Summer Can Open Us to Life Changing Experiences
Here we are in the middle of summer 2022, and, naturally, many of us are looking for fun experiences. But summer can also bring us life changing experiences.
(Of course, fun experiences can be life changing! The two things are not mutually exclusive!) But, more generally, what kind of life changing experiences can summer bring? How do we recognize and welcome these experiences? How can we let them grow in our lives?
Often, we are so accustomed to experiencing life in a certain preset way, and so used to seeing things from a fixed perspective, that it can be difficult to let anything else really penetrate our awareness. We can have an experience of something that seems genuinely new and enlivening. The new thing may seem to change us for a week or two, but then we revert to our older habitual view of ourselves and our lives. After a while, the experience of anything other than “the same old same old” can start to seem far away,. It can feel that perhaps we only imagined it.
How can we retain our connection to experiences that seem genuinely life-changing, and life giving?
Summer Brings a Different Rhythm
For many of us, the summer period has a different rhythm than the rest of the year. With summer vacations and more recreational activities on the weekends, time may seem to slow down, in some ways. We’re able to be much more present to the moment, and perhaps much more aware of our thoughts, reactions and feelings.
It may be that, in the course of summer living, we have experiences that really wake us up. We may describe them as “feeling more alive”, or “feeling authentically ourselves”. They may take us beyond anxiety and into presence. Perhaps as we’re doing a recreational activity, or, as we’re pausing and doing nothing, just being here now, we reflect that “Yes, this, right now, is what I really want for myself”. Or, we have some compelling awareness of what we want in our lives, and we feel that there might just be a way to attain it. I don’t mean by this that we see a way to a new house, boat or swimming pool. I’m referring much more to having a sense of how we might be in our lives.
It may be that such an awareness comes in a precious moment where we are alone, but genuinely with ourselves. It may come from a special interaction with family or friends. Or, it might even come as a dream state. It was not by accident that WIlliam Shakespeare wrote a play entitled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“!
“Letting In” Life Changing Experiences
The great challenge to new experiences or awarenesses is always our own resistance. The psyche is inherently conservative. If we have a mind-altering or perspective-changing experience, it can be all too easy for the ego to dismiss it as irrelevant, or of negligible importance. Lena M. Forsell of Lund University notes the
affective, cognitive, and behavioral components that create a psychological resistance to making a change in particular situations or overall changes in one’s life
Say we have an experience that seems to point to a fundamentally different way of being in our lives. We can count on the appearance of resistance to pressure us to return to “the way it’s always been”. We may especially note this tendency at times when we’re going through major life transitions.
If we let our resistance stay in the driver’s seat, we may find that something that could be a life changing experience gets turned into “an odd experience that I once had”. It then gets relegated to the dustbin of our lives, as an element of unlived life that never will be.
Letting Go of Past Constraints
Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to cultivate an attitude of receptiveness and openness to experiences that seem to offer a doorway to new possibility. We can become more aware of our resistances, to see them for what they are, as we develop our ability to put them aside and explore new possibilities. In this way, as Jung put it, we can work to go beyond the limitations of our ego, and explore the beckoning of our greater Self.
With very best wishes for your personal journey,
© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)