The Pace of Summer

By Larry Seidl —

It’s been officially summer since the solstice on June 20, and the pace of life has hit its summer gear. As I write it’s 98°, languid until this moment, when the wind began to gust, as it has of late. I hope it helps it to cool off. I’d like to go outside, despite the heat, at least for a short time, to taste the wind, feel the cauldron. Summer has a pace only its own. The earth is farther from the sun at summer solstice, but its rays are more direct due to the angle of the earth’s axis. In the winter, which is the hot season below the equator, the rays are both direct and traveling a shorter distance to the earth. I haven’t researched extensively, but it always seems intensely bright and hot at the Australian Open tennis tournament every January. A brief glance reveals that seasons in south are less intense overall, due to the abundance of water in the hemisphere.

But it is summer here. School kids are mostly on break by now. Family vacations, outdoor barbecues and sleep away camp are in high gear. At the Shambhala Center, we have often reduced our summer program offerings, since these activities tend to take priority over dharma practice. It’s a wonderful time to be mindful though — to sit in the shade of a lazy hot summer afternoon and look at the mind in all its luxuriant aspects. The heat is often lulling, and it may be a bit more difficult to remain attentive, but the effort pays off handsomely. At least in my experience, the summer heat has brought forward unlooked-for intensity. This may be due partly to the fact that summer retreats at the Shambhala Mountain Center (now the Drala Mountain Center) were usually held in large tents.

Being in the heat of the day, after lunch, with the teacher giving a long and intense dharma talk, were at once extremely challenging, and also some of the most poignant dharma environments imaginable. I truly hope anyone who hasn’t experienced the Mountain Center in the summer will have a chance to do so. Due to damage from the Cameron Peak fire in the summer and fall of 2020, in which the large tent stands of the center burned and are not yet replaced, summer retreats are held in different parts of the land. But never fear, the tents will return!

Test your “dharma heat index” this summer. Read some intense dharma teachings. Try a long session practice in the heat. Watch your mind. Stay awake. Rouse your mind to the slow pace of summer.

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