Falling Leaves

This time of year I notice my senses come alive. The crisp, fresh smell of the air, the soft light that the sun casts and the beauty of the trees as they begin to turn color and release their leaves. The world seems a little quieter and less harsh than the summer.
With the season’s dramatic changes to inspire me, I often reflect on changes I can make in my own life, letting go of the things I no longer need and the habits that no longer serve or nourish me. But like the last leaves clinging to a nearly bare branch, the grip of the familiar can be strong. We resist the new even if when it holds the promise of something better.  We rationalize our routines and stubbornly cling to the ‘known devils’. Habits develop slowly, become comfortable and ultimately shape our identity. Taking the first step is the hardest.
Yoga practice and specifically svadhaya, reflection, can help with this. The Yoga Sutras talk about making small changes that can affect us in profound ways. When we reflect we ask “What do I really need at this time?” “What is my priority now?” “What do I have the energy for?” The answers to these questions move us to make small, reasonable changes that ultimately can be sustained.  When we don’t reflect, we become too enthusiastic and try to make so many changes that can’t be implemented or sustained, or we don’t act at all. With reflection, our new behavior is doable and then there is a slow ripple effect. We see these small changes turn into new positive habits and how one change in our lives can affect us at different levels.
For instance, perhaps we need more down time in our lives and we see that our email and phone calls take much of our time in the evening and create stress along with it. We may decide to implement a new habit of turning off email and cells at 7pm. This not only gives us space to relax but also shifts our priority to our well-being and/or family.
The same way we reflect on the change of season and what that season offers, is the same way we reflect on our lives, needs and goals. Seasons will change, we will change, but our reflection is what makes our actions mindful, doable and beneficial for ourselves and others.
Now is the time to just let go of the branch. Enjoy the fall.

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