We often associate summer with its many pleasures: enjoying ice cream cones, cooling off at the beach or pool, and absorbing music or art at festivals. However, even beyond tantalizing our senses, summer has many lessons to teach. There are some lessons we associate with warm days as children, such as learning to swim or ride a bike. But there are others that adults would do well to heed:
It’s more than ok to just “do nothing.”
“Doing nothing” or “just being” can be an invaluable experience. Summer encourages this non-activity when it beckons you to simply sit and absorb the sun’s warmth – nourishing your body and soul. (Of course, when the warmth turns to scorching heat, you naturally seek shade – yet, your body still naturally relaxes its muscles and yearns to take it easy through the day.) In doing this, you give yourself a chance to reconnect with yourself – your thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs. You reconnect with your authentic self, which can infuse you with a sense of well-being.
By contrast, many people embrace enthusiasm and drive. These can be wonderful qualities, but many adults are overinvested in them. They try to do it all or put 110% effort into a particular activity. For those who try to maintain this level of effort, they often attempt to balance it by adding the expectation of “nurturing” themselves – such as by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and/or pursuing a hobby. Yet, they still suffer from intense fatigue. Why? Because they fail to recognize that they need time to just “be” and connect with their true or authentic selves.
So, take the time to listen to your body. Note how good it feels to simply relax, giving yourself a chance to “just be.”
Faced with a hostile or cold person? Radiate warmth.
The sun’s warmth seems to almost melt the tension in our muscles, relaxing our bodies. Our guarded readiness for engaging in the world drops as we open to the sun’s comforting nourishment. Similarly, we – like the sun – can be warm in our dealings with others. And, when we are, their resistance to us eases, leaving them more open to our influence.
This lesson is well-illustrated in a tale of how the sun and the wind had a contest to see who was more powerful. They agreed to see which of them could make a traveller remove his coat. The wind went first. He blew as hard as he could, but only managed to make the man hold on more tightly to his coat. Then the sun had his turn. He simply shone down, warming the air and the ground. The man soon relaxed his shoulders and then removed his coat. The lesson, of course, is that gentleness and warmth can be surprisingly powerful allies.
What the story leaves out is that radiating warmth is an equally powerful way to nourish and comfort yourself as well as others.
It’s best to live in rhythm with the day, every day of our lives.
Summer days have a natural rhythm. They often begin somewhat cool (especially the early and late ones), warming up as the day continues, and then ending again on a cooler note. So, it is best to water gardens and lawns and exercise in the early hours. Then, midday, you might be more inclined to enjoy swimming in cool water or simply napping in the shade. Finally, evenings bring an opportunity for relaxing walks.
If you pay attention, you’ll note that life is a lot like this in its rhythm over a lifetime. There are times for intense learning or productivity; and there are times for a slower appreciation and engagement in life. There are times to focus inwardly on personal growth and times to engage more in interactions with the world around you. As the bible says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
The rhythm of summer days, if you allow it, can highlight the rhythm of life. By paying attention, you can use these summer days to re-orient yourself toward living in accordance with the rhythm of your life. And by doing so, you will feel more at peace the life you are leading.
Of course, every season has its lessons. But we are in summer now. So, take the opportunity to enjoy its pleasures and absorb it lessons.
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She also writes a blog for WebMD (The Art of Relationships) and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships and Coping Community.
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Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Personal change through compassionate self-awareness