I’m rather partial to August since it is my birthday month, although the older I get, the less I actually celebrate the passing years. However, August itself has a special charm. The flowers are all in full bloom, gardens are bursting and even though the days are growing shorter and the slant of light indicates that we are on the downward slope of the year, there still is plenty of sunshine and blue skies…something to be treasured when the grey, soggy Oregon winter returns. For many, despite the pleasant weather, August marks the start-up of the “new year”—school, parish activities, sports. It’s time to put away the sunscreen and start looking at computer screens, to get down to serious business.
Before we do that, I suggest we take a few August moments to make sure that our spiritual tanks are topped off before the next intense months begin. How you replenish and renew your soul is up to you, but here are a few ideas:
Sit outside. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a park, by a lake, in your backyard or even at a bus stop in the middle of the city. Just be sure it’s outside. Don’t take anything with you, but a notebook and a pen. Leave the cell phone, the iPod, the iPad, the e-reader and everything else that can demand your attention. Look around, really look around. Notice the colors, the shapes, the plants, the animals. Next, close your eyes and listen. Pay attention to every sound, no matter how faint or distant. Now, take a deep breath. What do you smell? Focus your attention on one scent and really let it flow through your senses. Finally, reach out and touch the area where you are sitting. Allow yourself to feel the textures, the surfaces, the material. When you’ve completed these exercises, open your notebook and without over thinking, write down what you’ve experienced. Don’t worry about getting it right. Just put down what you’ve seen, felt, smelled, and heard. Next to each item on the list, write the words—“I am thankful!” Allow the feeling of gratitude for simply being alive, in this time and place, to penetrate to soul-level.
Listen to a favorite piece of music. It can be “religious” but it doesn’t have to be, as long as it is something you truly like. Allow yourself to listen to a single track or even the entire album, not as an accompaniment to other activities, but as an activity in and of itself. Simply be in the presence of the music, letting the sound wash over your being, and know that music is truly a form of prayer.
Create something beautiful. You don’t have to be an artist to create beauty. A handful of flowers in a Mason jar can be beautiful. A plate of chocolate chip cookies with slightly burned edges can be beautiful. Fresh towels hanging on the rack can be beautiful. All too often we rush through the day, approaching everything as a “to do” on a list. Before the “to do” list scrolls out of sight, take the time to mark the beauty in the ordinary. Without beauty, the soul withers and shrinks.
Do a good deed, preferably anonymously. Nothing refills our spiritual tank like giving to others. It’s even better when the giving is spontaneous. Pay a genuine compliment to the checkout person at the grocery, perhaps about how carefully they package the produce. Hand a dollar to the guy standing with a sign on the corner (even if you know he’ll just use it for a drink). Pay for the latte for the person behind you in the coffee line. Just follow the prompting of the Spirit…you’ll know what to do!
While the taste of summer still remains, take the time to make sure that your own being is rested and restored. You’ll be glad you did when the crush and rush of fall arrives.