Happy Summer Solstice everyone! It’s hard to believe that the longest day of the year is upon us again. (I will holding a special Zoom event this Sunday at 4 pm to mark the Summer Solstice together – with details here. There are still a few spaces if you’d like to join us.)
Over the past few weeks, I’ve wondered about sharing views and thoughts here around what’s been going on in the world but I haven’t felt inclined to do so – primarily because every time it’s crossed my mind, words have felt futile. It felt as if I would’ve been pretending to “know” – when I don’t. Clearly there is so much we just don’t know – perhaps now more than ever.
Instead, time walking and sitting with nature, paying attention, silence and listening, really listening to what is going on – has felt vital and precious. Still, I thought I’d attempt to share a few words here as we enter the Solstice – which feels like a good opportunity for reflection.
It seems to me that we’re currently experiencing a screaming global reminder that life is uncertain, interconnected and perhaps not as controllable as we’d like to believe. Of course, these have been factual realities all along – but the structures of our modern society have never been attuned to them. However, the uncertain, interconnected and uncontrollable nature of life is undeniable. And in my view, our only way forward has to be to acknowledge and adapt to them. This is going to require huge creativity, compassion and patience at the global level.
It seems that overall, our responses to life’s events are guided by two main forces: fear and love. And reassuringly perhaps, both have seemed equally prominent across the globe over the last few months.
Of course, fear is normal and healthy in these challenging times – we’re naturally built to fear when our lives and those of our loved ones are threatened. But our society’s structures also use this to breed unnecessary further fear and panic. There are many reasons for this which I don’t want to dwell on here. Instead, I’d just like to suggest that wherever possible, we consciously continue to listen out for love, hope and compassion over fear. Like fear, love, hope and compassion are also naturally within us. We’re hardwired for belonging and connection – our lives depend on these too. What if we allowed ourselves to be guided more often by them than by fear?
In practice, I feel the focus here has to be on our day-to-day lives- within ourselves and the relationships we have (with other people, with nature, with the world). In my view, the “work” always starts at home,
As well as a chance for seasonal celebration, could this Summer solstice also be an invitation for us to pause and reflect? A chance to ground ourselves in light and hope again?
Could we remember to treat ourselves with gentleness and compassion? Could we remember to do the same for each other and the natural world we’re part of? Could we commit to nurturing authenticity and understanding over division and conflict?
When uncertainty and suffering triggers fear and anxiety like it has in recent months, we need an antidote – not as a distraction (we need to acknowledge fear and suffering) but as compassionate medicine. Where do we feel grounded and safe? What brings us joy and lightness? Where is there beauty? Because these are all present in every moment as well, if we’re open to receiving them. I feel that it is through supporting and healing ourselves in this way that we will start to bring forth a happier, more peaceful world. Indeed, it’s unlikely that we’ll find creative ways forward fuelled solely by panic.
It also feels important that we really focus on taking each day one moment at a time, because ultimately that is the only way to adapt to uncertainty.
Throughout the ‘lockdown’, I’ve been inspired and uplifted by what some of you have been sharing on the Sit Spot group (with details here) and in the online “Zoom” sessions we’ve had every other Sunday to reflect together and share experiences of nature. Thank you all for your contributions to these – they certainly keep me connected with beauty in these difficult times.
I’d like to finish by sharing this poem by Mary Oliver which always feels appropriate for the Solstice. It also feels relevant to some of the reflections I’ve shared here. Indeed, “you can die for it, an idea or the world” but does the sun not “blaze for everyone of us, every day as it rises”?
Sunrise by Mary Oliver
die for it-
or the world. People
have done so,
their small bodies be bound
to the stake,
fury of light. But
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun
for everyone just
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
Whatever our situation, it’s important to acknowledge that these times are hugely challenging, exhausting and confusing in different ways for us all.
My personal hope is that, as best we can, we continue to “enter the fire” together, every day, choosing life, love and compassion with patience, one day at a time.
Happy Summer Solstice all and I hope to see some of you on Sunday (Details here.)