Drinking in the Joy
An excerpt from Randi Ragan’s book A Year of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nourish Body, Mind, and Spirit
One summer not long ago, I was in my backyard watering a row of sunflowers I had planted against a side fence. It was at the end of a hot day and I enjoyed the pleasure of getting slightly splashed at the same time; the cool water felt good against my dusty toes. I pushed my thumb against the hose opening to create an arcing spray that reached out in front of me by ten or fifteen feet.
My mind drifted as I enjoyed playing with the water; the last rays of the sun caused it to sparkle if I angled it just so. Slowly I became aware of a red-throated, male hummingbird swooping through the ends of the water spray. He’d fly through, disappear, and a few seconds later, reappear, and repeat the process. To the Native Americans the hummingbird is Joy, so I received my visitor as a welcome gift. Delighted, I held the stream as steady as I could, held my breath, and stood very still.
In a split second, at the same moment I vaguely remember thinking that he was getting a little too close to the water, it caught him just so and slammed him to the ground. I dropped the hose in a panic and ran to find him. He was lying soaked on the grass, with his eyes open, barely breathing, in a state of drowning. I hesitated for a moment, unsure about what to do. It seemed as though I had drowned my Joy.
Without thinking it through, I gently scooped the wee bird up in my hands and made a covered tent out of my palms. He was utterly still. I held him close to my mouth, whispered to him not to die, and began slowly exhaling hot breath on him. I don’t know for how long I did this, maybe a minute, maybe two. I had never performed mouth to mouth resuscitation on a human before, much less simulated on a tiny bird. His little chest eventually fluttered and heaved and he blinked several times. Hummingbird Joy then rolled over and seemed to be steadying himself on my open hand.
After a few nerve-wracked moments, he flew away, but not before cocking his head and looking at me square in the eyes with his own small black buttons. I watched him fly up to the top of a nearby orange tree. He chittered for a bit and then buzzed off.
I picked up the still running hose and turned it off. My feet were soggy, my heart pounding in my chest. I was overjoyed at being able to rescue the hummingbird. I marveled at how such a precise flyer can mistake distance and space and be seduced by water to such ill effect. I bowed to the spirit of the bird that allowed him to surrender and let himself be saved (by a hot-breathed giant no less), and to his innate impulse to get up and fly again. Joy comes, joy falters, joy abides.
Joy contains the essence of possibility. Summer feels abundant with possibility.
The Possibilities Ritual
Sunflowers are the quintessential plant of summertime. Sunflowers turn their heads to follow the path of the sun as it passes over them. When the sunflower nods, it will rain, according to an old gardener’s adage. Cucumbers are sweeter when planted next to sunflowers. Bees enjoy the pollen and birds, especially crows and red-winged blackbirds, love the seeds.
Sunflowers have long been associated with creating a relaxed, comfortable happiness – the same sort you feel on a warm, sunny day. They combat depression or grief and protect from the negative.
Following is a simple, yet profound ritual for illustrating the power of possibility that summer seems to radiate.
- On your table or altar put a vase with several freshly-cut or picked sunflowers.
- Lay a small, fancy white cloth on the table.
- On top of the cloth, put a small decorative bowl and fourteen sunflower seeds.
- Light a yellow candle.
- Put seven of the seeds into the bowl and hold in your mind seven ideas for yourself that have to do with possibility and growth. (Seven is the traditional number for good fortune and high spiritual vibration.)
- Put the second group of seven seeds into the bowl and hold in your mind seven ways you can begin today to implement those ideas for possibility and growth. (Write all of this down in a notebook to refer to for the future.)
- While focusing on your candle flame, repeat this mantra seven times:
Sanskrit: Om Brm Brhaspataye Namah
Pronunciation: Om Berm Ber-has-pa-ta-yay Na-ma-ha
Translation: I honor the energy of generosity and connection
This is a mantra for expansion and possibility. Expansion comes as a result of feeling the generosity of the universe as well as from other people, of feeling connected to your community and to the world at large. As you begin to take in the sounds and energy from this mantra, a field of infinite possibilities will arise from within and expand exponentially, much like the ripple effect of a stone dropping on water. This mantra bestows the blessing of being able to see the highest truth and envision the highest outcome in all situations.
- Make a bath immediately following and float the petals from one of your sunflowers in the water. Shake in seven drops of tarragon and seven drops of geranium essential oils. Both of these essential oils support expansion, emotional uplift, and open-hearted energy.
- Within the next twenty-four hours, plant all fourteen of your sunflower seeds. (This can be anywhere outside, even if you don’t have a yard yourself. A neighborhood park, a grassy median near your street, a friend’s yard – literally anywhere outside will do.) In an area that gets strong sunlight for most of the day, push the seeds down about an inch into the dirt, making sure they are well covered with soil. Water lightly every other day and you should see the seeds beginning to sprout in about ten days. Keep well weeded and when the flowers reach about three-feet high, consider staking them.
Excerpted from Randi Ragan’s book A Year of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nourish Body, Mind, and Spirit. Reprinted with permission.