It’s Lammastide: in pagan terms, the end of the summer. Time to bring in the harvest. The land is at its most productive. After the hard work of tilling, sowing and tending the crops, farmers are now reaping the rewards. In my own garden, the plums and grapes, cucumbers and corn are swelling almost visibly. Beyond the fence, I can see the straw bales that are all that remains of a field of barley.
Amidst all this bounty, there’s the palpable sense of an ending. The nights are growing imperceptibly shorter. Many of the flowers are reduced to seed heads. The young rabbits aren’t any longer easy to distinguish from last year’s batch. Winter is waiting in the wings.
It’s a survival strategy, this impulse to see scarcity in the midst of all this ripe and juicy harvest season. Don’t forget, we are telling ourselves. You have to store up supplies for the winter. And you have to keep some seeds, to plant next year’s crop.
These are sensible precautions. But on an emotional level, the temptation to dwell on a perceived lack when we’re surrounded by plenty is a huge barrier to happiness. A friend tells me I’m looking great; I respond by telling her I feel old, I haven’t been getting enough sleep. My child is abundantly happy and healthy; I worry about whether he watches too much TV. My yoga practice has proved itself a reliable lifelong companion these last 20 years; I fret about not having an Instagram account.
Yoga gives us ample opportunities to develop the skills to evade this trap. In fact, every conscious breath is that opportunity. Inhaling, we practise accepting the gift of our life’s breath. Exhaling, we practise generously letting it go. We trust the next breath will come, even in the knowledge that our sum of breaths is finite. We breathe in, accepting all that is given to us for the taking. We breathe out, letting go of everything that isn’t ours to command.
When we focus on what we lack instead of what we have, it’s the emotional equivalent of holding our breath. It builds up tension, discomfort, anxiety like carbon dioxide in the lungs. It feeds fear. Next time you find yourself picking fresh tomatoes or cooling your hot, dusty toes in a stream while simultaneously worrying about how you’re going to get through the winter, try breathing out the fear instead.
My August guided relaxation aims to help you develop this abundant attitude.