It happens every year and yet every year it seems to take me by surprise. Summer is busy! As the temperature heats up, so do the excitement levels. The compulsion to do all the things, meet all the people and to maximise the warmer weather is strong. Let’s face it who doesn’t love the sunshine and all the fun and exuberance that comes with it? But what is the cost of being ‘on’ all the time and engaging with every activity and opportunity that presents itself? And how do we counteract the extroverted energy of this highly-charged season?
The fact is, life is busy. And it gets especially busy in summer when weddings, BBQs and parties stack up in our diaries faster than our minds can even register. But in this flurry of fun we can sometimes forget to nourish our inner worlds or create space for our own restoration, replenishment and renewal.
Balance is a central teaching in Buddhist philosophy and the Buddha’s teachings (known as the Dhamma) are referred to as “The Middle Path” because he recognised that true joy is found in the sweet spot between any two extremes. We are guided to neither indulge in anything nor repel it but to find equanimity (balance of mind) in every situation and that involves resting when we need to. We simply cannot function at an optimum level if we are constantly doing. The pendulum needs to find an equilibrium - this is where true harmony lies and harmony is a component of happiness.
Creating space for downtime can be challenging in the midst of summer chaos and it is often tempting to say yes to too many things (FOMO gets the better of all of us!) Add in the intensity of physical heat and you have a recipe for an energy-draining experience if you’re not careful. But balancing our outer world with our inner world is essential for our wellbeing.
Being mindful of our energy levels and limitations are is a good first step but we need to take action too. The habit of the mind is to keep busy so we need to make a conscious effort to carve out time for rest and reflection in between all the activity.
One good way to achieve greater balance is through cultivating a regular meditation practice. Having a daily practice gives us a chance to check in with our inner world on a daily basis to see what it is we need - to rest, to socialise, to be active or anything else in between. And on a larger scale, by sustaining a practice throughout the seasons we train the mind to tune into the impermanent nature of all things which in turn helps us to appreciate the good when it’s here (the sunshine and lightness of summer) and recognise the fleeting nature of the difficult times (perhaps the cold and dark of winter). This wisdom of change is a grounding force that can help us overcome that dreaded FOMO more easily and gives us an internal anchor when life feels like a whirlwind. And once our batteries have been recharged we will have more energy to engage with the world when we need to!
SOME SUGGESTIONS TO HELP YOU SURVIVE SUMMER CHAOS —
Here are some suggestions to help you create some valuable space for yourself in the midst of summer madness:
Try meditating first thing in the morning before everyone in your house has woken up. Set your alarm a little earlier than usual (even just 10 minutes) and enjoy that time to yourself to sit and tune into the stillness of the morning.
Spend some solo time in nature if you can. You will still be making the most of the sun, just in a different way. Take yourself off for a walk in your garden, a park or some woodland (preferably without shoes on so you can ground properly) and enjoy the sensory experience of being connected to the earth.
Don’t overcommit. Try exercising your no rather than reacting to your immediate impulse to accept every invitation that comes your way. Have compassion for your future self and anticipate how you might feel after the third party in a row to help you find strength!
Prioritise relaxing activities that allow you to be mindful in between the busy-ness. Whether that is doing some laundry, making some elderflower cordial or walking the dog, choose to integrate these slow activities into your day to help soothe your nervous system.