Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Wisdom of Summer

In summer we are drawn upward like ripening corn, feeling ourselves expanding, reaching and unfurling into shapes our winter gestation and springtime birthing only imagined. If winter taught us to wait and spring awakened our possibilities, then summertime calls us in this present moment to fully come into our own. Summer is the season of bright light, deep perspectives and bold realizations.

Come to fruition. Something has been moving in you, rising through you, trying to be born. Now is the time to let it out. Let your plans and projects reach their apex. Pull the trigger. This is your year. All the waiting, withdrawing, nurturing and messiness of birth is behind you. Let your life take its natural shape and proudly proclaim your fullness. The Tao te Ching says that “if you force a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe.” But what if it really is ripe? Then let it drop. Allow the natural progression of your life to proceed unhindered. Don’t interfere with the great unfolding. Bear witness to your own fulfillment.

Don’t hide your gifts. Walk out into an apricot orchard. Look how an apricot tree turns the light of the sun and the nourishment of the soil into fragrant golden globes of juicy perfection. Fruit is a gift to be shared, a sweetness distilled from the dark of night and long hot days, a moment of fleeting glory bringing sustenance and delight to a hungry world. Your life is a similar gift the universe gives to itself. As the life-force pours through you it culminates in gifts of love, beauty and service. Hiding your gifts is a crime. They are not yours to hide. Shyness and false humility is an ego disease, a fearful and small-minded form of self-preservation. But all that’s preserved is a pitiable isolation and the deep sorrow of an unrealized life. “What shame,” the Afghan saying goes, “to die like a pomegranate with all one’s seeds still locked inside.” Because finally, the fruit you share bears seeds that will grow, bloom and bear fruit in the lives of others.

Get out. Summer calls us to the great outdoors. Holed up all winter, busy as beavers all spring, summer is the time to walk away from our desks and get out under a wide open sky. For a million years our ancestors lived in forests, savannas, deserts and alpine valleys. It was only yesterday that we invented ceilings and these confounded electric lights. Modern life has insulated us from the very cycles and processes of the natural world that gave birth to us – we have forsaken our mother. That restlessness you feel might be your soul’s longing for home, for we are made – body, mind, heart and soul – from the elements of the natural world. Summer is the time to step back into the primal home of our Pleistocene ancestors. Garden, gather, hunt, fish, camp, wander and wonder at the depth and breadth of our sweet mother earth. Embrace the life and death process by which nature feeds itself in a never-ending array of transformation. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Let a campfire, a ring of trees and a star filled sky be your home.

Unwind. Let the warmth of summer soften the coils of worry and woe that bound you during the long months of winter and spring. Emergence and becoming are naturally stressful and fraught with uncertainty. But now the course is set, the sails are full, whatever will be will be, and the peace of allowance drifts over us like the warm scent of jasmine blossoms. Find a hammock and let a whispering canopy of leaves and a veil of dappled light untie the knots that tangle your heart.

Rest. After the rampant growth of spring, when cells multiplied at a furious pace and expansion trumped every other concern, summer brings a welcome respite. Now it’s time to simply enjoy who we are, where we are and how far we’ve come. Savor the beauty of the world not for what it could be, but for what it is right here, right now. Gather some friends. Share the joys of the table. Waste away an afternoon on the beach. Skip dinner because the sunset is so beautiful, then eat cherry pie and ice cream with the abandon of a twelve year old. Drop your expectations, your tactics, your shoulds and shouldn’ts and simply let the world be what it is today. Take a break from your brilliant plan. Stop being so interested in what you think, and turn your attention instead to anything and everything but you. When we soften our grasp and let it be we enter into a necessary and nourishing time of rest and restoration, a season of Sabbath, a vital shift from human doing to human being. Every wave that crashes slips passively, restfully back into the sea. What made you think you could accomplish more by ceaselessly surging?

Allow joy. When we unwind and move toward restfulness, our eyes, ears and hearts open like pores in the heat of July. Suddenly life gets a little easier and we return to a simplicity our busy mind cannot understand. Old forgotten joys return to us – the perfection of peaches and cream, diving into a cool clear mountain lake, the smell of the grill at the neighborhood block party. It is in these moments we realize that joy is not something we have to strive for. It is not a hard-won prize that lies at the end of a long road of struggle and achievement. Joy is an ever-present mode of consciousness that our busyness and striving smother, like a wet blanket over a fire. When we pull back and rest in the presence of the here and now, joy naturally arises of its own accord. It is not something we create. It is something we allow and perceive when we have the ears to hear, the eyes to see and the heart to feel it. Our job is not the manufacture of joy but the inner work that moves us into receptivity and allowance.

Marvel and wonder. In the end, summer is a time of great miracles and endless magic. There is no limit to the boundless mystery of existence, and in the long warm days of summer this infinite parade goes right through our heart like cupid’s arrow. We fall in love with the messy world just as it is, and we feed on the bounty at our feet. We become again as a child, and gaze in wide wonder at rivers meandering through meadows of columbine in a lingering twilight while in the distance lilting fireflies grace the boughs of the darkening trees, and high above, the stars one by one return to take their rightful place in the order of things. We stand on the shore of a vast ocean. Our toes are barely wet, but we feel in our soul the infinite reach of the cosmos present in every grain of sand. In the loving gaze of our dog, in the kindness of a stranger on the train, in the unearned grace of good fortune, we feel the divinity of a purposeful, meaningful universe – a place where we belong, where each of us teaches, learns and grows in the wisdom of summer.