I write this blog entry on a hot and sultry day, typical of the weather at this time in late summer, a period often called the “dog days” from a long association of weather and August and Sirius the “dog star.” While the prospect of summer’s end might ordinarily inspire a fresh burst of activity in an effort to do all that I had intended to do during the summer but never got around to doing, the oppressive feel of hot dense air instead leaves me wanting to do nothing more strenuous than hide indoors with the air conditioning cranked high.
Though the culture urges us to stay busy, to keep running from one thing to the next without a break, periods of inertia have much to recommend them. The breaks in busyness we once enjoyed, when we drove or walked or waited in line, have largely disappeared with the option of busying ourselves during those breaks by checking the latest emails and Facebook posts on our smartphones. Since we may no longer be able to will ourselves to stop, to be still, to do nothing, we may require outside help such as that afforded us by the dog days of August.
Most spiritual traditions invite us to times of calm and quiet, when movement, both external and internal movement, ceases. Only when I am still can I be open to experiencing the deeper currents of the spirit; only when I have ceased talking can I hear the small voice within me; only when I am doing nothing am I able to notice all that is happening without my effort. Practicing a spiritual discipline includes learning to be still, to be quiet, to wait in silence.
But if I have not yet mastered that discipline, I can at least take advantage of what the dog days of August offer me and lay low for a time. This experience, of retreating from the oppressive outside world to the cool rooms of my home, is a start in the desired direction. May the sultry weather bring us the gifts of silence, of stillness, of calm, of a measure of peace.