How do you lean into the gifts of summer when it is rainy or cloudy and not very summery?
This is what a reader from Tauranga at the end of last summer. Sarah wrote to me, wondering, ‘Many of the summer blessings you describe in Dancing with the Seasons are things like long lazy days outdoors, picnics, beaches, barbecues, sunshine . . . hard when the weather doesn’t play ball!’
Last year’s summer was a time of cyclones and floods. Even this year, with hot days predicted, rain fell over Christmas, sending holiday-makers inside to do jigsaws.
Have you ever had a wet summer holiday or had to pack up the tent and come home after constant rain? Were you feeling disappointed?
Sometimes the season matches our expectations and at other times the two are in contrast.
We cannot control the weather
But we can take charge of our own thoughts and attitudes.
Sarah began this process by noting that summer is about more than the weather. She said, ‘I suppose it is still embracing things like longer days, seasonal fruit, and time off work/with loved ones’.
She was ‘interested in any other thoughts about making the most of a summer season when it fails to really get going!’
I love it when readers who have been using my books, begin to ponder more deeply about the seasons. Sarah’s questions set me thinking too and took me down many tracks, including thoughts on our responsibility for climate change.
I decided to focus on a few aspects, and here’s the first.
Inner and outer seasons
In ‘Dancing with the Seasons’ I link the outer seasons with the inner seasons.
A summer, with bountiful sun and long outdoor days, certainly supports cultivation of relaxation and enjoyment.
When the outer season fails to deliver — as in a sun-starved summer — do you grump and complain about how nature has short-changed you? Do you build up inner thunderclouds and dark storms? Do you cultivate an inner winter?
The inner summer
I experience the inner summer as spacious and heart-opening. It’s a time for loving connection with others and celebration of life; to feel radiance and gratitude.
Can you experience these qualities when the rain is pouring down and the skies are grey?
Spiritual qualities may be experienced in all seasons
A Swedish proverb says:
A life without love is like a year without summer.
What does this mean to you?
For me, the proverb links a spiritual quality with a season and is a reminder of how we create paucity when we deprive ourselves of a quality such as love. It reminds me to attend to what inner seasons I am creating. Am I rich in harvest, open to the tender delights of First Light, the depths of winter dark, or the gratitude of First Fruits, for example?
There is more to seasons than meets the eye.
Cultivating the inner sun
I remember a conversation I had with a friend many years ago. Having both grown up in Taranaki, we loved to see the mountain. However, the mountain would often disappear behind a shroud of clouds.
We talked about how we both sense the mountain’s presence, even when it can’t be seen. We could point to where it was. Its magnetism was felt.
So it is with the sun. Can you feel its presence even when rain or clouds block it from sight? Can you still feel warmth in your heart when chilly winds make your body shiver?
In the dark of winter, indigenous people have developed practices to encourage the sun. These are not just magical wishes; they create a connection.
Lighting bonfires, rolling sun wheels down hills, making sun symbols, and much more: you can read about these practices in Celebrating the Southern Seasons and other books I’ve written. When the outer season disappoints, you too may find practices to help you connect with the inner season for which your soul yearns.
I sometimes wonder what enabled the writer Albert Camus to say:
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
A practice for today
Last summer, in the middle of the days of constant rain, I was given a qigong practice called ‘Holding the Golden Urn’. With uplifted, cupped hands, I was asked to imagine I was holding an urn, which was filling with the sun’s energy, and then slowly to imagine bringing that energy down into my heart.
The practice filled me with joy.
I offer you the Golden Urn practice and many others which you will find in my book ‘A Cup of Sunlight’. When you bring the sacred into your daily life, your cup will be forever full.
Books for a rainy day