The lesson of the leaves

As the trees let go of what they no longer need this autumn, carpeting the ground in their golden foliage, take a look at what you’d be better off without…

I love the autumn. I always have. It’s a time when I’ve always felt hopeful, optimistic and energetic. I have always enjoyed that “back to school” feeling – the promise of new friends, new activities, new subjects to learn. Even now as an adult, for me it’s a time for clearing out the house (actually, for me, any time is a good time for a clear-out), sharpening pencils, cleaning shoes, making a list of things I want to do before the Christmas period. It’s a time to sign up for new classes, kick-start an exercise programme, embark on a new adventure, begin a new project or hobby.

A time for everything… a time to keep and a time to throw away

Funnily enough, the symbolism and natural cycle represented by the autumn is exactly the opposite of all these things. As summer fades and the conkers begin to fall, nature withdraws into herself and slows down, preparing to hibernate. The trees are doing their own little clear-out, taking a last look at their foliage and then throwing off their leaves and hunkering down to wait out the winter months.

This year, I’m planning to (excuse the pun) take a leaf out of the old oak’s book. I don’t intend to abandon my natural instinct to sort out my wardrobe, enrol in a class and set some pre-Yule goals. That would just be going against my character, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that way madness lies! No, I am going to add a new, slightly different, goal to my habitual autumnal industriousness. Just as the trees cast off the leaves they no longer need, I’m trying to rid my life of anything that I no longer need.

Now, on one level, this means physically sorting through my stuff and ridding my home of things that are unused, unwanted and unnecessary to me. This alone always does me the power of good. On a deeper level, however, it also means getting rid of things in my life –habits, behaviours, people – that no longer suit me or serve me. It means taking a good look at the way I am, what I do, and how I live, examining each aspect and asking, “Does this truly nourish me?”

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

The most literal example of this is in my diet. I don’t really have any of the major vices but I do have a potent addiction to strong black tea with milk. Not very rock and roll, I know. I know that after the first two teas of the day, any cup beyond that isn’t really enjoyable. I know that too much of the stuff makes me agitated (you can only imagine my nerves when I have coffee), and I am aware that it’s not great for my teeth or kidneys. It simply doesn’t nourish me or do me any good. So, this autumn, I’m limiting myself to a maximum of two cups a day – one when possible. I’m not crazy enough to give it up altogether as I value my friends and family too much to unleash a pre-tea me on them too often, but I am making a concerted effort to stick to green after my first morning cup of “real” tea.

When autumn leaves start to fall

Once started, this non-physical clear-out can go in any direction. What about looking at unhelpful thought processes? Or knee-jerk emotional reactions that could be checked and kept under control with a little practice? A habit of contradicting other people or interrupting? How about choosing to listen a little harder to your inner voice for a few weeks and making sure that it’s singing only positive songs about you and your abilities? What about letting go of a negative emotion or belief?

I’m taking my cue from nature this autumn. As each leaf is shed from the trees outside my window, I’m going to try to let go of something that’s holding me back or making me less than I could be. Every time I see a tree ablaze with orange, gold and yellow or I spot a shiny chestnut on the ground, I’ll remind myself of own bag of emotional dead leaves and rotten conkers and toss a few on the bonfire.

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