Can we start with a check in? How have you been? How was the past month? Did the breathing exercise help? If so, great! If not - or if trying to remember how or when to do it was just one more looming task on your list - then ditch it. It won’t hurt my feelings. Let's be honest: I won’t even know!
In fact, this month, I would like to invite you to get rid of a few things - perhaps even many things. Wouldn't it feel good to shed some of the unnecessary clutter clamoring for your attention as we hurtle toward the end of the calendar year? Doesn't something about it just seem right - even seasonal?
As it happens, the trees in Washington, D.C. are shedding more than their leaves this season. Acorn-strewn streets and sidewalks have transformed otherwise casual strolls into veritable obstacle courses.
The deluge is due to what arborists call "masting." Most years, oak trees produce just enough acorns to feed surrounding wildlife - playing their role in the circle of life. In a masting year, however, the oaks produce and shed more acorns than the squirrels and their furry friends can consume, ensuring some will take root and grow into new trees - replenishing and renewing the forest.
Why should you care?
Because I think it sets a beautiful example for us. Like the oaks, we bear a responsibility for the care and feeding of our wildlife - whether our families, communities, or workplaces. But unlike the oaks, we humans are not programmed to regularly invest in our own welfare. We instead pour nearly every ounce of our precious energy into our life and work. If we are lucky, we have just enough left over to meet our basic needs, but over time our wells run dry - to the detriment of not only ourselves but also those who depend on us.
Perhaps you are the exception to the rule: you already have replenishment rhythms in place and feel fully equipped to graciously and generously pour into those around you. But I suspect at least a few of you are feeling depleted - in which case, I recommend you enter your own masting season.
For many of us, that involves shedding those things that no longer serve us. It might be the monthly volunteer commitment that fills you with more dread than purpose. Maybe it takes the form of a relationship that produces more frustration than encouragement. Perhaps it is something as simple as choosing a beautiful treat from a local bakery for that upcoming holiday potluck instead of spending hours in the kitchen to bake it yourself.
Others may instead need a simple change of routine to create more space. Can you find time for meditation, contemplation, or prayer by turning off your headphones or car radio on your daily commute? Are you willing to swap out five minutes of social media to instead take a few deep breaths?
Whatever form it takes, I encourage you to take stock and take action. Identify one way you can renew your reserves for the month ahead. You - and those around you - will be glad you did.