Today is Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year because the sun is at its furthest point away from the equator. Although we in the US recognize this as the first official day of summer, in ancient cultures, it was marked as the highest point of summer, or midsummer.
For my Celtic and Germanic Neolithic ancestors, Summer Solstice may have been linked to the timing of crop cycles. They likely would have celebrated by lighting bonfires intended to boost the sun’s strength to ensure a healthy harvest. They also may have jumped over those bonfires to keep demons away and bring good luck to lovers.
According to Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at the University of Bristol in the UK, midsummer was seen as “a time when the normal laws of nature or divinity could be suspended, when spirits and fairies could contact humans, when humans could exceed the usual limitations of their world.”
Although we live in a much more evolved, scientific way these days, there is something that resonates with me about the magic of these ancient times. In the respect for nature and the belief in something bigger than ourselves. In the reverence for the metaphorical heart.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my heart these days and trying to make more space in my life to listen to it. It’s not that I don’t rely on my intellect, I do. But I’ve been curious about how following my heart more may lead me to a more passionate, purpose-driven life.
I like to imagine my mind as an engineer (the logical, practical one who makes plans and figures things out) and my heart as an artist (the creative, dreamy one who discovers as she flows). Both parts of me are beautiful, but my engineer is generally so loud!
Frankly, my engineer’s booming voice stresses me out. It likes to tell me about all the possible pitfalls of my decisions, that there is a right and wrong answer for everything, and that I must work harder to keep up. I yearn to be with my artist, to dance more, sing more and paint colorful pictures with blurry lines that float off the page.
To celebrate Solstice, I’ve given myself the gift of following my heart. Turning down the volume on my engineer in order to trust more fully in my artist. I’ve been wandering. Slowing down to allow my heart’s soft whispers to lead me.
Practically, this has looked like allowing myself to sleep in some days, leaving some wiggle room so that my day’s schedule may spontaneously evolve, and even letting some obligations slide. If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed that I’m writing fewer blogs. I’m also paying less attention to “marketing” what I have to offer, trusting that those who need my service will be guided to me. I’m being less structured about things like exercising, completing chores and making meals, attempting to let these things be more like play. I’m spending more time outdoors. All of this is both delicious and uncomfortable. Modern culture hasn’t traditionally valued the heart-led life.
Mother Nature is my mentor. I’m tuning in more to her movements and noticing her subtle messages. And being in nature more has an actual physical effect on my body.
Research shows that when our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, nitric oxide is released in our blood vessels which helps lower blood pressure. Also, the earth’s magnetic field is known as the earth’s heartbeat. As I understand it, by spending time in nature we can match our heart rhythm to the “heartbeat” of the earth to feel a greater sense of well-being, which in turn positively affects brain function.
So today, on Summer Solstice, all I need to do is to follow my heart outdoors, lie down on the grass and soak up some sunshine and I will boost the health of both my physical heart and brain. While there, I can fortify my metaphorical heart by taking a few breaths into my heart space, inhaling to expand into the vibration of love and exhaling to release into the vibration of peace. Doesn’t that sound positively magical?