Friday, July 28, 2017

7 Summer Activities for Spiritual Growth


Many of us first come to spiritual practices in the summer. There is something about the changed pace of our lives during these months that makes it a little easier to dedicate time to growth on our path. Perhaps we have (or recall) moments of heightened sensitivity to the sacred while at camp or on vacation. For some the longer days invite reflection. Others are inspired by being around children on holiday from school; they model play and joy and wonder.

To encourage your exploration of practices this summer, we have designed a month's worth of activities. We've looked for ideas from the world's wisdom traditions as well as in books we've read.

1. GOLDEN DAYS.

Gold is the color of summer. In Tibet, it is known as the color for healing. In the first week of summer, welcome the season by filling your house and your workplace with golden objects, reflecting the color of the summer moons.

2. WALK FOR THE GLORY OF GOD.

"Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility," Gary Snyder writes in The Practice of the Wild. Make an intention that the next walk you take outside in nature will be dedicated to the praise of God. Walk slowly, keeping your senses attuned to the wonders that surround you. In appreciation, say this mantra: "Glory be to God."

3. GO BAREFOOT.

Let the child in you come out to play. Taking off your shoes changes your connection with the world. You relax and let your guard down. Chief Luther Standing Bear in T. C. McLuhan's Touch the Earth reminds us: "It was good for the skin to touch Earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred Earth. . . . The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing."

4. CONNECT WITH YOUR ANCESTORS.

In The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature, David Suzuki writes: "Air is a matrix that joins all life together. . . . In everyday life we absorb atoms from the air that were once part of birds and trees and snakes and worms, because all aerobic forms of life share that same air. . . . The longer each of us lives, the greater likelihood that we will absorb atoms that were once part of Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ, of Neanderthal people and wooly mammoths. As we have breathed in our forebears, so our grandchildren and their grandchildren will take us in with their breath." Get out in the open air and breath in the atoms of those who have preceded you. Thank God for these saints and forebears. Try to imagine someone breathing in your atoms after you have departed this life.

5. TEND YOUR GARDEN

In Creating Eden: The Garden as a Healthy Space, Marilyn Barrett writes: "Although weeding, cutting back, and transplanting are activities that may seem repetitive and never-ending, when seen as a necessary and integral part of the overall unfolding of the garden scheme, they become purposeful rather than boring. In fact, what may appear on the surface to be tedious physical work may, in the actual doing, be spiritually liberating. In taking time to contemplate the small — in observing the details of our gardens — we can experience life on a manageable scale." Get in touch with the spiritually liberating disciplines of attention, repetition, and humility while working in your garden. Experience your time there as a spiritual workshop.

6. FIND A NEW ROLE MODEL

Here's a good exercise by Ruth Baetz from Wild Communion: Experiencing Peace in Nature: "Meditate on a rock. Can you become that silent and still inside? Meditate on a cloud or blowing grass. Can you be that flexible and light inside? What personal quality do you want to develop? Find something in nature that has that quality and be it."

7. WASTE SOME TIME

"It does no good to think moralistically about how much time we waste. Wasted time is usually good soul time," Thomas Moore has observed. Summer is just the right season for idleness and just messing around with things. Quit doing and revel in just being.

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