I love this time of year, especially here in New England. I’m such a visual person that I’m moved and inspired by the amazing colors of the trees and how the light is cast upon them. It often takes my breath away. I’ve been known to scare the crap out of my husband if we’re driving along someplace and I gasp with such excitement that he goes into a panic thinking there’s some obstacle in the road or a vehicle coming at us that he didn’t see, only to express a sigh of relief when I point out a colorful tree, an amazing view or a beautiful sky that has caught my attention and literally taken my breath away.
I love noticing how things in nature can often demonstrate parallels to my life. Taking a walk in nature can be so grounding especially if I’m having a stressful day. Interestingly I noticed a poster at my gym recently that said this same thing! I am blessed and grateful to live in an area where I can take a walk in nature. It will pull me back to the present moment when I’m walking and I taking in all the sights, sounds and smells.
I love the smell of the pine needles that have fallen now and how they crunch as I walk on them and to be careful of my footing when I notice that I slip a bit. I think of how they could be a soft bed for the wildlife in the area as they prepare for winter. There is a certain smell in the air in fall from the leaves that have been packed down from a recent rain. I realize that some of the smells remind me of the spices we tend to use this time of year, like cinnamon and nutmeg. I notice the whir of a leaf blower in the distance and take note in my mind that I’ll be hearing more of that since there are still plenty of leaves on the trees that have yet to fall. But then I just enjoy the moment and occasionally kick my feet through the leaves at the side of the road, bringing back fond memories of playing in piles of leaves as a child.
Sometimes I get a little sad because I know fall also means shorter days or less daylight and winter is coming, which means I might not be able to get out on my walks if we have snow. After all, the squirrels are fat and bushy-tailed which is traditionally a sign (or perhaps an old wives tail) of a cold and snowy winter. But then I realize my mind has wandered into the future again, and I come back to enjoying and savoring the moment in the day I have right now. I take a deep breath and notice the crispness in the air.
Another cool thing is how it’s a time when my perspective changes, literally, as I notice I can see deeper through the trees and into the woods. Houses and out-buildings appear that have been obscured by leaves on trees and other thick brush. I love making a game out of how many new things I notice that haven’t been there all summer but are familiar from the past, and some that are completely new. I notice just how far I can see and how it begins to expand something within me. I start realizing that the stress or situation that prompted the walk doesn’t feel as big any more and I start to ask myself if there’s a different perspective I can have. Can I go deeper and expand to new possibilities?
Fall can be a great time to go within, as we sometimes feel like “hibernating” through the winter months. But it can also be a great time for clearing out old thoughts, behaviors and perspectives, including old stuff in your physical space, to make way for new growth now and into the spring. Our “hibernation” can be a productive time of inner seeking, new exploration and adventure. What’s one thing I can do differently today, just for the sake of doing it differently? Perhaps this problem or stress is something I can look at in a completely new way. Have the fallen leaves already made way for something new? Perhaps solutions will emerge or appear out of the depths of that new point of view.
Nature has a lot to teach us if we just stop and take notice, or rather go out and move through it – no earbuds or music, no phone conversations or texts. Just take in the sights, sounds, smells, feelings and emotions nature offers us always. Here are a few suggestions for you to try:
- Take a brisk walk. – I do short running sprints to get my heart rate up. Or I count my steps to help quiet my mind.
- Breathe deeply and take note of the smells you are smelling – different seasons bring different smells. For example you may notice flowers or freshly cut grass in the spring and summer, versus pine and other earthy smells in fall.
- Notice the color of the sky, cloud formations, reflections of sunlight on the trees and how the light changes or affects color. If you have water near you, notice reflections or movement.
- Take note of the scenery – houses, people, animals, birds, cars. Note what you have seen before and look for something new. Play with how many new things you can find. What has changed from yesterday? If you’re in an urban city environment, you can still get out and breathe and notice the people around you and your surroundings instead of just walking in a daze or trance. Or seek out a nearby park, fountain, or waterfront to help you clear your mind.
- What sounds do you hear? The wind through the trees, birds, crickets, planes, trucks, cars, dogs barking, the rustle of leaves blowing around?
- Notice the air against your face and body. Can you feel resistance as you move through it? Or do you notice the warmth of the sun on your face and body?
Now, don’t you feel better already?
Just thinking of these things, how do you they make you feel? If you can’t get out on a particular day, sometimes you can go there in your mind! Take advantage of every opportunity, even when you’re in your car. Sometimes after coming from a business meeting or road trip, I’ll just stop and sit in the driveway when I get home, before I go in the house. Just in that quiet moment, I’ll take in my surroundings. I’ve also been known to stop by the side of the road when I notice a beautiful scene or sky, to take in the moment or capture a photo. (the photos in this blog are all from various walks in my neighborhood)
Though I do my best to meditate, sometimes I have a tough time quieting my mind. For me, getting out for a simple walk in nature gives my mind something to do and clears the problem or stressor so well that often times solutions just start coming in on their own. Creativity begins to flow. And at the very least, I’m calmer and clearer. I’ve shifted into gratitude for all that is around me and how much I love and appreciate where I live, and that I get to enjoy it.
Take the time to get out yourself, even if for 15 or 20 minutes. You deserve that! Whether you’re out in nature or in the city. Be mindful. Notice, breathe, reflect, quiet the mind. Then notice the calm within, and then perhaps a shift in your perspective. Allow it to expand. It is from this space you will find solutions and relief.