The Joy Of Summer!
Wonderful summer – with long days and endless possibilities. As a child, my fondest summer memories include riding my bike with the neighborhood kids, afternoons at the pool, catching fireflies and road trips to grandma’s house, which only three hours away seemed like an eternity and always sparked carsickness. My summer days unfolded with no structured plans and lots of opportunities to play, explore and create. As a kid, summer was a time of little structure. It was a time to let my imagination go wild, discover the world around me, get dirty and stay up later. It was a season of growth. Like Henry James, a 19th century writer, said,
“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon. To me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
I tend to have a soft spot for summer too. On this first day of summer, I wonder if as an adult, we can capture that same summer spirit we enjoyed as a child.
Here are two ways to capture that spirit of our childhood and ultimately foster personal growth.
Allow yourself permission to rest and do nothing.
Unfortunately in our society, productivity is usually defined by measurable accomplishments. The ability to multitask is held in high regard. How many things did you cross off your to-do list today? How many emails did you send? If we are idle, we often feel guilty. Our minds are making a mental note of the things we feel we could and should be doing. We feel as if we are wasting time. Success and self gratification are too tied to measurable outcomes and the need to be productive all the time. It is o.k. to give yourself permission to quiet your mind and body without a feeling of guilt. It is during these times of rest that mental clarity happens and life’s decisions often become clear. John Lubbock, an English banker and writer of the 1800’s, once said,
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
Some people move a million miles an hour, always thinking five steps ahead and literally never taking time to smell or notice the roses. They do not notice a rainbow in the sky and think that the ocean is simply blue. When you make a conscious effort to slow down, you will notice the world around you and feel more present in your daily life. Feeling the sand between your toes, hearing the birds sing and noticing that the ocean is not just blue – but instead a magnificent array of colors, constantly changing and evolving with the passing day – this is experiencing life and not merely being a passive visitor.
So how do you slow down and be more present in your day?
Make a conscious effort each day to experience the world with your senses…sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing. If you have trouble learning to live through your senses, just watch children play. Children learn by using all of their senses. The greater the sensory input to the brain, the greater the degree of learning and growth. Last week I took my daughter to the Carmel River to play, a perfect playground for a sensory experience. I took a clue from the children and explored with my senses too. I felt the ice cold water numb my feet. I experienced the wet slimy moss between my toes. I heard the laughter of two dozen kids. I watched the river flow downstream and change it’s course. I smelled the horse manure as it filled the air from the nearby trails. I enjoyed the taste of fresh sweet strawberries for my picnic lunch. How did I feel? I was filled with a sense of peace and calm and very present in my day.
By taking a few extra moments to soak in a view, acknowledge the smells as you walk by a bakery or truly appreciate the taste of a meal, you will start to gain a greater appreciation for the world around you. It will ground you in the present. The here and now. Life will become richer. For ultimately, life is lived in the present. Mother Teresa said,
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
So on this first day of summer, take off your shoes, sit in the grass and sip lemonade. Quiet your mind and enjoy being present in the moment and in your day. Perhaps the summer spirit will endure throughout the year.