Now that we’re well into the summer season, it’s easy to see the steady subsiding of daylight. Yet, while the ebbing of light reminds us that fall isn’t far away, the warmth of August is still all summer. This month is a time of fulfillment: everywhere we look, gardens are producing a perfection of ripening crops and burgeoning flowers. Soon it will all be gone but now nature is a feast. With the darkening of fall so close and the heat of summer so present, more than any other season, this late summer month urges us to appreciate the moment, to “be” rather than strive; to live in the fullness of what is and be grateful.
I always experience a kind of stillness about this time of year. The expansive growth of spring and summer has spread outward nearly to its limit and in August everything seems to stop for a moment as energy, set all in one direction for nearly half a year, approaches a turning point. In the creative process, it’s akin to the final completion of a project, right before the empty let down that precedes the beginning of the next one. By contrast, stillness of late winter is a time of living empty and pregnant with possibility right before bursting into new growth. August is a time for living full right before it all ends.
Chinese medicine relates this time of year to “grounding” and digesting. It’s not enough to work hard and produce a successful metaphorical crop. For health and well-being we also need the capacity to be present in the moment, in touch with the earth around us, and able to take in and digest the fruits of our labor. We need to be willing to receive.
Receiving is a key, yet often overlooked, aspect of empowerment. It’s easy to become so fixed on the goal and the process of achieving that we forget to be receptive. We may even unconsciously deflect what we most want without realizing it. When we often feel burned out, that we’re doing too much alone, that our efforts are greater than the rewards and we’re somehow missing out on the joy of life, we may be forgetting to receive.
It’s an easy thing to forget. Our culture is so goal-oriented and, consequently, future-oriented that many of us have this tendency ingrained to some extent. We get to thinking that our happiness depends upon achieving certain external outcomes such as a successful career, lots of money, the perfect relationship or a nice house, and then we postpone happiness, doing whatever we have to do to achieve our goal, telling ourselves that we’ll get our reward later. And, while we may succeed in getting the external things we aim for, we may never receive the experience of happiness we were hoping for. By the time we reach one goal we may have already formulated the next one and skip right over the joy of having arrived because we’re so focused on how far we still have to go.
Receiving isn’t simply about accepting what we want when we want it, on our own terms. I’ve often seen people think they have no problem with receiving—it’s just that what they want hasn’t shown up yet! These folks are often holding out for the big prizes they’ve set their sights on while deflecting dozens of small gifts each day. I tend to think that God will only give us as much good as we can stand to receive and if we refuse or ignore the small gifts, we won’t be burdened with bigger ones!
If life’s big gifts are eluding you, ask yourself these questions: When you see a nickel in the street do you pick it up and feel richer or do you pass it by, wishing it were a $20 bill? When someone compliments you, do you appreciate it and say thank you or do you look away, make a joke, and say something self-deprecating? If someone offers to buy you lunch, do you graciously receive it, automatically refuse it, or accept it but feel uncomfortably indebted? When you receive presents, do you enjoy them or are you hard to please with gifts? Is your mind so busy with thoughts of what you’ll have to give back in reciprocation that you don’t feel much pleasure in the receiving? When someone offers to help you, do you gratefully receive it or insist that you can manage alone? (Do you assume you can manage alone more easily than with help?) And, when someone loves you, do you feel blessed by this most precious gift or do you retreat in fear? Do you find the love of only a specific few to be valuable and fail to appreciate the many others who care about you?
If you’re starting to recognize in yourself some of these signs of poor receiving, you’re far from alone, but this is the perfect time of year to begin a new habit. This month, start noticing that there is always something to receive from life. Make a point to recognize all the large and small gifts that come to you and receive them fully. Keep a written account of them. Receive each gift as gratefully and openly as you can, letting go of any of your usual methods of refusing or ignoring God’s gifts. The more you cherish what’s offered, the more you’ll find yourself attracting what you most cherish.
And the next time you walk out of doors, take a moment to just give yourself entirely to the sensations of temperature, breeze, smells, and colors. Breathe deeply and let yourself fully experience the pleasure of the moment. If your mind needs to chew on something, simply repeat over and over a phase such as, “I am overflowing with the richness of life.” Making time to pause and appreciate life’s simple gifts may very well help you recognize and open to other quality-of-life experiences that have been passing you by. Enjoy!