Autumn is the season of change. I grew up in the Midwest, Chicago. First there would be a few fallen leaves, next a few more on the ground and before too long the leaves would be turning yellow, orange, and crimson and red. In the beginning you might barely notice the difference between the end of summer and fall, yet the subtlety was there. Just as life is filled with subtle and bold changes, and everything in between.
William Bridges describe transitions as “A natural process of dis-orientation and reorientation that marks the turning points of the path of growth. Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to change. And suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms, the tadpoles leg shrinks away, a leaf falls, a bird molts and hibernation begins.”
In the autumn the light filters through the sky differently. It begins to get dark earlier, the earth begins to smell different. The air becomes cooler at night and the sky sometimes is a deeper blue, sunsets and colors appear richer, topaz, a golden hue covering the late afternoon, and birds calling out, as if they are saying goodbye as they depart for a warmer climate.
To this day it doesn’t matter where I am if I smell wood burning, it takes me back immediately to my younger days, when people in my neighborhood gathered and raked leaves into large piles and would burn them. The smell was special, rich from the woods and trees, the smell of the earth and ash. One of my favorite activities of the season was going “crunching”, finding piles of leaves and running through them. I loved the crunch, crack, rustling brittle leaves flying through the air under my feet.
Autumn reveals itself slowly, ushering in a new slowness of being for most of us, as the tone and tempo of our lives change along with those of all of mother earth inhabitants.
This activity of running through fallen leaves when I was a child brought quiet freedom in the moment.
Appearances deceive in autumn. The transformations often feel more like endings, I think it is more about dormancy, lapsing into a slumber, or more like moving into a “Neutral Zone” which William Bridges describes this as the “ in between place in time.” This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what the new roles will be, but it’s in flux and doesn’t feel comfortable yet. It is the seedbed of the new beginnings that are sought.
It is what I call the “Pause Moment” without knowing this I took a deep breath and embraced my senses, the sounds of leaves crunching, the sight of them flying around me, the smell of the earth, the feeling of playfulness and levity.
Using self-soothing activities can help develop mindfulness skills. This is a one of my favorite simple skills that can be applied on a daily basis.
Look Around You
Find 5 things you can see, describe them, four things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. This is called grounding. This can help when you feel overwhelmed or lost control of your surroundings.
In DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy it is suggested when being mindful the first step is to Observe, Describe and Participate. Observing, that is attending to events, emotions, and other behavior responses without necessarily trying to end them because they’re painful or prolong them when they are pleasant.
What we learn is to allow ourselves to experience with awareness, in the moment, whatever is happening; rather than leaving a situation or trying to end an emotion. This requires the ability to step a back from the event itself, take a deep breath and pause.
Explore Your Senses
Which sense helps you feel grounded and brings comfort and which sense increases anxiety or distracts you from the moment. Knowing which senses bring comfort and which bring discomfort is important information.
Sight: What I See
Read a good book, magazine or favorite inspirational quotations, clips of a favorite movie or TV show, engage your visual senses in painting, photography or even blowing bubbles, or a favorite photo that brings you a sense of peace or joy.
(I have a special picture of my pup, looking at her adoring eyes and feeling loved)
Sound: What I Hear
Listen to a favorite piece of music, take a walk and listen to early morning sounds, listen to sounds of lapping water or wind rustling thru the trees, listen to a relaxation tape or a calming white noise machine of soothing sounds.
Scent: What I Smell
Burn some aromatherapy oil, enjoy the aroma of scented candles, freshly brewed coffee or tea, bake something, or make a pot of your favorite soup, buy your favorite scented flowers, for me I love the scent of roses, peonies and lilacs in the summer and chrysanthemums in the winter.
Touch: What I Can Feel
Squeeze a stress ball, do yoga, stroke a pet, (for me all I need to do is stroke my cat Jesse and her purring puts me to sleep, or my dog Sasha as I stroke her head I take a deep breath and feel relaxed), wear soft warm clothing, or use a weighted or fluffy blanket, have a massage or play a musical instrument, knit or crochet, bake or knead dough, work in clay.
Sing, laugh, chant, chat with a good friend who listens, chew a piece of gum, eat a piece of dark chocolate or a mint, use deep or paced breathing, repeat affirmations out loud.
Remember to Stop, Pause, and Take A Breath.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” It is a season of change, a timeout to reflect, gathering thoughts, exploring new possibilities, testing the water, allowing the ripples to ebb and flow before making a decision, allow the “Neutral Zone” to be a guiding force in your life.