The first hint of fall can feel profound as the bright light of summer dims, the tempo of life slows and a mysterious inner pull encourages us to relax and reflect. You may feel a personal response to the cooler days and fading light, experiencing it as a call for reflecting on endings and new beginnings. It is comforting to experience our own life as part of the seasonal pattern, shedding the old and beginning the new. The dramatic passage from summer to fall makes a good time of year to put old habits to rest, heal wounds and welcome personal change.
Of course, our lives are naturally habitual, and change can be hard. The innumerable connections we cultivate make up our lifestyle and our identity. Giving up any one of these things can be frightening because we fear losing the very experiences that make us who we are. At the same time, on a deeper level we know that being open to personal transformation is healthy. Maybe that is why change gets such a difficult reputation—we often don't know what to make of it.
In The Jill Principle, Michele Germain gives us an inspirational model of navigating life’s changes. As part of a discussion on how to reintegrate your mind, body and soul after a challenging new course in life, she writes,
"change is a natural process of life and facilitates growth. It provides us with an opportunity to learn and explore ourselves in new ways. When we are challenged to stretch beyond our present level of functioning, we see that we are capable of much more than we may have dreamed. And with that knowledge, something inside of us is transformed."
Germain gives us a call to see change, no matter how surprising or seemingly unwanted, as a startling opportunity for personal growth. More importantly, she sees change as a constant reminder of how infinitely capable we really are—whether or not we know it. To navigate life's changes this season, be mindful. Mindfulness will open you up to feelings of control, clarity and peace. For a powerful route to mindfulness, try meditating, especially as the rhythm of life slows in the upcoming months. In Meditation, José Lorenzo-Fuentes shares the four reasons why Buddhists meditate:
- Because their karma predisposes them to meditate
- Because they wish to improve their health
- Because they deem it indispensable to prepare for a new life and need to grow spiritually
- Because they wish to follow the path of Buddha and reach enlightenment
As Buddhists know, meditation will help your spirit segue from one of life's passages to the next. Meditation will bring you back to your spiritual center, reminding you of who you are, why you do what you do, and how to grow positively from life's changes.
Below you will find helpful excerpts from popular Llewellyn titles to get you on a personal path of meditation. Breathe deeply before acting, find joy in simple activities, honor your feelings and remain aware—then conscientiously transform whatever needs awakening.
Those who exercise know a warm-up period enhances the exercise program and makes it easier on the body. So, too, with meditation. With a warm-up period a person is more likely to settle into the meditation quickly and easily, and will also find that he or she will usually go deeper and get more benefit. Below are some warm-up meditations. They may be done by themselves or followed by additional meditations.
- This is a simple breathing exercise where the concentration is on the numbers for the purpose of relaxing the system. Sit or lie quietly, breathe peacefully and deeply, and watch your exhalations. Count them up to four and then start over again: 1, 2, 3, 4 — 1, 2, 3, 4, — 1, 2, 3, 4. Do this until you feel your body is relaxed and integrated.
- Listen to sounds. How many sounds can you hear at once? This exercise helps bring alertness as well as relaxation.
- Sit or lie quietly. Begin with your feet and relax your body all the way to the top of your head. This is a great exercise for relaxation.
- Be aware of energy outside of your body for a few minutes. Then be aware of energy inside of your body. Do it slowly and alternate it four or five times. This is great before meditations, or just to tone your system.
- Use breathing as a way to center. Be in a comfortable position, with your back straight. Let your breath be even, peaceful and deep. Get into the rhythm of your breath and feel your body relax.
Excerpt is from Meditation as Spiritual Practice by Genevieve L. Paulson
- Choose one thought or pattern of thoughts that you feel is not helpful to you. Spend a few moments thinking about it, and write down its components. Set the notes aside.
- Seat yourself in your meditative posture.
- Take a few deep breaths.
- Now think about your problem thought or thought pattern. Visualize it, hear it and feel how it feels to be in that space.
- Now think about changing one word, one color, one sound, one thing about that thought or thought pattern. The change can be any change you choose to make.
- Consider the thought or thought pattern again, with the one change you have made. Allow your mind to follow whatever line of thought it takes.
- Write a few words about how you feel when you have completed the exercise.
Excerpt is from Meditation for Beginners by Stephanie Clement
The Meditator's Ten Commandments
- Once you have made the decision to start meditating, the first thing you must do is select a room where this practice may be performed in as quiet an environment as possible. The room selected for meditation must become a sacred place, in which images of a teacher or divinity may and should be placed, as well as candles and flowers.
- When meditating, wear clean, light clothes that are not too tight-fitting around your body. It would be preferable to leave your shoes outside the room. Taking off one's shoes and leaving them outside emphasizes the idea that the room intended for meditative practice is hallowed ground.
- Sit comfortably, preferably on a round cushion, so that your buttocks are raised and your knees can be supported by the floor. Your hands must be together on your lap, with palms turned upward.
- Keep your back straight, thus taking on a dignified posture and facilitating your breathing rhythm.
- Place the tip of your tongue against your palate or as close as possible to your teeth.
- Half-close your eyes, with your sight fixed on an object.
- Breathe deep and slow. Then breathe normally.
- Start to pronounce mentally a fitting word for the goal or reason for your meditation, such as peace, love, health or compassion.
- Try to keep away bothersome thoughts and daily concerns and fix your attention on a single point: achieve mental concentration. The easiest way to achieve it is to count your breaths successively, both in and out. When you inhale say "one." When you exhale, say "two," and so on, until counting to ten. Next, inhale again and say "one" until counting again to ten, repeating this process as long as you need.
- Let loose. Let yourself be carried away to the depths of your being. Initiate this fascinating trip into yourself with happiness. At the end of the practice, rise slowly and walk silently around the room for five minutes.
Excerpt is from Meditation by José Lorenzo-Fuentes