Lessons from the Trees
On Mindful Meditation, Journaling and letting go
Fall is the season for learning how to let go. And the trees are our teachers. As we come out of the summer and into the fall in the Northern Hemisphere, plant life gradually dies away and becomes dormant. The dead matter folds back into the soil and provides nutrition for seeds yet to be planted. It’s all preparation for coming back to life in the spring. We humans are also a part of this yearly cycle of life, death and rebirth. But what does it mean for us?
In the fall, the trees give us the most amazing colour show as they gracefully let go of the leaves they have outgrown. When it’s time to let go of a leaf, they simply LET GO. There’s no fight, no doubt, no struggle. It just simply IS, an inarguable truth. Leaf’s dead. Time to let it go so that it can be recycled into the soil to feed future growth.
Letting go is our work this season, too. In order to make space for rich new growth experiences in our own lives, we, like the trees, have to let go of what no longer serves us. This could be people, habits, limiting beliefs, a job that no longer fits, clothes that no longer fit. The list goes on and it is as individual as you are.
How do we know what our dead leaves are, what we need to let go?
Identifying your Dead Leaves with Mindful Meditation
Ever thought you might have to Mari Kondo your inner world? Yeah, me neither. But it’s actually a useful approach, believe it or not. It is about identifying that within your life that sparks little or no joy. And these feelings point to or actually ARE your dead leaves.
Your first step is to identify them. No need for any big moves. Remember that a leaf dies slowly, turning from green to gold or red. The tree has time to prepare to let go of the leaf. It stores its energy for the winter, hibernating and resting in readiness for spring’s growth.
Here’s where mindful meditation comes in. According to Mindful.org, “the goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional and physical processes.” Meditation is a way to explore, venturing into the inner workings of your being as expressed through physical sensations, emotional reactions and random thoughts. “…Your head doesn’t become vacuumed free of thought…it’s a special place where each and every moment becomes momentous” Mindful meditation, then is a practice of being present within yourself, and observing each of those moments, without judgment and with curiosity, warmth and kindness.
The steps are easy and gentle, as described on Mindful's website.
Mindful meditation allows you to become like the tree. A tree does not judge itself for letting go of its leaves. Nor does it beat itself to a pulp with guilt and shame for shedding. It just does what it must do to take care of itself so that it can continue to grow and do its part in its ecosystem.
Mindful meditation, when practiced with consistency, has the potential to rewire your thought, feeling, behavioural patterns--and your brain. It allows you to be present in any situation, observing your own inner reactions and discerning what is working for you and what is not. It gives you space to observe your belief systems so that you can review and revise as needed. And it helps you connect with the sacred in yourself, so that you can plant the seeds of your hopes and dreams, and then nourish them lovingly into being.
Journaling it Out, One Dead Leaf at a Time
Once you have come out of your mindful meditation, give yourself an extra 10 minutes. Set an intention to identify that which no longer serves in your life--the dying leaves. Pull out your journal and write the first things that come to your mind. Don’t judge them. Notice what emotions you are feeling about each list item. Write these emotions down. What sparks joy? What doesn't? Notice any body sensations that come up in response to your intention. Write these down. If anything more comes up—random thoughts, feelings, ideas, write them down. Don't judge them or analyze yet. Now get on with your day.
Keep adding to your list of observations. Over time, you'll begin to notice connections and patterns. You'll begin to understand what your being is saying to you through thought, emotion and body sensations. You'll be able to determine what relationships, beliefs, situations or stuff is sparking joy, working for you, supporting you to be the best you can be. And you'll be able to see which ones don't. That's your official Dead Leaf List.
Again, like the tree, don't rush into anything. give yourself time to determine the best course of action. Use your tools--mindful meditation and journaling--to break it down for yourself, in terms of thought, emotion and sensation. When you think about how to end a friendship, say, or draw boundaries around it, observe your thoughts, emotions and body sensations. Use the same techniques as you did to identify the Dead Leaves to find a way through for yourself that feels calm and even. Remember to be kind, loving and as non-judgemental with yourself as possible. Guilt and shame have no place in your healthy ecosystem.
These tools really helped me through some of my darkest times. Mindful Meditation allowed me to explore my inner world, one thought, feeling and body sensation at a time, without judging or drowning in shame and guilt. It allowed me to discern which thoughts were coming from the voices or experiences in my past and which ones were truly my own voice; which ones made me feel light and buoyant and which ones sunk me like a stone; and which ones led to feelings of joy and happiness.
Journaling allowed me to figure out the thought, emotion and action patterns I had developed as coping mechanisms in joyless situations. It also allowed me to discover and honour my inner treasures, parts of my being that I felt good and sparkly about. And it gave me, literally, a blank page on which to visualize the reality I wanted to experience. This is still a work in progress. Not because these tools don't work but because Life doesn't stop until you do. It is is simply an unfolding process that does not stop delivering learning moments and opportunities to refine your experience until you are driving mostly in the JOY lane.
So This fall, take some time out for yourself to go on a profound inner journey. Uncover what is ready to die away in your life, and let it go. Fully embrace your uniqueness and be the fullest, most authentic best you can be.
March 03rd, 2017
READY. SET. SPRING! CLEAR CLUTTER, SET GOALS, PLANT SEEDS
Spring is a time of New Beginnings. Historically it was a time for celebrating sowing seeds, fertility, renewal and hope. But what does marking this season-change look like in the 21st Century, when our lives are not as driven by agriculture and planting cycles? Spring is a great time to examine the year just passed, to clean out the old, then re-evaluate, plan, and germinate the new.
Last year I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I was utterly impressed that the author was able to turn her OCD into a business and a best selling book! Of her entire de-cluttering methodology, the part that stayed with me is keep only that which gives you joy. De-cluttering is seriously underway in our house right now, using the “Joy Method”. When you clear out physical junk and mental clutter, you make room for new stuff and, more importantly, new ideas and new experiences.
RECOGNIZE, REVIEW, REPLACE
Spring Cleaning also extends to your inner world. Your thought patterns directly impact how you feel. In my self-evaluation, I realize I have a lot of thoughts that come up out of fears based on past negative experiences. I feel anxious when these thoughts overtake me. I do not feel joy or a sense of peaceful well being. When it comes to my thoughts, I have a choice. I can keep on in the same fear pattern and expect the same result. Or I can Recognize it, Review it and Replace it.
To do this, I Recognize my feelings and the thoughts that led to them. I give it a rest and Review, shut down that negativity, and review why I'm thinking these thoughts. What's the limiting belief that is giving rise to them? And then its Replace time. I use a variation of Byron Katie’s questions to help me shift perspective. About the fearful thoughts, I ask myself:
SET GOALS AND INTENTIONS FOR THE YEAR
Okay, so now you’ve cleaned out your junk in your space and in your spirit. It's time to germinate the new, some new ideas, new plans. My life partner Thom and I do this individually first and then as a team. We look at what went right and spend some time being seriously grateful and celebrating! Then we look at what was lousy and problem solve. We try to look at our lives holistically, at all the areas we need to pay attention to in order to experience a healthy, balanced, joyful life.
Then we make a dream board, a way to put on paper our intentions for the year. There are many ways to do this. You can Photoshop collage it, scrapbook it, cut out images from magazines, create Pinterest boards or (what we do) just write it out on a large sheet of paper, flow chart style. Our map hangs on the wall, as reminder, inspiration and compass for the year. We consciously shape our decisions and choices throughout the course of each year to make us more joyful, fulfilled and satisfied.
PLANT A GARDEN, MAKE SOMETHING
This is how I concretize my intentions to create. It helps me connect with the Creative Flow in the earth and within myself. Both can be meditative experiences that give space for that “aha” moment, or for the Muse to speak to or for the imagination to fly. I’ve had some of my best ideas in these moments.
So take some time this spring to celebrate the new life that surrounds you in nature, and to celebrate the wonder that is YOU. Dream your dream and take steps to germinate it into being. Life is a work in progress. It’s not about perfection; it’s about finding joyful balance.