Summer Spirituality

By Bruce Epperly

photo courtesy of alancleaver_2000 via C.C. license at FlickrFor me, summer truly begins with the coming of the fireflies and afternoon gin and tonics. Well, perhaps, just with the coming of fireflies, since in my household gin and tonic is an all-season libation. In many places, summer isn't what it used to be -- lazy, hazy, crazy days of pick-up baseball, afternoon naps, beer and fishing, putt-putt golf, and afternoon reading till you fell asleep. The 24/7 accessibility of cell phones, texting, iphones, blackberries, and electronic mail has made summer just like any other season for many of us -- in other words, busy and driven, with more tasks than time. Still, I believe that we can have spiritualities for the summertime that transform time, moving us from busy to blessed, and stressed to serene. Over the next few weeks, I will explore some summer spiritual practices -- practices that cool and soothe the weary spirit. 

Now I admit I like to be busy with creative tasks. I delight in spending time each day writing books and blogging; I rejoice in hatching creative programs and bringing them to fruition; I always have a notepad with me just in case some insight emerges as I'm shopping or waiting in line at the bank.  But, walking for the pure joy of it soothes and calms my spirit like nothing else.

Virtually every summer evening, I head out for a two-mile walk in my hilly Lancaster, Pennsylvania, neighborhood. In contrast to Rick Warren's "purpose driven life," I take a purposeless evening walk. Now, I must admit that my morning walk is quite purposeful as I join prayer, power walking, and affirmations. But, in the evenings, I simply graze on the wonder of it all. I let my senses roam -- perhaps, to see a solitary firefly sailing and shimmering across the yard or a shooting star or the sound of a familiar tune coming from a neighbor's open window. 

On my summer walkabouts, I have no purpose other than this present and holy moment of experience. But, in that Taoist openness to whatever emerges, my mind and heart are filled with wonder -- sometimes, I recall an event or person from my childhood or feel an emotion from an earlier time; other times, I receive an unexpected insight or solution to a problem or discover there's a problem at all; still other times, I simply behold the universe flowing into my life. Like the Psalmist (Psalm 8), I catch a glimpse of the immensity and grandeur of our universe and our lives within in. Still other times, I feel a connection with a friend that calls me to prayer. Like the firefly, I shimmer and glimmer as I walk these summer nights.

With no expectations, whatever happens is a gift. A paper weight on my study desk proclaims, "solvitur ambulando," it will be solved in the walking, and so it is, even when I find myself content with no solution or, better yet, the realization that there's really no problem to be solved.

So, along with the fireflies, I let my light shine on these evening walks. I rejoice in the slower pace, the letting go, and the opening to the gentle wisdom of the purposeless walk.