Autumn Awakening

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Soon Mother Nature will reveal her spectacular palette of reds, oranges, golds, and browns while we diligently swap out our shorts and tees for cashmeres and cable knits. Restless children will return to school and shortened daylight hours will signal winter’s approach. Many will give thanks around tables of food as brilliant in color as the season herself, celebrating another year of bounty and blessings.

Autumn has long held pride of place in my heart. I can’t help but anticipate her arrival each year, like that of a close friend who knows you deeply. Her timing impeccable, it’s no accident that she shows up right between summer and winter, a salve for the oppressive heat, a cushion for the cold nights to come.

Her 3-month stay, all too short in my mind, can only be described as enchanting. Look no further than the swirl of leaves that dance with effortless delicacy to the ground below. If autumn is a choreographer, she has front row seats reserved for you.

The crisp sound of leaves crunching underfoot cannot be replicated and dare I say is one of the most satisfying pleasures of being human. Watch as the old become young again and the young leave no square inch of sidewalk untrod.

The changing seasons usher us to accompany them in transition, compelling us to examine the minutiae of our days and the larger seams of which are lives are stitched. If there are holes, we seek to repair them, perhaps for the first time or perhaps the five-hundredth. We reset our clocks prepared to make the most of our waking hours and feel a surge of energy at the prospect of holidays and milestones ahead.

Year after year, each spring continues to bring renewed hope and excitement, as does each summer, autumn, and winter. Invigorated by fresh starts, we’re perfectly tuned to the rhythms of our calendar year. We rely on them to ease us through our 365-day journey around the sun, providing a sense of order to our complex lives.

The changing seasons bring with them a wonderful sense of predictability. There’s great relief to be found from knowing that October will always follow September and June will always precede July. It’s reassuring to recognize that no matter what your year’s tapestry, come November, you’ll have no shortage of reasons to be grateful.

As autumn approaches, reflect on your own life’s transitions. What helps you restore your balance? Where do you look for meaning in difficult times? As you do so, embrace the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes that this marvelous scenery change bestows.

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Mindful Gold Mine: Meditations Worthy of Your Attention

With an abundance of meditation practices to choose from, it can be difficult to find just what you’re looking for. You may have a favorite app, teacher, or website that you frequent regularly, or maybe you’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. While it’s not always easy to narrow down the selection, finding meditations that suit your busy lifestyle and individual preferences can be a serious game-changer. I’ve put together a list of my go-to resources for guided meditations, each of which offers different sets of practices and teachings. So whether you’re new to the scene or approaching the status of a Zen master, I hope you’ll give some of these goodies a try. And don’t worry about breaking the bank – they’re all free!

Meditation Oasis: True to its name, Meditation Oasis is a haven for meditation novices and gurus alike. With over 50 practices to choose from, ranging from enhancing your creativity to connecting with your inner child, there’s a little something for everyone. Practices vary in duration, so whether you only have a few minutes or can commit to a longer sit, there are options-a-plenty. Plus, the narrator’s voice is incredibly soothing, with many practices accompanied by relaxing melodies. Tried and true, these gems will keep you coming back for more.

Peacebeam: Peacebeam has been taking Insight Timer by storm since joining the popular platform last year and it comes as no surprise. Each of their practices, originally designed for stressed-out commuters, is only 5 minutes, perfect for anyone seeking a little bit of calm on the go. Beautiful but brief, these mini practices pack a whole lotta punch! They also recently released a series designed especially for kids so even the youngest of peace seekers can get in on the action.

Self-Compassion: Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion extraordinaire, has gifted us with a handful of meditations designed to help you put your kindest foot forward. When you feel that familiar voice of self-criticism or self-doubt begin to creep in, do yourself a favor and head on over here. As a bonus, she offers 8 exercises including “Supportive Touch” and “Taking care of the caregiver” to keep the feel-good vibes going. (Not to mention, her website has a wealth of information and tips so you too can be a self-compassion expert in no time!)

Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience: Oprah and Deepak Chopra have teamed up to create a 3-week meditation series offering daily meditations, motivational messages, mantras, and journal questions so you can explore how to bring more fulfillment, grace, and gratitude into your life. Series include, “Energy of Attraction: Manifesting Your Best Life”, “Finding Your Flow”, “Miraculous Relationships”, and more. Uniquely crafted and deeply thought-provoking, these series don’t disappoint. They’re only offered certain times of the year so check back often so you don’t miss out!

Mindful: One of the most accessible resources around, is a must for anyone looking to bring more mindfulness into their lives. In addition to offering online articles, interviews, and a print magazine, Mindful supplies an extensive guided meditation library that covers just about every genre imaginable. From loving-kindness practices to calming techniques that tackle stress and anxiety, this is the ideal place to go when you’re looking to browse. Updated almost daily, you never know what you might stumble upon. Odds are, you’ll feel more at ease by the time you leave!

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The Road to Worthiness is Paved With Imperfection

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” – Brené Brown

Have you ever met someone who exudes confidence, someone who’s so comfortable in their own skin that you can’t help but feel empowered when you’re around them? They don’t always know the right thing to say and you can bet they’ve made errors in judgment before. But their perceived self-worth isn’t diminished by evidence of their imperfections.

Close your eyes and think about what you might say to yourself when you make a mistake. Perhaps you’d degrade yourself for falling short or ruminate on all the things you could have done differently. Maybe you’d convince yourself that you’re worthless, incompetent, or weak. You might even go as far as to say that you don’t deserve love and compassion, at least not from yourself.

In the moments when we most need a little tenderness we quickly become our own worst enemies. Instead of recognizing and acknowledging our inherent goodness, we turn our words into weapons with messages of failure and defeat.

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An Ode to Nature

This article originally appeared on Baltimore STYLE.

As a child, shoes were always optional. I wandered barefoot as often as I could get away with, splashing through welcoming post-rainfall puddles in the driveway and feeling the crisp grass between my toes in the front yard. Covering my feet felt unnaturally restrictive. They longed to be free, exploring the earth beneath them in all its temperatures and textures: cool pavement, warm sand, rough bark, lush moss.

I developed an intimate connection with nature early on, marveling at its tiniest insects and tallest tress. I took comfort in spotting the moon each night and befriended caterpillars each summer as they morphed into butterflies. I was nearly inconsolable when the ant in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” died.

There was no distinction in my mind between play clothes and dress clothes. Whatever I was wearing risked weathering the impact of grass, dirt, wind and rain, sometimes all at once. Nature and I were constant allies, I admiring her handiwork, she replenishing my curiosity.

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