Autumn Leaves

Life if full of transitions and as this one goes; summer into autumn may not be a highly dramatic Neiman Marcus moment.  It may be a more practical down to earth restocking of our shelves and inner selves.  What is important here is the attitude you bring to the restocking.  If you do it mindfully this seasonal transition provides an opportunity to live life in a more meaningful way with eyes wide open.  If we are not mindful summer can merge into autumn finding us picking up the pace of school, games, hunting, parties etc in an automatic headless, unfulfilling way.

If you get quiet you can hear the staccato of determined mothers pulling on their boots of urgency to tackle the schedules.  A resigned attitude is almost audible.  We become victims of time pressures, schedule and the stress of doing more, more, more in a hurried fashion.  When time becomes a tyrant stressors mount and quality of life diminished.  Each day becomes pretty much like every other day, as does each week, each month.  If we are not paying attention the calendar leaves flip over and our comings, going, and doings accelerate into a blur.

Many in the medical profession believe that stress, particularly time stress is the bedrock of many acute and chronic diseases.  We are at the mercy of the clock in so many ways.  The clock is set to wake us up unless that is we are too stressed to sleep.  We strap on our watches to start the day and feel driven from one timed event to another. We also perpetuate this sense of urgency on our children.  How often do you hear yourself saying “hurry up in there,” “we’ve got to go” or “I don’t have time.”  If we don’t say the words the message is still loud and clear by the tension in our bodies and the edginess in our voice.

As a mental health professional I realize the importance of diet, exercise and other important corner stones of a good life, but my focus is on how you feel about yourself, your relationships, your work etc.  Spirituality, self-esteem stress management and self-fulfillment are of primary concerns to me.

How to be mindful you ask?  One of the great poets of all time, Rumi said “that which you seek is as close as the nose on your face.”  In this case it’s not our nose but our breath that is central to being mindful.  To put it simply mindfulness is awareness of our breath, our thoughts, our feelings and our behavior, moment to moment.  Right now stop and notice where your breath is.  Is it shallow, it is up in your chest or are you breathing from your belly?  We all come into this world breathing from the belly, but as we go through life we put on more and more armor to protect and defend and hide who we really are.  The armor and masks tighten us and drives the breath up out of our belly into the shallow cove of our chest.

Sometimes people get more anxious when I suggest such simple solutions for their complicated stressful lives.  Note however simple is not necessarily easy.  Stopping, getting still and breathing maybe the hardest thing you do, but one has to start somewhere and what I’m suggesting is a beginning.  It’s a basic foundation, a dance floor so to speak, on which to dance.  Get the dance floor in place and you will add new routines.  One intention, one change, begets another, just like a spiral staircase never ending but you have to start somewhere.

Women as a rule do a poor job of making some time for themselves.  They tend to wait until  Junior goes to school, husband changes jobs, junior goes to college, after the last 10 pounds is gone-until

How are you going to get that fifteen or twenty minutes a day or maybe a whole evening to reflect, play the piano take sculpting lessons if you don’t stop and review your life and decide on a change.  Realize you are valuable too and you deserve some personal time for joyful endeavors.  How long has it been since you gave yourself permission to have a play date to do something you long to do?  What if you started right now?  Try for once a week, every week.  The sky would not fall and you might remember how to be happy, more peaceful and more complete.

Have you noticed the men in our life doing better with the play date idea.  “I’ll be back by five o’clock.  Jim and I have a one o’clock tee time” or Ron and I are meeting at the river by noon, to kayak etc.  They make appointments that often involve another so it’s a commitment to play.  Women can learn a lot about the necessity and power of play from men.

Just because this seems simple doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Anytime we attempt to change patterns, we go up against our inner resistance (egos) and fears and if you start changing, do not expect support from your nearest and dearest.  Our families, friends, employees, etc. have an invested interest in keeping things the same.  Change makes them anxious. Mary Oliver the poet says (not verbatim) “You know how it is when change comes, the uncles go in a room and mutter, brother starts sharpening his knife the women start sweeping; under the rug.” Can’t you feel the unsettled energy, anxiety and fear that change and uncertainty generates.  Can you see the storm clouds?  Change is real, certain and alive.  It’s an illusion that we can control our lives and prevent change. Look inside and around you; who has it nailed down?  If somebody looks like they’re gotten it under control, remember it’s an illusion, none of us have.  Something has all of us by the scruff of the neck.

How can we train ourselves to love this life to let go of the illusions and retrain ourselves to love what is real and alive although often painful.  Being more mindful is to be more conscious of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how you let the tyranny of time, noise, busyness usurp your peace and your aliveness.  Love your life, turn around get quiet just for a little while reflect and re-decide and correct the course you are on – if it isn’t working.  No decision is in concrete if the new way doesn’t work, change again.

I’ll end sharing “Keeping Quiet” by the visionary poet, Pablo Neruda.

“Keeping Quiet” by  Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much…
Now I’ll count to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go...

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