It’s been a while since I’ve sat down at my computer to write a Sunday letter. My China adventure was my first excuse to leave my letters behind. And then, upon my return, I was jet-lagged and struggling to find my footing to return to the swing of life. And then I was sick, and then I was too distracted with the new website (more news on that later!), and then…well, the excuses could have gone on forever. I could even have rationalized stopping these letters altogether. I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy. Does writing a letter at the end of each week really have an impact on me or you? Does it really matter? Now, I can’t answer that question for you, but when I stopped to assess the effect of the letters on me, I came to an important realization about the correlation between health and vibrancy and reflection.
The process that brings me to my computer each week to write these letters is the culmination of a series of small rituals. These daily rituals include reviewing the day prior and planning the day ahead during my morning walk with Viva, shutting off my music while commuting home to tune into the conversations, interactions, and environment that surround me, and opening my journal each night to jot down the answer to my two daily questions, “what did you learn today?” and “what were the three best moments of your day?” My confidence in the power of these questions was most recently reaffirmed when I heard Sheryl Sandberg speak about her process of recovery after the death of her husband. She, too, forced herself to find the good in each day. And it was this process of first looking for good, that over time, allowed her to begin to see the good (without even looking) in each day. So, I reflect and watch and listen and ask myself questions. And as my week progresses, I start to see overlapping themes. These themes, or just one theme, come up again and again. I hear it in one of those conversations I listen to on the way home, and then again in an article that pops up in my newsfeed. By the end of the week, it seems like everything is pointing me in one direction, which usually winds up being the theme of my letter. In essence, all week my mind is active, seeking, learning, and assessing. Through this exercise, I like to think I am “on,” engaged and living more fully.
Over the past few weeks, however, I was consumed by the now and feeling like I was just barely making it through each day, and my rituals fell by the wayside. Somehow, I’d convinced myself I didn’t have time to think, listen, watch, question, or write. In fact, I got to the point where I nearly convinced myself I had nothing to say, nothing to write about. I had stopped engaging, and as a consequence, I discovered, my life had become dulled!
Thankfully, a combination of the cooling temperatures of September and the children flooding the streets after school sparked something in me. Saying goodbye to summer and hello to autumn brought up that familiar feeling of potential and possibility. I became consumed with the sensation that something has just ended and yet there is still something to be discovered right around the corner. But while I yearned to be a part of that renewal, something was holding me back from running around that corner to discover what was waiting for me. The loss of my rituals was preventing me from moving forward. I was stuck. Then a friend asked me about the meaning of the period between the two Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As I explained that the time between the two holidays is designated for Jews to examine and improve their ways as well as right any wrongs committed against others, I realized, in essence, this was a designated time for introspection. Ten days built into the Jewish calendar designated for reflection was genius. Wouldn’t it be great if we all built ten days or even one day designated for introspection into our lives?
Then I asked myself, “what is introspection?” While the answer may be different for everyone, it may be as simple as pausing. For me, pausing is the time I take each day to reflect on the day past and plan the day ahead, take in my surroundings on my commute home, and ask my two questions before bed. Fast forward to today, it looks like a combination of the start of autumn and these ten days of reflection have kick-started my rituals again. I am ready to engage in my life, to pause each day, to reflect, to process and assess, and ultimately to write.
You don’t need to follow my rituals or observe the Jewish holidays to reflect. Find your own way, during your own time, to get off your hamster wheel. Getting off once or twice or even three times each day will keep you connected to what is important to you. For more ideas on how to pause and reconnect with yourself, take a look at my article, “Slowing Down to Achieve a Longer, Healthier Life.”
Make A Change Today,