Disclaimer: This is one of the longest blogs we’ve ever posted, but we assure you, it’s worth every minute you spend reading it, because (at the risk of sounding like an advert) you’re worth it!
You might not immediately associate ‘inspiration’ with the month of September. Darker evenings. Warmer jumpers. Falling leaves. A sense of loss and letting go. September brings a real change in mood as well as a change in health for many of us. Struggles that seemed distant during the warm summer months start to creep in again around now, and it’s easy to just feel ‘pulled down’, emotionally or physically.
But what if there was another way to transition into the Autumn? What if, instead of tensing up and bracing ourselves for the months ahead, we could find a more transformative, inspirational way through this time of year?
The Potential of the ‘Fifth Season’
Did you know that there’s a ‘fifth season’ between Summer and Autumn? We don’t officially distinguish ‘Late Summer’ in this part of the world, even though it’s long been recognised in Eastern medicine. But we all recognise it in our bodies – it’s that transition between the bright, active summer months and the colder seasons. It’s not the bursting-open, thrusting-forwards, leaping-outwards energy of Spring. It’s a deeper, more introspective time – a transition time to connect with how you’re doing on the inside, and to set powerful intentions for the months ahead.
Now, I can identify with the urge to escape to the Mediterranean and skip the coming season altogether! But if this isn’t an option for you, then this really is the perfect time to ‘harvest’ what you’ve learned from the year that’s just gone, and to build a strong centre.
Here are some ideas for making September a month of transformation:
1 CREATE SPACE FOR YOURSELF
Being an adult doesn’t mean never letting go – in fact, our health depends on having the time and space to unravel tension that builds up in layers. But the kind of space to make for yourself this month isn’t just about switching off your brain at the end of the day and staring at a screen, or ‘getting away from it all’. This month is more about making heartspace than headspace.
What really nurtures you? How can you find the time to prioritise it even as the whirl of September starts up – the start of the school year, work, family, home, planning, all the people you care for and the tasks that fall to you? Could you make the time to do something you love, something you’ve always wanted to try, something that supports your health or lifts your heart.
Start by taking a whole morning just for you – clear some space in your calendar and take a notebook to a park or favourite café. Without analysing, write out your thoughts on how you are and what you need. If you need a nudge, try some of these:
- How, specifically, do you nurture yourself? (Think about your body, your mind and your spirit.)
- What specific transitions are happening in your life right now? (Think trivial as well as ‘big transitions’, as smaller changes can reflect more fundamental shifts.)
- What specific ‘harvests’ are you reaping in your life now from past decisions, and how are you shaping future harvests (health, money, work, relationships, lifepath…)?
- What kinds of transformation do you wish for in your life?
Build a 2-hour slot into your weekly schedule that’s just about nourishing you, for reflection and self-care – maybe it’s a yoga class, a course you’ve wanted to begin, a time to paint or write or draw, a chance to read, or a treatment like massage, craniosacral therapy or acupuncture.
2 LET YOUR FEELINGS BE YOUR GUIDE
Sadness, worry, low motivation, resentment, guilt, shame, fear: they give us clues about what’s out of balance in our lives and in our bodies. When we gently acknowledge them, they can let us know something about what we need next in our lives.
Even depression can be a signal to us, to be used for positive change. Karla McLaren describes it as ‘a brilliant stop sign for the soul.’
The culture we live in places more value on the mind than on our emotions and our bodies. Once you start making time for yourself and tuning into how you’re really doing, things come up. You might become more aware of feelings that have been lingering at the edges, or that have been pushed down for some time.
Feelings – even when they’re not comfortable – are a kind of guide.
And so a practice for this month is simple, but powerful: Notice your feelings. Without judgement. Without trying to change them and without acting on them.
One way to do this is to settle quietly somewhere and bring your awareness to how your body feels. Feelings are bodily sensations, so becoming aware of different parts of your body (your gut, your pelvis, your throat, your head) is a gentle way to begin.
Feelings in themselves aren’t an action plan. But eventually, by noticing and welcoming them, even the uncomfortable feelings reveal their meaning.
3 REALISE YOUR BODY IS ON YOUR SIDE
If you spend a lot of time just paying attention to your emotional, intellectual and spiritual self, it’s possible to end up with an imbalance. We can be so much in our thoughts and feelings that we don’t notice what our bodies are telling us – or we may not know how to how to interpret the messages.
As a Craniosacral Therapist, I help people notice the patterns of tension they’re carrying in their bodies, and how to release them. When we tighten up, it’s often to protect ourselves in times of stress or illness. The key is to appreciate that even tension and discomfort make sense and have a kind of wisdom to them. That’s often when it becomes possible to let them go.
‘Health is a relationship with your body’, and you can develop this relationship through practices that ground you, such as:
- Try a movement practice like yoga, tai chi, or chi gong – as well as connecting you with your body, they create warmth and energy flow, and help prevent stagnation during the cold, damp months.
- Eat to nurture! Rather than thinking of all the things you ‘shouldn’t’ eat, focus this month on bringing more of what nourishes you into your diet. In early Autumn, consider sweet root vegetables, pumpkin soup, grains, aromatic flavours and fresh spices (cumin, turmeric, fresh ginger) rather than raw, cold foods.
- Mindfulness meditation brings your awareness to your body through breath; it allows you to notice and deepen your connection to your body and is something you can fit into your day no matter where you are!
- Get bare! Spend 10 minutes being barefoot on grass – being in contact with the earth might feel strange if you’re used to wearing shoes (as most of us are!) but you’ll be surprised how relaxing and energising it can be.
No matter what’s going on in your life – whether you feel stuck, tired, confused, overwhelmed, or just ‘not quite right’ – your body can be the first resource to help you move forward. You just have to realise your body is on your side!
4 START A PERSONAL PRACTICE
Starting or developing a regular mind-body practice might just be one of the most important things you ever do. By a personal practice I mean a daily activity that nurtures your body and mind together, that connects you to how you are on that day. You can do it at any time of day, but first thing in the morning is ideal.
You don’t have to be fit, toned, flexible or ‘the kind of person who meditates’ to begin a morning practice. There are lots of resources out there to for beginners of mindfulness meditation or yoga. But even finding a guided relaxation recording, or spending time stretching while breathing deeply, can be a place to start.
The keys are simply: routine, empathy and self-acceptance. The daily repetition allows you to build a practice of continuity and self-support that you can come back to. Empathy and self-acceptance are about noticing how things feel rather than judging.
A tip: don’t set yourself up to fail by deciding you’re going to do a one-hour yoga session every morning before everyone gets up, then giving up when this doesn’t feel possible. Start with 15 minutes a day!
This doesn’t change your life overnight. But it does change your life.
5 GET INSPIRED
We all need to be inspired. Once our basic needs are met (food, shelter, social contact, etc), we need to feel connected to a sense of something beyond us, and to express our uniqueness through our projects, our work, our creative outlets. But you have to actually go out and find things to feed your soul, rather than waiting for it to happen.
- Watch a TED talk – any will do! (Here’s one to start you off.)
- Take a camera outside and photograph whatever you find beautiful.
- Buy a new notebook and start a journal.
- Try something you’ve always wanted to try (rock climbing, quilting, learning Italian!)
- Grab a copy of ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron (it’s not just for artists, and has some great guided exercises.)
Even curling up with a coffee, your favourite blanket, and a book that nourishes your soul while it’s raining outside can spark inspiration… (I recently re-read ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown – if you need a boost of courage, vulnerability and self-worth, I really recommend this.)
6 FIND YOUR RESOURCES
Sometimes we lose track of the resources we have in our lives – inside us, and around us. As well as connecting with the resources you carry with you (your breath, your body), with practices that ground and support you, and with all you’re grateful for in your life….Remember that you don’t have to navigate it all on your own.
I feel lucky to be part of the team of therapists here at BH Therapies. We’re all about providing caring, empowering support to each other and to our clients; whatever the challenges or transitions you’re going through, let us know if there’s anything we can help you with this month, or any month!