We usually think of summer as a chance to get out of routine, to relax, be refreshed, revived and invigorated.
To BE REFRESHED this summer we need to change our "occupation" - change what we are doing.
Charles Simmons, and American of the 19th century, gave us more help when he said, "To recreate strength, rest. To recreate mind, repose (be motionless). To recreate cheerfulness, hope in God, or change the object of your attention to one more elevated and worthy of thought." NOTE: Simmons did not suggest farm out the kids, take yourself off for me time, go do that something you've always wanted to do for yourself. These things could help but they need to be put alongside actions which give REST, our BEING MOTIONLESS, and THINKING ABOUT SOMETHING WORTH THINKING ABOUT.
So how do you do this?
1. I'm suggesting we start with a SIMPLE METHOD OF USING THE 5 SENSES God made us with - our Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth and Feel or Touch.
(A) The Hospital Sign - a couple of years ago when I was in hospital, there was a sign on the wall of the room which said, "Take 5 deep breaths every 5 minutes to help deal with your pain" - as well as helping with pain it relaxes you, brings blood pressure down and chases away gloominess. Breath in deeply and slowly, hold your breath for a moment then slowly breath out. Try it now.
(B) Smell the fragrances of the flowers, leaves, trees, bark, bush, ocean, seaweed, sea breeze, air just before rain... This is not freaky or earthy, it's normal and was a common routine a couple of generations back. Take the time to do it today.
(C) Burn incense or aromatherapy candles.
(A) You need 5 minutes - sit down outside at the beach, in the bush, a garden... and take your time to look, moving your eyes slowly, stopping to study things that interest you (not the bikini teenagers). It helps to be still and quiet.
(B) You need 5 minutes - again sit down outside after finding a natural object - a leaf, rock, feather, flower, shell, seed pod, critter... Take your time to look closely at the detail of the object.
(C) You need 5 minutes - find something outside that has negative space (if you hold up your hand with your fingers apart, the space in between your fingers is negative space) - e.g.. the branch of a tree, a spider's web, shadows on the ground, seaweed on rocks. Focus on the patterns you find in the negative space. Be still and quiet.
(A) Listen to the sound of moving water - waves rolling on the beach/rocks, water trickling in a fountain, pouring into a glass, in a shower, going down the drain... It helps if you close your eyes. I love listening to water and think it is very relaxing.
(B) Stop and listen to the singing and sounds of birds - at the beach, early morning, end of the day - birds often congregate in trees at sunset. This is my husband's favourite. He says it brings back childhood memories of watching dawn from the farm cowshed.
(C) Listen carefully to your favourite music with earbuds if necessary, or listen carefully to your own voice as you sing.
(A) Savour the tastes you love in food and drink. Why do you love them - focus on their texture-the smoothness of the chocolate, the fizziness of the sprite or champagne, the chewiness of the chiabata bread, crunchiness of the fresh snappy biscuit..
(B) Take up smiling - when you drive, do the dishes, take a shower, and do the jobs you really don't like. This simple habit does relax you, brings down blood pressure and draws good old-age lines on your face.
(C) Practice kissing...
FEEL or TOUCH -
(A) Self massage your hands, feet, leg or arm muscles, your forehead, ears and into your hair on your head.
(B) Close your eyes and use a leaf or fern to soft stroke your face, arms or legs.
(C) In a pool or the sea with no surf, float for a few minutes, be motionless. OR lie down on the ground under a tree, closing your eyes and thinking about how you feel. In winter you can do a similar thing by wrapping up in warm clothes, hoodies, scarves, jackets and lie down on outdoor furniture, or on the sand at the beach, or inside on a couch, doing nothing else but thinking about how you feel.
WAYS TO PRACTICE THIS METHOD -
Explore one of the 5 senses each day of the week - Monday-Nose, Tuesday-Eyes, Wednesday-Ears ... through to Friday. OR Pick one eg of relaxing and continue practicing it all week - e.g. this week deep slow breathing, next week listening to bird songs....
The point is to not just do it once and forget it, keep going back to your one relaxing choice throughout the day, so you keep relaxing yourself.
2. The daring choice of SETTING YOURSELF A CHALLENGE, daily or weekly. No, being a mum or dad is not the sort of challenge I'm meaning. To take up a challenge involves a contest, a trial or difficult task as in the past when challenges were issued to joust or duel. It was serious and life-threatening. I'm not encouraging you to go to this extent. The point is we need to be stretched or challenged in our "recreation", as Shakespeare said, "change our occupation", or as Simmons said, "change the object of our attention to one more elevated and worthy of thought." A challenge often brings this - a buzz of action, excitement, determination, energy... which refreshes us. A challenge will be different for each person.
How do you find a challenge? Often they are right there in the back of you mind or just in front of you ready to be picked up. Jessica Watson had been dreaming about her challenge for years before she actioned it. Jessica Watson. Arianna Stasinopoulos' challenge was almost impulsive but it did take time till it came into reality. Arianna Stasinopoulos.
One of my sisters told me she had read that it was good for everyone once they turned 40, to learn something new, every 5 years. To start from scratch, become a learner, a 'baby' again and go through the process of feeling useless, but by practice and perseverance, with lots of failures, to gradually improve and feel that excitement of developing skills. It is true.
A challenge for me this year has been in being part of a mums group which involves giving talks at times. I have never enjoyed the 'speaker' role as it's out of my comfort zone, but I'm working at it.
Another challenge last week was cutting our hedges. Normally I begin trimming them before we get into November, but I'd put-off the job, so tackled the generous summer growth in one hit. It was a physical challenge which I spread over 4 days a couple of hours per day. But as Shakespeare points out it was a change for me and yes it "eased" my "wearied parts", and slept well each night.
What challenge will you choose to tackle over summer? It must stretch you, but you need to be committed to it.
3. There's a third way you can be refreshed this summer and it's summarised in this quote.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11 : 28 - 30 The Bible.
This talks about finding true refreshment, "recovering your life", not just having a happy summer holiday. This Christmas and summer I hope you will want to find refreshment like this, refreshment that lasts. Feel free to comment here or email me if you prefer - firstname.lastname@example.org
"LIVING WELL THROUGH THIS SUMMER : FOR CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS" - next week.
Have a GREAT Christmas - 3 days to go!!!! and wonderful summer (you Northern Hemisphere people just have to wait for it).