A Summer Meditation

Drink the wild air.
Embrace the power, beauty and healing energy of the season. Photo: Ali Abdul Rahman

By Donna D’Cruz

Mary Oliver, in her poem “The Summer Day,” captures the essence of mindful appreciation: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This question invites us to consider how we might use the power, beauty and salubrious joys of summer to enrich our lives and cultivate a sense of purpose.

Summer, a season resplendent with warmth and vitality, offers us a matchless blend of power, beauty and healing. From an Aristotelian perspective, summer can be viewed through the lens of Nicomachean Ethics, where Aristotle explores the concept of eudaimonia, a philosophy that argues that seeking happiness is the principal aim of human existence. Are you ready to sign up? Yes, how about now? Hedonism, often misunderstood, aligns with the pursuit of pleasure as part of a well-lived life. By embracing the delights of summer, we engage in a balanced hedonism that nurtures our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Aristotle posits that true happiness arises from the cultivation of virtue and the fulfillment of our highest potentials. Summer, with its long, hazy days and abundant energy, provides the perfect environment for such flourishing. The warmth of the sun can be seen as a metaphor for the inner light of the soul, illuminating our path toward self-actualization. 

The power of summer lies in its ability to rejuvenate and invigorate. The sun’s rays, which help create vitamin D in our bodies, have been scientifically proven to boost our mood and immune system. This natural phenomenon aligns with Aristotle’s belief in the importance of physical well-being as a foundation for a happy life. “In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous,” he observes, highlighting the interconnectedness of health and happiness.

The beauty of summer is unparalleled, with nature in full bloom. This season offers a sensory feast: the vibrant colors of flowers, the soothing sound of waves, awakened romances, new adventures. These experiences can be linked to the hedonistic appreciation of pleasure. However, Aristotle warns against excess, advocating for the “golden mean,” a balanced approach to pleasure that avoids both deficiency and excess. “Virtue,” he writes, “is a mean [middle ground] between two vices, one of excess and the other of deficiency.” Enjoying summer’s beauty in moderation allows us to savor its gifts without succumbing to overindulgence, including overthinking.

Healing, both physical and emotional, is another profound gift of summer. The longer days and increased exposure to natural environments have been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. This aligns with the Aristotelian concept of catharsis, a cleansing or purging of emotions. As Aristotle states in the Poetics, “Through fear and pity, affecting the proper purgation of these emotions.” Summer’s embrace facilitates this emotional release, allowing us to confront and heal from the past. Does this resonate with you? It deeply does with me as I reflect on a year of tumult, great loss and unwieldy, unexpected learnings.

Summer embodies the Aristotelian ideal of a well-lived life, offering a harmonious blend of pleasure, beauty and healing. As we bask in the warmth of the sun and revel in nature’s splendor, we are reminded of the profound connection between the external world and our inner journey towards happiness and fulfillment.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air’s salubrity.” Let us cherish the power, beauty and healing gifts of summer, allowing them to nourish our souls and inspire our lives.

Tune in for weekly Dip Into Bliss meditations every Thursday at 5PM with Cristina Cuomo and Donna D’Cruz on Instagram, @donnadcruz1 and @cristinacuomo; donnadcruz.com