Today marks the first day of autumn. Starting today and for the next week, the hours of day and night will be nearly equal in the Northern Hemisphere.
In a year unlike any other for most of us alive today on the planet, paying attention to the cues of the season offers us a unique opportunity to restore a sense of balance in our lives. Fall brings to mind harvest, abundance, the value of perseverance and diligence, gratitude, comfort, security, maturity, vibrancy, preparation, and letting go.
An Exercise in Rebalancing Your Focus
What you’ll need: a timer, a few sheets of paper, and a pen or pencil.
Choosing What You Want in Your Life
First, take a moment to think about your ideal harvest. Set your timer for three minutes. On a clean sheet of paper, answer the following questions: What do you want to cultivate in your life? Which accomplishments are important to you? How do you wish to care for your relationships? What acts of service do you wish to offer the world? Forget about whatever plans you had at the start of the year. Make your list based on what you want today. When the timer sounds, read over your list and allow yourself a moment or two to add anything else that comes to mind.
Deciding What’s Holding You Back
As with any moment of change, as we adapt new behaviors, thoughts, and ways of being, we must let go of others. Again, set a timer for three minutes. List all of the things that are holding you back—possessions, beliefs, habits, relationships, fears… For now, avoid passing judgment on what you write. List as many items as you can for the full three minutes. If your hand falls idle, think of a new category or a new area in your home.
When the time is up, review your list. Any surprises?
Letting Go of the Past
Next, go through the list and mark the top five items you can let go of that will make the biggest impact in allowing you to move toward your ideal harvest in life. For each item you want to let go, make a plan for how you’re going to release it. Letting go of old objects may be as easy as placing a curb alert on a digital forum, making a donation, or listing the item for sale. But letting go of things like negative self-beliefs or habits might require more effort. Habit trackers, journals, therapists, and accountability partners can help you rid yourself of these unwanted items.
On a clean sheet of paper, for each item that you want to release, write down something you’d like to invite into your life in its place. What tools do you need to support your goals and dreams?
Making a Plan
Finally, for each item you wrote down that you want to invite into your life this season, make a short list of action steps you can take to welcome these things into your world.
In her book, To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf wrote: “And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of leaves and changing trees.” Let the leaves fall away from you that are no longer serving you. Imagine each item you want to get rid of as a leaf on a tree. Visualize each unwanted leaf dropping to the ground. Behold the newly bare branches in your mind’s eye.
Checking Your Progress
Over the coming weeks, as the leaves color and drop outside, consult your lists. Set a reminder in your calendar for October 22 and November 22 to check your progress. Make note of the areas where you’re struggling. Jot a quick list of steps to help you get back on track. What resources can improve your progress?
Imagine your tree big and strong, with vibrant leaves that represent all of the goodness you want in your life. Take comfort that letting go of what’s holding you back is the first step in moving toward all the lives yet to be.
* Please note that I am not a therapist. If you need help addressing an issue in your life, be sure to consult the resources in your area. In the United States, you can also contact the NAMI HelpLine at 800.950.6264 or [email protected], the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255, the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.7233, the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.4673, or the SAMHSA National Helpline at 800.662.4357.