“The earth has music for those who listen.”
-poet Reginald Holmes (often attributed to Shakespeare)
June Greetings friends!
And Happy Summer Solstice! Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year light-wise and the official first day of summer.
The Summer Solstice is a lot like a full moon – a time of culmination, celebration, reaching the peak, expansive growth, big energy, the peak of the ‘yang’ cycle energetically. We’ve done it! Climbed the mountain of light, reached the summit of brightness!
Allow yourself to hang out here on top of the peak for awhile – to celebrate, bask in the glow, feel some gratitude for what has come to fruition.
But also know that eventually, we start the second half of the cycle, the descent. In moon terms, it’s the waning cycle, from full moon back to the dark new moon.
We don’t often think about what the Summer Solstice symbolizes because it’s smack dab in the middle of the bright summer, but it, too, is actually the very beginning of the ‘yin’ cycle – the return to darkness all the way until the Winter Solstice in late December when we start over with the yang cycle and welcoming back in the light.
It would be easy to think poorly of this half of the cycle. Nobody likes to think about the loss of light and the return to darkness, and it is certainly a faux pas in this part of the country to even mention winter in the middle of the beloved summer.
But life isn’t just about thriving in the good times, basking in the light, feeling joy and gratitude when everything is going our way.
It’s also about knowing how to find the sweetness, the beauty, the gratitude even during the hard times, the dark times, the times when things aren’t going the way we would like them to.
But it’s up to us to know HOW to do that.
HOW to find the sweetness and beauty no matter the situation. And it’s muuuch easier to begin to strengthen this sweet-seeking muscle while things are bright and vibrant than to wait for the dark times and then try to convince ourselves to look for the good.
I challenge you to start working your sweet-seeking muscle right now on this day of culmination and celebration! Keep reading and I’ll get you flexing that muscle in no time at all.
And know this isn’t a practice that is meant to delude you into keeping you stuck in a situation that truly isn’t serving your highest self – for advice on that, check out the last few newsletter articles on living a life aligned with your soul.
It’s just that sometimes in this crazy world, even with the best of intentions, life can start to feel a little dark, heavy, overwhelming, or stale.
But life is meant to be full of beauty and sweetness, we just have to learn to see it.
The Hummingbird: Master Sweet Seeker (also kind of a spaz)
The hummingbird is a fascinating creature.
Though it is the smallest migrating bird, they don’t let their size stop them as some will travel immense distances up to 4000 miles twice a year. And just to be uber tough as nails, they complete this migration alone.
They know nothing of slowness, as their name comes from the humming noise their wings make as they beat so fast – more than 50 times per second.
They are speedy – among the fastest fliers for their size, reaching speeds of 30-60mph.The only bird that can fly backwards, they are also extremely agile, able to make sudden movements up, down, and side to side effortlessly.
They stay extremely busy, visiting 1000-2000 flowers per day. Breathing 150 breaths per minute, they rarely stop to rest as they continue to hover in midair even while eating.
So used to seeing hummingbirds in constant movement, we’ve even created a myth that hummingbirds will die if they stop moving.
They are aggressive as they defend their food, and have big appetites. Eating 10-15 times per day, they feast almost exclusively on sugar in amounts that would be dangerous to other animals: flower nectar, tree sap, sugar water from feeders – and then just to avoid complete diabetes they balance this with additionally eating insects for protein.
As humans we marvel at these tiny industrious creatures and think, WOW how can they even manage to stay alive?!
Now, let’s be honest.
Are you living the life of a hummingbird?
A tough-as-nails, I-can-do-it-all-myself-
Moving so fast through life you generate your own humming sound in your wake?
Never stopping to rest during the day – not even while eating?
Completing your own 1000-2000 tasks per day?
A nagging feeling that you too might die if you actually stop moving and doing?
Breathing so fast and shallow you’re racking up anxiety and high blood pressure?
Just a little bit addicted to sugar?
I’m being silly, but I’m also…dead serious.
Perhaps it’s not in our best interest to model our lifestyle after such an inexplicable little creature!
Or, perhaps we’ve just honed in on the wrong qualities TO model ourselves after.
Because there is one thing that hummingbird does better than any other creature, and it’s something we certainly COULD use more of in our own lives:
Finding the sweetness in life.
Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
You still believe it to be
a beautiful place.”
-Iain S. Thomas (frequently attributed to Kurt Vonnegut)
As part of its very survival strategy the hummingbird must look for the beauty and sweetness in life.
It can literally starve to death in 3-5 hours. All of the other hardships and extreme qualities present in its existence aren’t what’s going to kill it. But if it stops looking for beauty and sweetness, it will die.
Interesting lesson to ponder, right?
What happens in our own lives when we stop looking for the beauty and sweetness?
We have the power to change our world by changing our perception.
If you expect the world to be harsh and people to be bad, this is what you will see.
If you expect to see the beauty in the world and the sweetness in each other, you will find that to be true.
We are co-creators of our reality – we always get to choose our perception.
What do you choose to perceive?
There is no shortage of bad news to perceive.
But what about the good? What if you just have to look a little closer? Listen a little harder? Perceive just a little deeper underneath the surface of what we’re told to believe?
My uncle Ray passed away two years ago, just before the pandemic came into our awareness. If there’s one thing I learned from him, it was the power of living with joy. There’s a reason I referred to him as Ray of Sunshine.
My dad and I recently went down to Florida to go through some of his belongings that were being stored at a friend’s house. In addition to one of his famous brightly patterned shirts and a pocket watch with a magical stag that was my great grandfathers, I also kept something that had been given to him by my grandparents years ago – a hanging glass with a phrase engraved upon it:
The earth has music for those who listen.
So he knew the secret. The secret to finding the sweetness.
That life is good for those who know HOW to live.
There’s a story I used to share in my yin yoga classes from The Tao of Abundance by Laurence G. Boldt: “A man leaves the remote peasant village of his birth and travels the wide world. After many years, he returns home. His friends, relatives, and neighbors gather round him and ask, ‘how is life in the world?’ He replies, ‘same as here. It is good for those who know how to live.”
What is this ‘knowing how to live?’
It’s knowing that sweetness doesn’t always just appear; sometimes you have to look for it. Sometimes you have to listen harder.
If we take a what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach to life, we are destined to miss it.
But if we look just below the surface, it is there. The sweet nectar of life. The beauty, the goodness, the music.
There is a similar quality to gratitude. We tend to think it is something that just happens to us, that we must wait around for that blessed moment when we truly feel grateful.
That we must wait for the winds of life to shift in order to truly experience the beauty and sweetness of life.
My friend, if you wait – you will be waiting for a very long time.
Instead, what if you try out one of the secrets of those who ‘know how to live’ and work on generating a little sweetness and gratitude right now?
Sweetness and gratitude – they work together.
Just for a moment, imagine you are the hummingbird.
Imagine that finding beauty and sweetness is essential to your wellbeing, to your very survival and existence, and that you need a new hit of sweetness every 10-15 minutes.
Ok, so you’re soaring through the air close to the surface so you can keep an eye on your sources of beauty and sweetness. You spot the most beautiful flower, you lock your perception on it, and boom – you zip down and lap up the sweetness.
What now? What else but gratitude? Gratitude, relief, peace, contentment, joy.
You have ten minutes. Begin seeking your next hit of beauty.
Did you get the metaphor? We don’t need to just imagine that beauty and sweetness are essential to our wellbeing and existence, they are! Just in the less literal sense.
But if you find the metaphorical sweetness severely lacking in your own life, yet you’re constantly reaching for literal sweetness in the form of a sugar addiction – yes there’s a correlation! We will seek sweetness in our lives one way or another.
Begin to hone your own radar for beauty and sweetness. Imagine if you, too, could move through the world with a fine-tuned sweet-seeking radar. Imagine how difficult it would be to miss all the good that is truly happening.
A single flower is easy to miss in a whole world. But somehow hummingbird finds it. You can too.
One of the best ways to start shifting your powers of perception is through a practice of gratitude. Just like in mindfulness, there is a formal and an informal practice.
When learning mindfulness meditation, you must commit to the formal practice – the sitting your butt down and doing nothing but meditating part – in order for that to then inform the informal practice, the part where you start to move through the world more mindfully, less reactively, more attuned to each moment no matter the task at hand. But without that formal practice, the informal is hard to attain.
This is the same with gratitude. Too many of us try to embody the informal practice before we’ve ever even attempted the formal practice. And then we wonder why we’re not that good at it, or why it’s so unattainable, or why those moments are so far and few in between.
It’s simple. Can you be a mathematician if you never practice math? Can you be a grateful sweet-seeking human being if you never practice gratitude?
Because I know how easy it is to put off starting a practice of gratitude and I know how quickly the logical brain will barge in and declare it silly or inauthentic or pointless, let’s not even wait – let’s begin right now.
Becoming a Sweet-Seeking Being
We’ll start off easy.
1. Think of something good in your life…
Don’t make it overly complicated – there is always something good whether it’s the delicious breakfast you ate or the fact that you have enough money to have food on your table or it’s a job that you love or a squooshy faced pet to snuggle with, etc – whatever is true in your life.
And then say out loud, feel internally, or write down: I am so grateful for…
Let’s pause a moment while you actually do this. Don’t say, I’ll come back to this later when I can really focus on it! Don’t wait for the “perfect” moment. Do it now. This one will only take you 10 seconds. We will wait for you.
2. Now think of someone you love in your life…
All kinds of love apply here: partners, family members, friends, mentors, pets if you didn’t already cover them in the above!
And then say out loud, feel internally, or write down: I am so grateful for…
Pause and do this.
3. Next think of your favorite aspect of nature…
Maybe it’s the warm sun, the beautiful flowers, the elder trees, the soft grass, the stunning moon, staring up at the clouds, etc.
And then say out loud, feel internally, or write down: I am so grateful for…
Ok that wasn’t too hard, right?! It’s helpful to remind ourselves that there is always some sweetness if we stop and notice.
So let’s make it more challenging. This is where we really work that muscle.
4. Think of a challenge in your life…
This could be past or present – maybe it’s the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, a health issue or crisis, something that feels like a lack or a challenge.
And now think of what you’re grateful for within that situation – it’s harder, right?
I’ll give you some examples to get your sweet-seeking muscle warmed up:
- #1 – Abundance doesn’t always mean money. If you’ve lost your job, what do you currently have an abundance of? Time? Time to sit outside with a good cup of tea, breathe deeply, and enjoy nature while you look for new jobs online? Space? Space to finally do what you really want to do with your life?
- #2 – If you’ve lost someone from your life, whether through death or separation, what has the experience given you? A deeper appreciation for the time you have here? The laughter and love you shared with this person that deeply enriched your whole life?
- #3 – In my personal life, I once found myself in the hospital facing near-emergency surgery on my intestines. On the surface this seemed very bad and very challenging. But I also felt a great sense of relief. Relief and gratitude that I no longer had to follow this incredibly strict “healing protocol” that wasn’t working for me anyway. It was so constricting and all-consuming but my perfectionist attitude wouldn’t let me give it up; thrown in the hospital by means outside my control, I finally felt like I could breathe again. I always remember that exact moment. I remember the relief and the gratitude and then thinking, is this weird that I feel relief that I’m in the hospital? Maybe. But it was those little bits of gratitude that got me through the whole ten-month experience.
Now it’s your turn – think of that past or present challenging time in your life and the piece of it that you are grateful for and say out loud, feel internally, or write down: I am so grateful for…
If it feels contrived or inauthentic or pointless, the trick is to make it genuine. Don’t try to convince yourself you’re grateful for something that you’re not.
Dive a little deeper and find the nectar, the little bit of sweetness that you ARE grateful for, whatever that may be.
You can still feel that the whole entire challenging situation absolutely sucked – you’re not trying to delude yourself, you’re just identifying the drop of sweetness, naming it, and using it to thrive.
There were some days in the hospital that all I could muster to write down in my gratitude journal was, I am so grateful for my life-sustaining breath. AND it was true.
Take a pause here for a moment so you can complete this.
5. Let’s keep it going. Now think of someONE in your life who frustrates or challenges you…
We all have that person, or many people! And then think of one thing you DO appreciate about them as a person OR the lesson the relationship has taught you.
- For example, I have had some challenging times in relationships of all varieties that have shown me that I truly don’t have to outsource my power or my sense of self to others, and that I can get that from within my own self. Can you imagine going through all of life never getting the chance to learn that? We need challenging people in our lives to push us to grow. It’s what turns us from a stagnant piece of coal into a bright and shiny diamond.
So think of this person that has played a role in your polishing, and think of what it is you’re grateful for about them or about what that relationship taught you, and then say out loud, feel internally, or write down: I am so grateful for…
We’ll pause here while you do this.
6. Ok last one, you’re doing awesome. Let’s make it fun. Think of a gloomy day (stay with me here on the fun part)…
Then think of what you’re truly grateful for when the weather sucks and you have to stay inside. I know, it’s hard because many of us are Northerners and we’re hard-wired to be obsessed with ‘good’ weather.
But is it the chance to cuddle up with a good book and a cup of tea? The rare opportunity to do nothing? The helpful reminder that darkness is just part of life’s cycles whether it’s outside in nature or in your own life? The knowing that the rain makes everything vibrant again and brings the rainbow?
Think about how fun the next rainy day is going to feel with your newfound awareness, and then say out loud, feel internally, or write down: I am so grateful for…!
There, you did it. You officially completed your first formal practice of gratitude and are well on your way to being a stellar sweet-seeking being!
Keep up the formal practice by returning to this daily or even weekly. It doesn’t have to be ALL of these questions every day. Choose one or two each time. Make it short and…yes, sweet.
Any consistent gratitude practice is better than none at all, especially when you’re first building up that muscle.
Eventually it just becomes natural. But at first, you gotta make yourself do it.
Remember, hummingbird dies without sweetness. What part of you dies without sweetness in your life? Your soul?
This is essential to your wellbeing.
Because life is meant to be full of beauty and sweetness! We just have to learn to see it. ✨
Here’s to becoming a master sweet-seeker in your own life!
May you always know how to find the beauty in the darkness, the sweetness in the hard times, the gratitude in the challenges.
With love & gratitude to my fellow hummingbirds…