Summer & Winter Solstices are easily the most under rated holidays on the calendar. How can we let the longest and shortest days of the year slip by without paying them proper respect? Shouldn’t kids be running around the street with cups of lemonade and sparklers? Neighborhood barbecues with music and fireflies flitting about in the darkening humidity of the late evening ? Maybe next year.
This year I celebrated summer solstice on my own, but sweetly. I picked flowers from our garden and placed them on the altar along with dates and almonds as an offering. I chanted Gayatri Mantra 108 times and then sat for some time. The Gayatri Mantra is traditionally chanted when one lights candles, watches the sunset or the sunrise. It is a mantra which helps focus the mind onto the light within us, and ask for its guidance.
With two months of summer vacation stretching gloriously ahead of me, I asked for guidance on how to spend such precious time. This is what came to me.
I grow deeper roots
I blossom creatively
I become healthier and stronger.
Yes, corny, but it rings true with meaning. And it becomes my summer solstice manifesto. What's your summer manifesto?
“Yoga is my secret weapon for triathlons,” says the Lululemon advertisement on the back of a Yoga Journal. A woman lies on her back, presumably after having finished the Ironaman Triathlon in Kona, her hands cover her face. We are led to believe that she’s been rendered horizontal by her exhaustion and joy at the completion of this feat. A lei, race number and her plastic gift bag are strewn around her while a large white Post-It like index card sprawls over the bottom third of the ad with the following mantra:
Bucket List #1: Qualify + Finish IM Hawaii. Check and check.
Why does this ad repel me so?
Yoga too has been co-opted in the name of competition and hyper-achievement. It is not enough to wear a designer outfit for one’s asana practice, one must also run a marathon, bike 112 miles, and swim 2.4 miles all in pristine Hawaiian morning. Only then, may one die peacefully and with a sense of achievement. Yoga, will serve as band-aid for the joints, bones and muscles that will be pushed to carry one through, and perhaps soothe the exacerbated mind during months of rigorous training. Thanks Lululemon!
Just for the record, the purpose of what this ad refers to as yoga is to bring one enough flexibility and strength in the body, calmness of breath and equanimity of the mind, to be able to sit in meditation and achieve bliss without having to run up volcanoes or peddle around Pacific islands. Over time, one learns to experience this bliss in ordinary life, while doing the dishes, putting your son to sleep and driving to work.
Put that on your bucket list. It’s actually much harder than an Ironman.