How Are We Practicing Summer?
Many of us have begun to understand summer in new ways during the last few years. How are we practicing summer this year?
Some of us see summer as a time to get away. The kids are out of school and we can spend more time together. Summer may feel a little calmer or more deliberate than the rest of the year. We have more time for picnics, corn on the cob, and fireworks.
For other people, summer is just as frenetic as every other part of the year. Work does not slow down and there seem to be even more things for kids to do. We may take time to go to the beach, but so does everyone else.
Some of us even work harder in the summer than we do in other seasons. Summer is not a vacation, but the time for our real work to begin.
Like all the other parts of our lives, the ways we practice summer shape our experience of spiritual life.
We may have memories of summers which feed our expectations. Some of us want to recreate our experiences if we went to summer camp or took family vacations. There may be summers in which we learned deep lessons, summers which changed our lives.
Some of us experience summer as having a slower, less pressured pace of life. We may have opportunities to reflect and take stock of our lives we do not have at other times. Summer can be a time when we realize how we have grown or changed over the last year.
We start to assume spiritual life is like stretching out in the sun reading good books.
Practicing Summer is Not Taking a Vacation
It is easy to begin thinking spiritual life is like summer vacation.
We plan to get away, do something different, enjoy experiences the kids will remember. Maybe we can go to the mountains or the beach, to the woods or somewhere else special. We want to get away from the pressures of everyday life and get some rest.
It is important for us to find rest, and to create meaningful memories with people we love. We like to think spiritual life is about taking retreats and catching our breath. We see ourselves in a hammock swaying in the breeze, reading an entertaining book.
Practicing summer is not really a vacation for us.
The spiritual life within us, and in the world around us, is powerful beyond what we understand. It often takes time and hard work for us to be willing to open ourselves to that energy. We tend to try to rely on what we can figure out, ignoring the potential of spiritual life. Spiritual life often needs to wait for us until we am ready to release control.
Practicing summer is not about getting away and relaxing. It is not a special occasion for which we plan and save. Spiritual life changes the way we look at the world and the people around us each day. It helps us recognize the deeper truths in ourselves which often tend to elude us.
For me, spiritual life is more about waking up and seeing in new ways than about sleeping in.
Spiritual life is not getting away to escape the pressures of the world. It is about coming home.
Coming Home to Practicing Summer This Year
We get caught up in all the things we think we need to do. It is easy for us to forget we are human beings, not human doings.
Practicing summer is about being.
We begin to feel comfortable living out of a spiritual suitcase. All our responsibilities and expectations take us in so many different directions.
We enjoy the thrill of exploring new places and experiences. There are people to meet, stories to share, flavors and aromas and sounds to sample. Our lives are constantly taking us to new places.
It is easy for us to begin to think all our responsibilities make us important people. We are valuable because our services are in demand.
It is important for us to find our way home.
Personally, my sense of home is intimately related to spiritual life. Finding our way home is not about a particular city or a specific house. It is more about being welcomed than about being productive.
Coming home this summer is not about creating experiences or expectations on which to base the future. It is not a matter of reading as many great books as we can while we have time.
Finding our way home this summer is about developing attitudes and rhythms which will last.
Finding our way home means welcoming ourselves home and remembering to be as well as do. Our intention is to become more healthy, not lie in the sun so long we get burned.
We hope practicing summer prepares us for the rest of the year.
Practicing Summer This Year
We may remember summers which shaped how we understand ourselves. Practicing summer this year can be more than pleasant memories.
Coming home this summer could be a turning point in how we experience and appreciate spiritual life. What we do this summer may change the way we live into spiritual life.
Where are the welcoming parts of our lives which help us grow and remember? How can we strengthen those welcoming places in our everyday lives?
We can begin with something as small as 10 or 15 minutes a day. Trying a few minutes each day reading, or listening, or praying will make a difference. We try to practice something which gives us life and we find our way home.
It may be as simple, and as challenging, as paying attention. Taking a walk each day and noticing what is around us. It may be the aroma of flowers or the sounds of city life.
Paying attention allows us to recognize spiritual life welcoming us in the world around us. As we learn to notice we begin to find spiritual life within us as well.
How can practicing summer be a contemplative practice for us?
Where will practicing summer take us this year?
[Image by BestKevin]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.