Beliefnet
It's July. It's hot. If you feel overwhelmed or stuck, it may seem like there's nowhere to turn. Houses of worship have shifted to lighter hours and offer fewer activities. Therapists and friends have that annoying way of departing on exotic, expensive vacations. At first you may say, "What is this?" You can't believe you've been left to your own resources.

But then, in the heat, you can expand. You can tune into yourself as a living organism, absorbing the rain and sun. These are spiritual months. You can grow larger in spirit as you move toward harvest. You can tune into your senses. And you can completely enjoy yourself in the process.

"Summer offers opportunities, not readily available at other times, to appreciate the abundance in the natural order of things and the cycle of life," writes Virginia Beach, Va.-based healer MeeWah Reynolds in a back issue of Body, Mind, Spirit magazine. "Verdant hues and bright colours, sunny days and soaring temperatures, the scent of newly cut grass and freshly turned soil, less and lighter clothing, trips to the beach, a vacation or holiday, travel, outdoor activities, weddings, gatherings of family and friends. Many of these associations and activities originated in ancient times and have been retained throughout man's history to the present."

It is easy, however, to become detached from all that keeps summer so sacred and spiritual. Hence, as we near the dog days (named after the dog tag star Sirius which rises in the night sky this time of year and adorns the dog depicted in the constellation Canis Major), Beliefnet is pleased to offer you ten suggestions and numerous website links to help you fertilize your internal summer growth.

1. FIRST, UNPLUG THE TELEVISION. While there are some valuable, rich, fun shows on TV, when you reflect on all the hours you've viewed it, vacant and slack-jawed, do you feel energized or ashamed? Make the break. Turn it off. Enjoy the extra psychic space and time. Fair warning: If you enforce this on your children, you must spend more money at first on art supplies, bug boxes, nets, board games, and building toys. That's the trade-off, but within a week, you'll see behavior changes that will surprise you. Check out these websites for further fodder on just much television distorts our world view and happiness at LimiTV.org and Neil Postman.

 2. SWIM IN REAL WATER. A spiritual summer calls for as much contact with a lake, river, or ocean as possible. Life begins in water. Our bodies are mostly made up of water. And relating to real water is to connect with the larger world. One of life's great pleasures is the experience of skinny-dipping with family or friends after dark in the moonlight and feeling the silky, black water caress your skin. Trust us, this is not that racy. It's a wholesome thing to do. (Safety tips.)

3. GAZE AT THE NIGHT SKY. You can create an unforgettable evening for your family simply by taking an old quilt to a hill on a clear night and looking up into the summer sky. "God is in his heaven. All's right with the world," said Anne (quoting Robert Browning) at the end of "Anne of Green Gables," and you will feel this way too. There it is in all its glory, the sky that unites you to the most ancient of peoples in faraway times. Web-links are impressive and abundant on this subject. A thoughtful man named David Batch sustains the Sky Watchers Diary for the Abrams Observatory in East Lansing, Michigan. He explains precisely which stars and planets are visible, where and when. The camping website gorp.com has marvelous articles on outdoor activities generally, including a good review of what's happening in this summer's sky.

Symbolist, ancient calendar lover, writing coach, and Seattle amazing person Waverly Fitzgerald has created a mesmerizing resource. From her, we learned of a sophisticated site, Mything Links, which offers star-related folklore and mythology compiled by Kathleen Jenks.

Remember that the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans weren't the only people spinning yarns out of the star's configurations. The children's book "Old Father Storyteller" by Pablita Velarde offers beautiful instruction on how to find six Pueblo constellations. Long Sash is quite similar to Orion, for example.

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