Fall is my favorite time of year in Montana, and when I was growing up and living in Virginia it was my favorite season there, too.
There’s a quickening of energy and momentum that’s palpable in the Northern Hemisphere as shortening days and cooling temperatures inevitably shift into winter over the next three months.
Where and how can you fit connecting with nature and time for yourself into your life during this time of year?
The following are a few suggestions to get you started, and feel free to share your ideas, too!
1.) Break Pattern.
This time of year it can be hard to get outside after work and dinner are done, but one consideration is to get out and walk immediately upon returning home from work, and then having a later dinner.
If you have a flexiible workplace or working environment, take a break or go for a nearby walk for 15 minutes once (or even better, twice) during the workday.
Take time to notice how nearby trees, plants, birds, people, and the environment are adapting in response to the changing seasons. Keep a rain or storm jacket, hat and gloves handy, so that not having these items doesn’t become an excuse not to get outside.
Also consider getting up a bit earlier each morning, and doing these things consistently before your work day begins.
2.) Create A Sit or Power Spot.
Find an outdoor place that speaks to you for when the weather’s nice enough to be outside where you are. Spend 10-15 minutes there on a regular basis, and resist the urge to multi-task by answering phone calls, texting, checking e-mails, etc.
If personal safety is an issue or concern for your doing this, bring a colleague, friend or family member along and leave your cell phone on.
Yet also, make a mutual agreement that you will not talk once you’ve settled into your sit or power spot, for these are intentional places and spaces for quieting the ego mind while allowing yourself to be more deeply and consistently connected with nature.
Be o.k. with the mind’s tendency to wander, worry, you name it! Some people have more than one sit spot. From where I work at home, I look out onto two arbor vitae trees encircled by sumacs just beginning to turn crimson and orange. About twice a day, I put the computer and phone away and look out at this scene as the seasons change, and we eat dinner out there a few times a week at this time of year as well.
With sit spots, they may be places you walk or drive to, or real or imagined places you have photos or sketches of to keep at work and home, but the important thing is to spend quality time being fully present there. Some of my clients meditate at their spots, while others bring a small notebook for writing down inspired ideas and actions that come their way.
Creating a sit or power spot does take time and commitment, but it is almost always a free, invaluable and pro-active gift you can give yourself daily, no matter where you live or are in life!
This is often hardest for most of us to create time for, allow or justify. “I should be working more, cleaning the garage, raking leaves or pine needles, getting ready for Halloween” are just a sampling of resistances we can come up with when it comes to creating time for ourselves to play outside in nature, or anywhere else for that matter!
Plus there’s a resistance to play being something you’re allowed to do only when you’re very young, or still in school or in college. For the rest of us, the story goes, it’s the “real world” we must live in, and play’s an unproductive and foolish pasttime. Bullshit. Get out and play-it’s good for your heart and soul and will make you more productive when you are at work.
If you live where there are many deciduous trees, when was the last time you had a leaf fight with others, or made huge piles of leaves to play in? Consider collecting different types and colors of leaves, making art or writing a poem about them or something else you enjoy about the season, or making a collage with leaves, pine needles and other natural objects from the season.
If the danger of fire season is over where you live, are there places where you can rent a cabin, have a bonfire, or have an outdoor cookout? Are there obstacle courses, outdoor climbing walls and ropes courses, paintball courses, frisbee golf areas, seasonal Halloween mazes you can enjoy with family and friends, as well as by yourself?
I invite you to get out and bike, rollerblade or do something else alone or with others at nearby parks and trails. Finally, temperatures are cooling down to where you can hike, walk, bike and play more during the day in many southern and southwestern states, and with autumn generally being a drier season across the country, it’s also a great time for stargazing, no matter where you live.
Commit to a day of play every week if you can, and if that’s challenging to do, commit to at least half a day. No matter how much time you decide you have for play in nature, put it on your calendar, and then honor your commitment to play and enjoy being outdoors, no matter what.
Invite friends to come along to build in accountability, and take turns experiencing and enjoying what other people’s visions of play look and feel like!
4.) Connect With The Food You Eat.
Farmers and other seasonal markets are common nearly everywhere in the U.S., and fall is an especially wonderful time to be visiting and shopping for locally grown produce.
Connecting more deeply and consistently with the food you eat is a real win-win way to be even more connected with the natural world, and with your particular bioregion.
Farmers markets are great for meeting and getting to know the people and neighbors who raise the food you eat and enjoy.
They’re a wealth of knowledge and wisdom for learning more about how different foods are grown (and even learn how you could grow it yourself!), and they’re a huge way to keep money circulating in your local or regional economy.
Even most supermarkets and grocery stores will carry locally grown produce in season, so be sure to look and ask about this when you’re shopping there as well.