The ability to honestly and quietly reflect on one's life is one of the most powerful tools for personal growth. Reflection means to bring to life the truth of what's really going on. It's similar to meditation in that you are allowing the truth of the moment, without bias or personal agenda, to surface. Reflection allows you to see your own contribution to a problem, the ways you might improve, and the blind spots in your thinking. It helps you eliminate any tendency you might have to blame others for your mistakes, make excuses that don't serve you, and break free of old habits. In this way, rather than repeating mistakes, as so many of us do... make graceful adjustments that guide toward success.
- Richard Carlson
October 1 marks the beginning of the season of spice. Days imbued by the garnet and golds of autumn. And, a slowing down process. I feel myself easing into an acceptance of the quiet, cold dark ahead that will be winter. October is basking in the last golden afternoons of sun; lying in pastures of green turning brown under summer's final blue enamel skies. At the farmer's fruit orchard this Sunday we picked apples and pears - the pears so ripe off the tree the juice ran down my chin. Surrounded by kids and red wagons, we chose our front porch "Cinderella" pumpkin. This rich cornucopia of harvest traditionally marks the end of the growing season.
Here's a secret: fall marks the beginning of my personal growing season. The season for reflection. For reviewing the active pursuits and plans of the past year and determining those goals and activities that yielded positive results and those that did not. Now is the time I set aside for day-dreaming and assessment. What am I glad of? What still feels missing? How do I want life to be different next spring? I suppose I view myself as a kind of natural perennial coming into my own dormant season. After the hard push and work of the warm, bright part of the year, I kick back and go quiet. Fall leads to a thinking, inner nurturing period.
Over the years, I've learned to work with this aspect of a seasonal nature. To plan my writing projects around cycles of action and reflection. I respect what Richard Carlson has to say regarding the importance of reflection as "one of the most powerful tools for personal growth." Without this pause to assess, we might very well muddle on indefinitely - failing to reboot our internal compass as needed. One thing I've learned in life is that when that "check engine" light comes on it's more than a warning. Ignore at your own risk.
This month's essays will encompass a theme of reflection. Beginning with mental and physical housekeeping: Simplifying daily life. Emptying the extraneous stuff from the day. Letting go of the white noise and narrowing in on the steady signal we all send from within ourselves about how we're doing, what we need, what we love or need to cut free. Symbolically, stillness can be as simple as focus on just one project or goal - holding that one thing in a sea of mental space to invite it to expand and take hold. Practically, we might decide to redesign the morning routine so the family gets to the breakfast table with time to enjoy the meal without the usual chaos and rush. I have discovered that for me meaningful shifts of understanding arise within dedicated moments of "open emptiness." The quiet in stillness. Silence on a solo run. The connection of just holding someone's hand.
I made a revision of my own morning that invites in more of the tranquility I crave: rising earlier (something I am organically indisposed to do). My husband, an anesthesiologist, begins his day at 5:40 a.m. The effort to be at the table beside him, hot coffee in our cups, has yielded an unexpected "together" time I treasure. Outside all is dark and cold, but we sit within a halo of yellow light pooling over the breakfast bar, sharing the quiet. And bonus! After he leaves for the hospital, I have this wonderful extra hour before my morning run to enjoy silence, sip a second cup of coffee, and reflect.
So my friends, what one thing can you simplify - today - that will give you space for deeper reflection? I suspect it's worth the effort to examine those routines, distractions, obligations. Yank the weeds. In that uncluttered earth more you will grow.