Like nature, people cycle through distinct seasons. Autumn is the season of “harvest” – it is a time when we turn our attention inward to reflect on what the year has brought us so far. It is also the time to take stock of what we need to carry us through the winter. Often we lose sight of the changes that the natural cycles of life bring. We may find ourselves fighting an uphill battle to connect with family, friends and even ourselves, as we maneuver in a very fast paced world. I suggest that we take time to view the change of seasons as a way to move gracefully into the fall. We can start by taking an inventory of the blessings and the challenges that are currently present in our lives.

It is important to begin our inventory with the positive accomplishments or blessings that exist in our lives. Make a list of the ten most important positive events in your life that occurred in this last year remembering to give yourself credit for all that you have learned and those things from which you have benefited. Be sure to focus on the positive aspects of your life regarding family, friends, work, play and self-care. Try to notice the things in life that have given you pleasure or those events that have brought joy into your life. Are you aware of how you feel, think and are behaving when life is in synch with the natural rhythms of the time? You may notice that you are slowing down, taking stock and preparing to make the necessary changes to your house, your wardrobe, and your life that will embrace the coming winter. As you make these changes, try to access that part of yourself that finds joy in the changing seasons.

Next, look at the challenges that this year has presented to you or your family. Make a list of the “tools” that you used to survive the difficulties. Remember that “tools” come in many forms. Tools can be your family, friends, religious affiliations, social groups, financial resources and life lessons that you have accumulated from previous times in your life. I find it very helpful to look at the challenges in life as opportunities to learn new skills or to acquire new tools and opportunities to renew your faith and to reconnect with your friends and family. Challenges are never fun at the moment, but they can provide information that we need to change something in our lives. They can be invitations to look at the ways we are holding onto old patterns, relationships or behaviors that are not supporting the changes that we need to make in order for us to grow. Challenges also offer us a way to be more aware of what needs to be cleared out of our lives. Fall is all about change and release, letting go. Be sure to remember the lessons or learning that you have reflected on from the challenges and hold onto the blessings that come from change.

Our lives are full of opportunities to learn, and it is vital to take stock of where we have been in order to know where we are going. Remember to keep a balance in the three centers – body, mind and heart. The Buddha said, “The path to enlightenment (awareness) is not difficult if we have no preference.” So, just as the seasons change, bringing times of reflection, darkness, birth and rebirth, so must we change. The fall gives us the opportunity to take stock of our lives and to hold on to what works, releasing all that no longer nourishes us.

Taking time to appreciate the natural beauty of this time of the year can be a way to experience the balance of the body, mind and heart. Making time for a walk in a wooded, serene place can provide an experience of rest and meditative reflection. Fall, with its beautiful colors that presage the darkness and barrenness of winter, can give us an opportunity to experience melancholy, to acknowledge the grief that we may feel about losses over the past year, to reflect on our own mortality and the gift of life.

Remaining in touch with the changes of the seasons allows our bodies to be healthier, our minds to be more focused and less chaotic and our hearts to be open and compassionate. Enjoy the fall, let go and embrace the season before the darkness of winter.