Thoughts on Summer - in and out...
July 6th, 2009 by Maryline Leese Registered Member MBACP (Accred)
The seasons or different phases in the Earth's cycle can be an expression of what is happening on the land but also in our own life - including our inner life. Paying attention to the journey of the Earth around the Sun throughout the year can offer us an opportunity to notice correlations between our inner landscape and the outer landscape. Through Nature's annual cycle, we can learn much about new beginnings, growth, culmination and death, phases which are all as important as each other and which are inter-connected as the end of one phase gives way to the beginning of another. The Solstices and Equinoxes are gateways to a new season and they seem like appropriate times to pause and offer ourselves a time for reflection, conscious decisions and movement. May this article about the Summer season be an invitation for you to pause for a while, to momentarily leave behind a busy life of "doing" in order to witness, mark and celebrate this rich and bountiful time of year.
The Summer Solstice marks the time when the sun is in its glory, at its fullest and at its highest. Summer is the season of warmth, rapid growth and high energy when nature is very active and alert. This time of natural peak is also a turning point, where we can pause and reflect before moving into a new phase of the year that will inevitably mean a decrease in hours of sunlight and a bringing closer of darkness.
Summer is the time where, in the garden, the seeds we planted in Spring have turned into flowers, fruit, vegetables and crops. It is therefore the time of year when we can begin to taste something of what we have grown since the Spring: "we reap what we sow", literally and metaphorically. The nature of what we get depends on us. If we want to get a beautiful display of sunflowers standing tall in the garden in July and August, then a process of sowing, planting, watering, feeding and weeding needs to be in place in the Spring. Otherwise, all we may have growing is a bunch of weeds.
What seeds have you planted in your mind over the last few months?
What has been growing in your inner garden?
Are you satisfied with your crop?
Does the harvested fruit taste sweet?
So, Summer offers us the opportunity to pause, pay attention to and review our life: if we don't like what we are getting, then we can make new decisions about what we want to create in life.
At a time when the Sun is at its maximum elevation, Summer is also a time for celebration: honour your strengths and acknowledge your accomplishments. You can write about them in a journal, create a piece of art in celebration of you or gather with friends, perhaps in a circle, and dance, sing and celebrate with each other. Allow yourself to shine and radiate warmth and light!
Being outside in summertime is a real delight for our senses - if we can be open to the sensory experience. Unfortunately, our minds can often obscure our senses and the result is that our capacity to see, hear, feel, smell and taste is diminished. If we are preoccupied or when we let our minds get busy with "judging" what we see, hear, feel, smell or taste, then we are "out of touch" with and not available for the experience in front of us. When we can still the mind and focus on the present moment, however, we are able to make the most of our senses and the result is an increased sensitivity and clarity and a rich and "more alive" experience of life. I invite you to spend some time outside, in the garden or the park, being relaxed, open-hearted and fully alert, allowing your senses to be activated by what is around. What better way to discover what Summer means to you than by being outside experiencing it? Ask yourself simple questions such as "what can I hear?", "what can I see?", "what can I smell?", "what can I taste?" and "what can I feel?" and notice what answers emerge. The chances are that there will be a lot happening outside to tickle and delight all your senses and with presence and a still mind, this can be a rich and soul-nourishing experience, when you can feel both at peace with your self and at one with the Universe and especially the Earth. When done outside in Summer with nature so active and alert – here are a few examples of what you can notice outside: bees buzzing, insects flying, birds singing, summer flowers showing their bright colours, lavender, lilies and lime-tree offering their sweet fragrances, strawberries and raspberries ripening - this meditation can also offer you a very real and joyful connection with a sense of unlimited abundance. What a contrast to how life can feel like sometimes when we get so wrapped up in worrying about what happened in the past, what will happen in the future and whether we will have "enough" of whatever we want (be it money or other material possessions)!
This harmonious connection to the Earth energy is also called "being grounded". Grounding is the process of bringing our awareness into balance with our body and the present moment. When grounded, we are completely in our body by being aware of physical sensations and being present mentally and emotionally. The result is often a sense of well-being, a sense of space to be creative, a sense of life flowing freely and fully and a sense of deep nourishing. So, as you continue your walk outside this Summer, pay close attention to the sensations in your body, starting perhaps by focusing on your breath as this helps to bring you out of the limited space of your mind and into the vast, unlimited realm of your body. As you walk slowly and mindfully, allow sounds to come to your ears, sense the air that is touching your skin, let smells come into contact with your nose, taste with attention, notice what your eyes are seeing... Both simple and complex at the same time, the experience you are offering yourself by being grounded is what Mindfulness Meditation teacher and author Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book "Coming To Our Senses" calls the "rich reality of momentary experience of being alive". This special gift to yourself is at your disposal any time, any place, if only you can pause and shift your awareness to the present moment. So, this Summer, use your senses to offer yourself a fuller, healthier and more meaningful experience of life.
I value the benefits brought by a regular grounding practice, such as stress relief, increased awareness and enhanced personal and spiritual growth. I integrate grounding into my counselling work with clients to help them access feelings of calm and peace by slowing their energies and restoring harmony with the Earth energy and with their own self. Grounding exercises can be of assistance to anyone suffering from anxiety, panic, stress, anger and depression. If you would like to know more about this way of bringing you back to your self, do get in touch with me: I would be happy to hear from you.