After a series of studies, scientists have recently determined that summer boosts our brain activity. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but it certainly is for me. This might also depend on where you live. It is easy to imagine that on certain beaches, drenched in sunlight most of the year, summer might not make as big a splash for the people living there. In the great Northwest, that is not the case. After a winter and spring when it seemed it would never stop raining, the sunshine and dry heat finally cleared away the moss, mildew and mold growing on my patio and in my brain!
This year it didn’t stop raining until late June when I could finally spend a week scrubbing moss from my patio, hauling the patio chairs and tables from the garage, filling empty pots with flowering plants, and arranging magazines, books, sunhats, cloth napkins and wine glasses on the table for a few welcome visits from friends. The sunlight streaming through the clouds, and the patio preparations did seem to clear my brain. Everything seemed lighter and energized at the same time, my thoughts, mood, muscles. So how can we best use the new brain activity and energy that summer time brings?
Here are seven ideas:
1. Of course, get outside: bike, hike, garden
2. Bring friends around a beach fire for a drumming circle
3. Begin an activity you’ve always wanted to try; now is the time!
4. Take a class
5. Explore a nearby city you’ve never been to before
6. Engage in a conversation with someone you don’t know
7. Want to lose some weight this summer? Don’t diet. Try intermittent fasting; it’s all the rage. And it is also supposed to increase brain activity.
Happy sun worshipping!
The esteemed psychologist Carl Jung writes in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, "Thus it is that I have now undertaken, in my eighty-third year, to tell my personal myth."
Personal myths are stories we tell about events in our lives that bring greater cohesion to periods of chaos, meaning to moments of sorrow, understanding to confusion and more gratitude for the gifts life offers.
As we mature, the pattern and shape of our story evolves, expanding with our greater awareness and understanding. Significant events in our story may shift in the prominence we give them and who we believe we are, and who we believe we can be, changes over time.
How we tell our stories can shed light on our authentic core values bringing awareness to what really matters to us.
Telling our stories from a position of power will inspire even greater adventures and sure up hope and courage in those who hear them.
There are good reasons to explore our personal myths. Personal myths fulfill the same function as cultural myths; they bring meaning to our experiences and beg for the rituals that give purpose to life. The ancient Greek myths, Hindu myths, world myths from all cultures and times grew out of a desire to make sense of things. In many instances personal myths are expressions of these larger global myths. For this reason, it can be beneficial to reflect on the themes in historic myths.
Learning of cultural myths and the characters who play them out, we often identify with one hero or another, their particular qualities and challenges. As with the gods and heroes in these stories, we suffer struggles and glory in triumphs. Also like the gods we give these events particular meanings often determined by our own biology, culture, and interpersonal and transpersonal experiences.
Another way we can explore personal myth is by recording our nighttime dreams. Dreams and personal myths have similar functions. They both exist in part to make sense of and process disturbing or confusing psychic material too difficult or painful for the conscious mind to understand or explain.
Exploring personal myths in these ways can give us greater personal power. We all have core myths at the heart of our lives, stories about events that happened in our past that will often shape our future. Many of these stories reside deep in the subconscious mind hidden from us yet, influencing our decisions, urges and motivations. If we can shed the light of understanding on these stories, we may make better conscious decisions moving forward. There is power in re-framing, perceiving and interpreting our stories to shape the future we most desire.
There may in fact be danger in ignoring our personal myths and neglecting to discover the hidden meanings we give to them. If we do not consciously create our own personal myths, we may find ourselves trapped in someone else’s. We can be controlled unconsciously by giving greater significance to someone else’s interpretation of our personal story. In this way we unwittingly give ourselves over to someone else’s misguided imaginings. This kind of negligence can be fatal.
Almost every myth has both a dark side and a regenerative, spirit-filled quality. We may find ourselves living out a self-destructive myth where we view ourselves as victims of exploitation and addiction. Awareness is the first step toward awakening. Once we recognize that there will always be two aspects of the myth, we can seek out and expose the creative life-giving aspect. For instance, Carl Jung saw the alcoholic as a soul seeking the divine through the altered state of mind that alcohol can bring. Unfortunately this desire for the transcendent was deeply miss-directed. Alcohol for the alcoholic ultimately brings both spiritual and physical death. With this insight, many begin a conscious path, one of hope, humility and support. Through Alcoholics Anonymous, many individuals are set on the spiritual path that they were seeking all along.
Simply put, story plays out in our psyches and in our lives; we can positively engage these imaginings to heal our psychic wounds and thrive in work and love. Choose how you want to view your own story. Write your own script and include the view from heaven; beyond your intellect, how would your spirit, soul or senses tell your story?
Personal myth shapes our identities, helps us grapple with and re-frame difficult circumstances, brings fragments of our experiences into a coherent story and ultimately empowers us in moving forward creatively along life’s journey. Transform your story, transform your life and step more fully into your authentic self.
Making Travel Sacred
A friend explains that she is leaving on pilgrimage with a group from her church. She hopes the journey will bring more vitality to her spiritual life, which she says has been laying dormant for some time. Pilgrimage can certainly do that. At the same time she has concerns, depleting her savings account to make the trip, worrying about how family members will get along in her absence, and if her physical strength will hold up to the journey. These hopes and fears make sense and are common to many travelers.
There is great solace and comfort in joining together with other fellow travelers to share stories of holy paths and hardships along the way, great discoveries and deep loneliness that can surface during an extended journey. We learn from those who have traveled ahead of us, the best places to lodge, a favorite café, hidden temple, the train stop to avoid and so much more.
In fact gathering with others to share a meal and story is a wonderful ritual for our leave taking. There are many more. One person I know likes to sit on his suitcase for twenty minutes after it is packed and keep an open mind, open to what he may have left out that he really intended to pack. There are as many leave taking rituals as there are travelers.
Often our talisman is one of those things we don’t want to leave behind. This is any object that will comfort us on the path and keep us connected to those left behind. Some have a specific stone or ring, photo or book of poems. Old letters from loved ones can do just as well.
We can step into all of the blessings of travel, learning more about ourselves as well as receiving an education about a distant place. We may also find synchronistic moments and magical events that surprise us and bring our experience to a deeper level. We will inevitably be confronted with some form or degree of culture shock. And when we arrive home we may confront a different form of culture shock.
These travel experiences are renewed and revitalized in the sharing and help spark new visions of the open road. They also give comfort and help to those about to journey along a similar path. You may already have packed your walking stick or are simply dreaming of a possible destination. In either case gathering with others will spark greater creativity and courage for the journey. Think about joining us in my new workshop Travel as Sacred Practice on Saturday April 15th. firstname.lastname@example.org