by Megan McDonough

With the shifting of seasons in New England, I feel the force of change pulling me. This transition between the high sun of summer and the dimming light of fall signals for me a new beginning, much more so than the beginning of a new calendar year.

With the sun lower in the sky and the leaves still on the trees, there is a sense of closing in. My body and mind react; I crave light and I feel a continual sense of urgency, leaving me with the impression that I should be making a decision, doing something, making things happen before the winter descends. It’s as if I’m feeling the same anxiety our ancestors must have felt when the change in weather signaled the impending winter, and the need for survival drove a final, all-out effort to fill the storage bins. Do people in warmer climates have a similar reaction this time of year?

I’m uneasy in my body. I’m short-tempered, my mind is filled with things to do, and my attention is distracted. At the same time, I’m tired and just want to rest.

This is a season of in-betweens. Conflicting times. I see it played out in my body and in nature. In New England, this drama is enacted in high style, with the maple leaves gradually donning their costumes of bright orange and red, eventually bursting into a final flame of glory before being too quickly extinguished.

Even though it’s high drama, I doubt the trees see it as conflict. It just is. It’s simply the way of things. When inner conflict arises and our internal state seems as tumultuous as a tree blown by a hurricane, can the stability of a tree serve as a reminder to stay rooted?

There is a yoga pose called the Tree, a standing balancing posture. Just like trees in nature, people in Tree pose sometimes sway, fall out of the pose, or remain as steady as a rock. What if the “right” way of being in Tree, and in life, is just being with the pose as it is—swaying, falling, or stable?

My inner conflict during this season just is. There’s no need to get alarmed by it, to fix it, or to change it. I know from experience that my anxiety will fall away just like the leaves on the trees, following a natural course that I need not fight against.

Take a short stroll in nature today. As you walk, scan your surroundings. Turn your head to see the full view of what’s around you, staying open to nature’s lessons.

What does the small sapling growing out of the cement walk tell you? What do mushrooms sprouting from a dead tree have to do with life? What quality does the nest-building bird display? How does a gentle babbling brook carve stone?

What does nature quietly whisper to you about living life?

This post is adapted from A Minute for Me: Learning to Savor Sixty Seconds, © 2012, by Megan McDonough.

Megan Megan McDonough is cofounder and board chair of Wholebeing Institute, an educational organization focusing on the science of whole-person wellbeing. She uses divergent thinking and creative perspectives to lead, harnessing the best in people for the greatest good. With a degree in nuclear medicine, senior leadership experience in health care, two decades as a yoga practitioner and teacher, and experience directing numerous online-learning start-ups, Megan focuses on how to get from point A to point B through whole-person engagement. She’s an award-winning author of four books on mindfulness.

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