The Moment That Is Summer

Did you grow up with a longing for summer? Even if you have no connection, as an adult, to the education system, summer can remind you what it was like to be a child, the celebration of the end of the school year, warm weather, and vacations. And if you’re a teacher and don’t teach summer school or don’t have to work a second job (or maybe even if you do), or you’re a student, you can have free time once again.

 

The longing for summer is, for me, a longing for renewal. This morning, I woke up early and went outside. Our home is in a small clearing surrounded by trees, flowering bushes and flowers. Two crows were screaming as they flew past. The shade from the trees was vibrant, cool and fresh, the colors sharp and clear. The light so alive it wrapped the moment in a mysterious intensity. Time slowed so deeply that once the crows quieted, the songs of the other birds and the sounds of the breeze just added to the silence.

 

This is what I look forward to. Even now that I’m retired, I so enjoy summer. It doesn’t matter to me if it gets too hot and humid or if it rains (or if it doesn’t rain). This is it. I actually hear my own life speaking to me.

 

When I was teaching, summer was a time to fill up with life outside my classroom. A big desire was to visit beautiful places, to see an ocean, a mountain, or forest. I meditated every day. I also took classes or read books about whatever interested me, or whatever would reveal something new about the world that my students and I faced, whether it was quantum physics, writing, mindfulness, neuroscience, philosophy, history, and karate. I wanted to learn something meaningful and feel like a kid again, and a student, open, fresh, playful. We all need this, so we can renew our ability see beauty even in winter; so even when there is too much to do, or life seems frightening, we can know moments of freshness and quiet exist. Not just as memories but reminders. Renewal can happen at any time. We can let go. Time can dissolve into silence.

 

Summer can allow us to let go of last year so we can greet this year as something welcome and alive—so we can learn to find this very moment as unique and enticing. All seasons can do this for us. They provide a natural rhythm to life, if we can feel it. They provide a teaching. This very moment and this earth that we walk on—they sustains us, and are never separate, never distant.

 

In the high school philosophy class I taught, we often read a book by Jeremy Hayward called Letters to Vanessa: On Love, Science, Awareness in an Enchanted World. It is a book written by a Buddhist teacher and quantum physicist to his daughter, to help her perceive the enchanted nature of the world, and not just the corrupt and threatening one many of us humans are taught to imagine and thus help create. He mentions a Navajo concept of Ho’zho, or beauty: “Beauty before me, beauty around me, beauty ahead of me.” (p. 16) We can walk the earth with beauty. Likewise, Japanese Buddhists have a term, sho shin or first, beginner’s mind. When we let go of the distractions, delusions and fear, and see the world in sho shin, the world is full, alive, and fresh. We see the world and other people more directly and clearly.

 

So summer is not just a time to let go, relax, and prepare for a new year. It is a time to invest in the only sure investment—into our mind and heart and how they (or it) reveal the world to us.

 

Happy Holidays!

As you know, the holidays are traditionally a time to get together with family and friends. It is a time to relax, have a good time, share gifts and stories with others. But that’s not all.

 

Humans have celebrated the winter holidays possibly forever. The time is obviously near the solstice and the longest reign of night, at least in the Northern hemisphere. For us northerners, it is the darkest and coldest time. It was traditionally a time to engage in rituals to assure that the sun will come again, that spring will follow winter, renewal follow hibernation, warmth follow cold.

 

Many holidays have this sacred dimension or shadow that connects us to a depth of history. This history is not just about days of religious significance. These holidays provide workers a break from intense labor. They signify recognition of shared humanity, however dim that recognition often was in the past and might be so today. Every one of us needs time to renew, rest, and connect with others. Every one of us needs time to step back, contemplate why we are here on this earth, to renew our selves and relationships with fellow humans and the earth that sustains us. The fact that we have days of rest is beyond a right; it is a sacred necessity. Humans fought for a five-day work week, for example, against other humans who would oppress them, and were successful.

 

So this year, everything is both normal, like always, and yet totally different from any other time. Never have Americans had a President-elect who brings with him such frightening unknowns. Yet, day follows night. You wake from sleep. Many things continue as they have. Much is changing; much is staying relatively the same. It is time to determine exactly what, on the level of your daily life, might benefit from a change. It is not just the President or his cabinet that might need opposing and changing. It might be something in our daily lives that needs changing. This time of ritually facing the darkest time of year might remind us that in some ways, this is what nature calls to us to do, to face the darkness so the light will come again.

 

Have a great holiday. Renew, enjoy, and celebrate with friends and family. It is something you need and deserve, and a reminder that what you need can be fought for and won.

Summertime

This is my third summer writing blogs. Do we all grow up with a longing for summer? Even if we have no connection, as adults, to the school system, summer can remind us of childhood, the celebration of the end of the school year, warm weather, and vacations. And if we’re teachers and don’t have summer school or don’t have to work a second job, (or maybe even if we do) we can have free time once again.

 

The longing for summer is a longing for renewal. What does that mean? This morning, I woke up early and went outside. Two crows were screaming as they flew past. Our home is in a small clearing surrounded by trees, flowering bushes and flowers. The shade from the trees was vibrant, cool and fresh, the colors sharp and clear. The light so alive it wrapped the moment in a mysterious intensity. Time slowed so deeply that once the crows quieted, the songs of the other birds and the sounds of the breeze just added to the silence.

 

This is what I look forward to. Even now that I’m retired, I so enjoy summer. It doesn’t matter to me if it gets too hot and humid or if it rains (or if it doesn’t rain, sigh). This is it. I actually hear my own life speaking to me.

 

When I was teaching, summer was a time to fill up with life outside my classroom. A big desire was to visit beautiful places, to see an ocean, mountains, and forests. I meditated every day. I also took classes, at the Omega Institute, Universities, meditation centers, in whatever interested me. I wanted to learn something new and meaningful, feel like a kid again, and a student, open, fresh, playful. We all need this, so we can renew our ability see beauty even in winter; so even when there is too much to do, we can know moments of freshness and quiet exist. Not just as memories but reminders. Renewal can happen at any time. We can let go. Time can dissolve into silence.

 

Summer is a season, a rhythm of nature, a pulse of change. Because of the beauty of summer, it’s hopefully easier to notice and accept change, and thus ourselves, to see life in all its complexities. We are alive thanks to change. To breathe, our lungs expand and contract. To eat or speak, our lips change position. We can feel the pulse or all the different rhythms of life. There are biological rhythms. There is the circadian (around the day) rhythm, the 24 hour sleep-awake cycle. There is the ultradian (within or beyond the day) rhythm, a 90-120 minute cycle controlling things like dream cycles and which hemisphere of the brain is dominant. There are monthly cycles. What other biological rhythms do we have? Our blood has tides. Cells oscillate. And all around us, cycles of the moon and sun, cycles of trees and animals. Cycles within cycles.

 

Cycles help fit us together. Not just us, people to people, but everyone to everything. Our internal rhythms can, if we pay attention, link us to external ones like time of day (sun cycle) or time of month (moon cycle). The more in tune we are with nature, the more in sync with ourselves. So this is another part of renewal, to feel this pulse, rhythm, and move with it.

 

T. S. Eliot wrote: “…at the still point, there the dance is …/Except for the point, the still point,/There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” One rhythm is the breath. Between the inhale and exhale is a natural pause, a natural quieting of mind, a still point, a summer. You can take time throughout your day to notice this, especially if you feel upset, confused, anxious or you need to make an important decision. We can use the stillness to refresh ourselves, learn new things to share, learn how to let go and dance, how to better relate with others and our world, and how to teach our students to do the same.

 

P. S. One example of not being in tune with nature is the starting time of many secondary schools. High school students in this country are seriously sleep deprived. Their natural rhythm is to stay up later and wake up later than adults. Several studies show that starting schools at 9 a. m. instead of 7 or 8 a. m. would improve student alertness and performance and decrease absences and depression. Students at several schools, including the Lehman Alternative Community School where I used to teach, brought such studies to the school board and were successful in pressuring this welcomed change in policy.

 

*New Addition: I just saw this posting on Facebook, meditating on the pause by Erin Ramsay.

Summertime 2

This is my second summer writing blogs. Do we all grow up with a longing for summer? Even if we have no connection, as adults, to the school system, summer can remind us of childhood, the celebration of the end of the school year, warm weather, and vacations. And if we’re teachers and don’t have summer school or don’t have to work a second job, (or maybe even if we do) we can have free time once again.

 

The longing for summer is a longing for renewal. What does that mean? This morning, I woke up early and went outside. Two crows were screaming as they flew past. Our home is in a small clearing surrounded by trees, flowering bushes and flowers. The shade from the trees was vibrant, cool and fresh, the colors sharp and clear. The light so alive it wrapped the moment in a mysterious intensity. Time slowed so deeply that once the crows quieted, the songs of the other birds and the sounds of the breeze just added to the silence.

 

This is what I look forward to. Even now that I’m retired, I so enjoy summer. It doesn’t matter to me if it gets too hot and humid or if it rains. This is it. I actually hear my own life speaking to me.

 

When I was teaching, summer was a time to fill up with life outside my classroom. A big desire was to visit beautiful places, to see an ocean, mountains, and forests. I meditated every day. I also took classes, in whatever interested me. I wanted to learn something new and meaningful, feel like a kid again, and a student, open, fresh, playful. I wanted to take in whatever I could. We all need this, so we can renew our ability see beauty even in winter; so even when there is too much to do, we can know moments of freshness and quiet exist. Not just as memories but reminders. Renewal can happen at any time. We can let go. Time can dissolve into silence.

 

Summer is a season, a rhythm of nature, a pulse of change. Because of the beauty of summer, it’s hopefully easier to notice and accept change, and thus ourselves. We are alive thanks to change. To breathe, our lungs expand and contract. To eat or speak, our lips change position. We can feel the pulse or all the different rhythms of life. There are biological rhythms. There is the circadian (around the day) rhythm, the 24 hour sleep-awake cycle. There is the ultradian (within or beyond the day) rhythm, a 90-120 minute cycle controlling things like dream cycles and which hemisphere of the brain is dominant. There are monthly cycles. What other biological rhythms do we have? Our blood has tides. Cells oscillate. And all around us, cycles of the moon and sun, cycles of trees and animals. Cycles within cycles.

 

Cycles help fit us together. Not just us, people to people, but everyone to everything. Our internal rhythms can, if we pay attention, link us to external ones like time of day (sun cycle) or time of month (moon cycle). The more in tune we are with nature, the more in sync with ourselves. So this is another part of renewal, to feel this pulse, rhythm, and move with it.

 

T. S. Eliot wrote: “…at the still point, there the dance is …/Except for the point, the still point,/There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” We can use the stillness of summer to refresh ourselves, maybe learn things like how to dance better, how to better relate with others and our world, and how to teach our students to do the same.

 

 

P. S. One example of not being in tune with nature is the starting time of many secondary schools. High School students in this country are seriously sleep deprived. Their natural rhythm is to stay up later and wake up later than adults. Several studies show that starting schools at 9 a. m. instead of 7 or 8 a. m. would improve student alertness and performance and decrease absences and depression. Students at several schools, including the Lehman Alternative Community School where I used to teach, brought such studies to the school board and were successful in pressuring this welcomed change in policy.