It’s autumn: the season to reflect. What better time to recognize the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions that hold us back, and use the energies of autumn to transform them through the 5 R’s: reminisce, reflect, review, release, and receive.
Science has discovered that we have tens of thousands of thoughts every day. Everything from the mundane, “oh, the light is turning red” to more profound, unique, abstract ideas.
But the majority of our thoughts, if we’re being honest with ourselves, are not novel or unique. They re-hash, over and over, old perceptions, attitudes, and belief systems that accompanied us from childhood.
Because they aren’t unusual or insightful, we don’t even notice these old, repetitive thoughts. Unfortunately, that means they carry a lot of influence on our mood, behavior, and reactions to life. They fly under the radar in our subconscious or even unconscious mind.
If we want to create change in our lives (let alone in our world), it’s essential that we bring to conscious awareness what thoughts are happening within us. We need to unearth what affects us under the surface.
Our Inner Sewage System
It’s like the sewage system: in our city, most of the time, we aren’t aware of all that poopy yuck flowing under us. But someone is – the people in charge of keeping the sewers clean, those who run the sewage treatment plants, and of course the departments that administrate all of that, all the way up to the city mayor or the county Department of Health.
I’m not going to spend my time or yours going into the details of all that, but the point is that there is a lot going on beyond our awareness that affects our well-being in the world, and that goes for inside our mind, too. Thoughts, like the sewer systems, need to be brought to awareness and either utilized or cleaned out. We need to have our inner head of the Department of Mental Health on the job to keep our system clean, spacious, and flowing with fresh, healthy waters of consciousness.
Since it’s autumn, the season of letting go – and allowing what no longer has life to decompose – it’s a good time to release, compost, and renew our thoughts and mind.
Autumn’s inward time supports work with the “re-” words: reminisce, reflect, review, release, and receive. These 5 “R’s” will help you become aware of what thoughts you’re having, where they have come from, and how to change and release them, leaving you with a renewed perspective. Take a little time to look inside yourself – and break out a journal if you can – to experience some transformation in your mind.
Autumn is a great time to look back on life. There’s something about the falling leaves that always has me think about the past. If you have become aware of certain thoughts that are causing you trouble – such as thoughts of self-doubt, for example – you can be sure that one or more events in your past initiated that train of thought.
Look back to the earliest time you can remember feeling that way. Journal about it – what happened, who was there, how did you feel, and what conclusions did you come to?
Now, take your recalled memory a little deeper, and reflect on what happened as a result of that. If you were to sum up that issue in one sentence of what you believed about yourself or life, what would it be? Write it down.
Reflect also on all the ways in which that belief has played out in your life. Consider how it affected your decision making, and influenced the way you perceived others, situations, and yourself. Again, journal your reflections and insights about this belief (and you may unearth “corollaries” to that belief that branched off into other areas of your life and reinforced it).
Now, look at your beliefs that you have identified. Consider viewing the situations that initiated them from a different perspective. Did you misinterpret something and lived off of that conclusion? Were the other people involved only reacting from their unconscious beliefs, rather than actually seeing and understanding you? Were you unnecessarily hard on yourself? Did you absorb the beliefs of a parent or other influential person in your life without recognizing you had other choices?
Re-view: consider a new point of view that leads to a different conclusion and a more helpful belief. I find that Byron Katie’s “The Work” is really helpful and powerful here. She uses a practice called “the turnaround” that gives a very different perspective on a belief.
For example, you might have the belief, “Everyone demands so much of me.” You’d probably be a very busy individual, with a lot of people that depend on you. But with the turnaround, you may realize something else is going on besides a bunch of people grabbing all yourr energy and attention. In fact, it may not be true at all. With the turnaround, you shift the thought into its opposite, and often it reveals something more true than the original belief.
You could turn around a belief like this – “Everyone demands so much of me” – in a variety of ways:
- No one demands so much of me – how many people are directly asking for things and expecting them? With a reality check, maybe not so many.
- Everyone demands so little of me – perhaps they aren’t asking for anything, but you keep yourself incredibly busy in order to feel special and needed?
- I demand so much of me – You might be extremely self-critical, and you’re the one putting all the pressure on yourself, not anyone else
- I demand so little of everyone else – Are you taking on things for others that you don’t need to? Are you being codependent and doing things for others that they should do for themselves?
After doing a turnaround, you re-view – you discover a fresh perspective. You can choose a new belief about yourself and life that works better for you.
Finally, just like the trees do with their foliage, consider releasing the thoughts altogether. It’s much easier to let go of unhealthy thoughts and beliefs when you’ve gone through the process of reminisce, reflect, and review, because it takes the mystery and power out of them. Now, you’re just seeing them as a thought and not “the way that it is.”
Ultimately, none of the thoughts are true – they are simply different ways to perceive and react. Just like the leaves, at one point in your life they probably served a purpose, but that time is long over. Thoughts should be used to serve a helpful purpose, and then released so that new inspiration can flow.
Have some fun with releasing thoughts – write them on little pieces of paper, and then do a “burning bowl” ceremony (but remember to be safe – have some water nearby to put out the fire!). You can burn them over a sink, if you wish. As you watch the paper go up in flame, imagine all of those beliefs and perceptions disappear in the smoke, leaving you with clarity and peace.
The practice of Presence, too, helps to release our thinking mind, open our hearts, and come fully into this moment. Rather than telling the thoughts to go away (that doesn’t usually work so well!), shift your attention to what is right here, right now. Use your 5 senses to help you discern that.
Chances are good that none of those thoughts are happening right now. And even if they are – if you’re seeing an apple in a tree and telling yourself, “there’s a green apple on that branch”, the thought is not the same thing as the reality. You can’t bite into a thought like you can that apple. Be Present, with a quiet mind and open heart, right there with the apple. See it; perhaps touch it and smell it. Just sit there with it, releasing the thoughts about it and keep turning your attention back to the apple. Sooner or later, the mind quiets down and immerses in the object of your attention.
Releasing thoughts renews your energy and allows you to receive that energy back. Imagine leaves, dropped from the trees above, composting on the forest floor. All of that compost returns nutrients to the soil, which continue to support the life of the ecosystem. When you let go of thoughts, you receive back all the energy you were expending on them. Releasing unnecessary, unhelpful beliefs and attitudes recharges your body and mind. That’s some powerful thought composting!
When you release the thoughts that no longer support you, you’ll also discover some inner spaciousness. There’s a feeling of ease. In that spaciousness within us, we can receive the blessings that life offers us.
When we practice Presence, it is more than just being there with the apple; it’s receiving the apple’s Presence with you. Everything in life offers us something in the present moment. The apple is already Present: it’s simply being itself. Fully. No thoughts in the way of just being. Receive that gift of Presence, and feel how Presence is two-way: it’s a flowing connection with All That Is.
So while you’re enjoying the changes of the fall season, remember to change your mind, too. Bring those unconscious thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions to the surface of your awareness. It’s the perfect time to transform them through the 5 “R’s”: reminisce, reflect, review, release, and receive. Allow autumn to support you in new beliefs and perspectives – or, like the leaves, let go of them altogether.
What are you discovering with the 5 “R’s”? Leave your thoughts here (pun intended!).
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