September: A Time for Reflection
As someone who has lived in the East, Mid-West, West and now Northeast, I’ve watched seasons change in a variety of ways; some more dramatically and others more subtly. Seasonal changes always mark transitions with the endings, “in-between” time, and new beginnings. The month of September marks one of these transition times. From the time I was young, September carried with it the sadness of the end of summer but also the excitement of “new beginnings,” with the start of a new school year and, for me, also the Jewish New Year, which usually occurs in September (based on the Jewish calendar.) My non-Jewish friends and colleagues also talk about the importance of September for them, too, with memories of starting school for themselves and/or children. Many have said that although they don’t celebrate the Jewish New Year, they, too, have learned from some of the rituals. The rituals are actually in keeping with mindfulness and intentionality in our approach to life.
I like the juxtaposition of endings and new beginnings—it creates a time for self-reflection, gratitude and forgiveness. It’s a time to focus on and let-go of the past year to move forward and embrace the coming year, hopefully with some new learning and resolve. One of the traditions of Rosh Hashanah is a service called Tashlich, when you go to a body of running water and throw little pieces of bread into the water, to symbolically acknowledge and throw away your mistakes and “sins” from the past year. It’s part of the process of getting ready for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. I like these rituals since they help bring these actions into clearer focus. In his Yom Kippur sermon, our Rabbi emphasized that in addition to atoning for our mistakes of the past year, the holiday philosophy implores us to live each day to the fullest since our one life is finite. He stressed the importance of appreciating our life and our relationships. We can all learn from evaluating our past deeds and appreciating the life that we have, as we move forward.
Admittedly, I set goals and resolutions at the end of the calendar year and also spend time reflecting over the past year—but September feels different. As a seasonal transition from summer into fall, it reminds me of my youth and growth and feels hopeful and joyful. The bittersweet aspect is that it also helps me prepare for and anticipate the changing colors and eventual falling of the leaves and then winter, symbolically reflecting the passage of time and aging. Perhaps the goal is to use seasonal changes as well as the actual dates of the New Year to establish our own rituals for reflection, gratitude and forgiveness. Life is too short to take it for granted. As a mini-step in the process, it’s actually wonderful to take time at the end of each day to reflect on our blessings as we let go of the day and prepare for the new beginning of tomorrow.