Late Summer Musings on Change

“Every year we have been witness to it: how the world descends

into a rich mash, in order that it may resume

…how the vivacity of what was is married
to the vitality of what will be?”

~ Mary Oliver

In Oriental Medicine, late August into September is considered a fifth
season — Late Summer. It is the beginning of my most productive time of year.

Summer is ending,
leaves are beginning to release from their branches with the gentlest of breezes, here and there some trees are changing from their summer green to colors of fall, and the fields full of growth begin to shrink (only two weeks ago, I could only see the ears of deer standing in the field and now I can see their heads as they wander and graze). Crickets fill the air with their sounds and geese overhead are beginning group flight practice for their winter migration south. This is a time of change into the darker days of fall and winter — and here, in New England, this season change tends to be more dramatic in color and temperature.

In years past, long before the convenience of grocery stores, this was a time of preserving the harvest and hoping there is enough to feed a family through the long winter months. As my canning pot boils I can already imagine my joy at opening a jar of applesauce in January or spreading blueberry jam on a piece of toast in February!

I find myself excited and tingly as I, too, consider my personal inner harvest and prepare myself for winter. I very much feel the sense of closure and new beginnings. I am about to finish a year of assisting in the Certificate in Positive Psychology course that I, myself, took only several years ago. As the course nears graduation, I find myself wondering how I will fill my time? And how I will say good-bye.

How appropriate that the course ends now, in late summer. This is the time of year when I am personally assessing, evaluating, and considering how I wish to move forward. I find myself asking, “Who am I?” and “Who am I becoming?” In my journals, I explore my answers and consider the choices stretched out ahead as new beginnings are close at hand. I am making my lists of projects, dreams, and plans with joyful anticipation.

For now, I am aware of being steeped in my strength of ‘Appreciation of Excellence and Beauty’ or awe. My morning meditations are outside, on my deck, so that I can be surrounded by the beauty of dragonflies, morning glories, sunflowers, wildlife, and the sunrise. Each meditation begins my day with a sense of awe and gratitude for the natural world I am a part of.
What strength do you bring to this time of year? How do you prepare for the next season? What are you harvesting?


Choice, Every Moment, Everyday

Version 2

What choice can you make today to be 5% happier? This is a question I ask on those gray days— whether gray outside or inside. Sounds so easy to make different choices and, yet, not always so easy. Today happens to be one of those days for me. I woke up to snow and wind (and, yes, it was forecast) which, surprisingly, I was disappointed that the forecast was correct in early April. I decided to finish a book I’d been reading. Once I finished the book, I found myself wandering around the house with little that interested me in doing. After about an hour of wandering, I decided to ask myself, “What can I do to be 5% happier right now?”

Making choices to be just 5% happier takes practice, mindfulness, and commitment with each choice. How do we begin? It is as simple as asking the question and waiting for an answer. Within minutes, I did decide to cook (which always makes me happy). Doing one simple thing changed my mood from OK to feeling satisfied and looking forward to dinner.

Through studying Positive Psychology, I have learned to ask questions, such as, what can I do to feel 5% happier. Other questions I ask help re-direct my focus from what I think isn’t working to focusing on what is going well and what is good. So I will ask myself, what is going well right now?; what can I do or say to feel differently?; who can I be that is more positive, mindful or present?; what can I appreciate more in this moment?.

One of my favorite questions, ‘Who do I want to be today?’, is a question I ask myself most mornings as I finish my journal writing before heading off to my day. My answers set a positive tone and intention to my day which has made my life more meaningful. It has become a positive anchor that I create each morning for myself and am, then, better prepared for the curve balls that life throws my way (most days there is at least one unexpected curve ball).

At the end of my day, in my evening meditation, I answer another question, ‘What am I grateful for?’. Gratitude has been proven to have lasting benefit toward a positive life and better health. For me, I remind myself of those experiences, things, people, animals, and family that make my life richer (even a good meal or a great movie find their way to my lists). Sometimes on my list are experiences that weren’t so positive but I learned from them. Acknowledging my gratitude keeps me from taking my life for granted. When I end my meditation and tuck in for the night I go to sleep with a full and open heart.

Each day we make choices — what to wear, what to eat, when to exercise, what to pay attention to, read, learn and do. I like knowing that I have choice. We also have choice around how to react, how to be present, and how we want to feel. Mostly, my choices have become much more mindful and positively focused. As a result, I am overall, happier doing what I love and living with purpose.

So, I’ll end here with how I began…

“What choices can you make today to be 5% happier?”