There’s an old story about a farmer who is working feverishly to chop down a tree with his axe. A friend comes to pay him a visit and asks the farmer what he is doing. “What does it look like I’m doing?” comes his impatient reply. “I’m chopping down this tree!” Noticing the heat of the day and the sweat upon the farmer’s brow, the friend asks how long he’s been at it. “Five hours,” says the farmer, “And I’m beat.” The friend then suggests to the farmer that a break might do him some good, and that while he is resting he could take a few minutes to sharpen his axe. “I don’t have time to sharpen my axe,” says the farmer. “I’m too busy chopping!”
This tale is oversimplified, but if we are honest with ourselves, I think most of us can relate to its message. We live in a culture that tends to view productivity as more valuable than rest, and doing as more significant than being. However, when we look into nature, it’s clear to see that both states of being are essential in the process of creation. Everything in life has an ebb and a flow: The tide has to go out before it comes in. Human beings need stillness between periods of activity. Great bursts of creativity are almost always preceded by quiet contemplation. In the same way, the art of manifestation (or deliberate creation) is made up of two distinct steps: Step one is to intend what we want to create; step two is to allow that which we have intended to come into being. The first principle is masculine and active; the second is feminine and stable. Both are equally important.
This is a useful distinction to keep in mind as summer approaches, because for many people life moves at a slower pace during this time of year. Energies once laser focused on work or school now broaden to include family, vacations, community, and friends. If we resist the natural ebbing of the summer months and – like the farmer – insist on being active at the expense of nurturing our own growth, we miss out on an important polarity that helps to strengthen and prepare us for whatever is next. When we understand this, we discover that “down” time is anything but unproductive, because it provides essential time for rest, recreation, reflection, and – perhaps most important – for strengthening bonds with significant people in our lives… bonds that are easily strained or neglected during busier times.
There is a “harvest” to be gathered from every season, because abundance exists everywhere; it comes in all forms, and it is always available. When life is busy, we may experience abundance as a surge of inspiration or efficiency. During slower times, it may occur as a delicious slowing down of our thoughts, a broadening of our perspective, or a new clarity regarding what’s truly important to us. To interpret life’s inevitable slower ebbs as an indication of lack is to miss out on a very important half of the whole picture. All we have to do is shift our focus slightly and we become aware of the abundance that exists all around us. As we stockpile sleep, laughter, recreation and meaningful experiences shared with others, we nourish our bodies and prepare our minds to give birth to the next big idea.