways that might help.
- Embrace the Change
As the days get shorter at my “camp” in northern Maine, I know my days here are drawing close. Soon it will be time to shut off the water, “winterize” the cabin, and leave. I’ll probably not return until April or May. I love it here. Being on the lake in my kayak at sunrise is a peak experience, and I’ve enjoyed many such mornings this summer. But change and letting go are part of life, and what better reminder of this reality than the rapidly changing seasons at this latitude? Fall has its unique beauty. The trees are bursting with color and the crisp cool air in the mornings invigorates. Let me embrace it. This does not mean ignoring those nostalgic feelings of a summer gone. I make space for them, too - to allow them, feel them, and then bring my focus back to the present and the new beauty surrounding me. How are “letting go” and “embracing change’ reflected in your life?
- Gather your nuts
We can learn from the squirrels here. They spend time in the Fall preparing for the winter ahead. What do you need to make it through your time of turning inward? How can you best prepare? This is about having things in place and easy to access. Rather than look for that winter coat in December when it’s snowing, let me find it and put it where I will find it easily. And what about that snow scraper for my car and the snow shovel near the back door? These are the “external” things to be gathered. There are also the “internal” ones. What is my plan for daily practice now that I’m no longer kayaking and perhaps not walking as much? How about those days when the temperature drops below freezing and going outdoors is not so appealing? What is my Plan B for engaging my body in breathing and moving? What about my relationship with myself and others? How do I set myself up for more quiet time alone and simultaneously find creative ways to offer my entire presence to those I love, despite the distance or weather? How about preparations for the holidays? And where will I find fun and relaxation, and what form will it take? Perhaps a massage once or twice a month? And maybe a week to get away somewhere warm in January would be nice too. How about you?
- Choose what to feed your mind.
My body is my best friend when it comes to practicing present-centered awareness. Fall and winter are times when there is a greater tendency, through rumination rather than contemplation, to lapse into a lot of past and future referencing. Your body can be the anchor to help you back to the present when you need it. Plan to engage it regularly despite the change in weather and use it as a way of witnessing what else is happening, particularly your thinking. Many years ago, I lived for eight months on a Greek island. Here the shift in focus was pronounced as the warmth gave way to cold. As the villagers moved indoors for the winter, they also shifted their propensity to tell stories about each other. Their light-hearted present-centered focus during the warmer months gave way to a more intense exploration of each other’s shortfalls in life. I found it quite a surprise, yet I saw how this could happen anywhere. I also saw how important it was to stay grounded in the present through daily engagement and befriending my body if I wasn’t to fall prey to gossiping my way through the winter. Meditation became more important as a time to notice the patterns of my mind and discern the best way to feed it. Listening to inspirational podcasts and dharma talks takes higher priority for me in the winter months. It’s how I feed my mind. What do you plan to feed your mind this winter?
- Adjust your calendar
This might seem a no-brainer, but so few of us do it. In the mid-summer months at my place, the sun rises as early as 4.43 am. That’s early, but I love to get up in time to watch the sunrise from my kayak on the lake. And in the evening, I’m usually in bed not long after the sun sets, around 9 pm. The days are way too short in the winter months for me to keep that routine. My morning walk at sunrise is around 7 am. That means a later breakfast and a later start to my daily appointment schedule. My work days are shorter in the winter as I adjust my calendar around the sun. I recommend this approach if possible – primarily if you work at home and can set your schedule. If not, you may be able to make other minor adjustments around your daily practice time and time of going to bed in the evening. Winter evenings are also great for sitting around a warm fire, reading, or listening to inspirational material. It’s a great way of “turning inward.” How about you? Do you adjust your schedule with the changing seasons? In what ways?
Hibernation does not mean isolation. As we turn inward, we also need the company of fellow human beings from time to time. From a spiritual perspective, the “sangha” or community is integral to the journey. In winter, it is even more important to create connections that support our intentions in life and how we want to show up for life. One of the best ways I find to do this is to participate in community events in person, online, or both. Maybe the fall months are a great time to join a class or take an online course that will include some face-to-face time with others. Find something like this that fits your preferences and lifestyle. What are your plans for this year regarding how you will connect with others during the winter months? Fall is a great time to set up the connections and begin to engage.
To support a powerful transition for you this Fall, I am offering a ninety-minute workshop on Sunday, September 18, at Noon EST. It is titled Powerful Transitions for the Fall Equinox. Please check it out and join me.
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