August in Toronto is a hot and humid affair. While this month did start out chiller than usual, we’re currently in the middle of a heatwave that’s been going on for a few days now.
I’m lucky enough to have fairly decent air conditioning in my apartment, but I’m still counting down the days until the heat of August fades away and the beauty of autumn begins because of how easy it is for the heat to sneak into my place on unusually hot days and how many places in this city don’t have good air conditioning.
One of the things I enjoy the most about meditating during a heatwave is what a fantastic tool it is for dealing with the weather as I step outside of my home and feel that first puff of hot, stale air.
There are several different lessons I’ve taken from my meditation sessions and applied to experiences like those at this time of the year. I hope all of you are feeling milder temperatures than I am, but I thought this would make a good idea for a blog post for anyone else who feels like they’re walking through an oven right now.
Now that I’m meditating again more regularly after my break from it last spring, I’m sometimes surprised by how calming it is to breathe deeply and focus on nothing in particular at all.
My brain is slowly being trained to focus on my breathing when I step outside and inhale steamy August air. I do my best not to think about the temperature, the future, or anything else at all. All I need to do in that moment is breathe in and out again.
It is such a simple yet helpful reminded to stay in the present and focus on those things you actually do have control over.
Live in the Moment
Autumn is still seven weeks away, and even the fall solstice isn’t a guarantee of cooler weather immediately. Last year we had hot, summery weather all the way through until the beginning of October.
It’s tempting to wish away the end of a season. I know I often give into this temptation at the end of winter when it feels like warmer weather will never arrive, but this summer I’ve been making a genuine effort to live in the moment instead of fantasizing about what the weather will be like a month or two from now.
There are positive and negative sides to any season – literal or metaphorical – we find ourselves in, and I’m telling you this as someone who doesn’t always grok this right away. It’s easy for me to imagine the worst or to spend so much time thinking about what could or might happen in the future that I forget to live in the now.
Notice Sensations Without Judging Them
Confession: I am not always very patient when dealing with months of humidity. There comes a time nearly every summer when the humidity has been so high for so many weeks that I honestly want to go jump into Lake Ontario, grow some gills, and spend the last month of summer swimming around with the fish to stay cool.
Noticing and acknowledging sensations without immediately deciding what I think about them is definitely something I’ve had to work to do during my sessions.
To give you an example that isn’t weather-related, I had a sore muscle in my neck and shoulder last week. It was the first thing my mind jumped to every time I sat down to meditate because of how it was affecting the way I moved and the kinds of things I wanted to do. (No worries, though – it is all better now).
Figuring out how to acknowledge that part of my body without immediately jumping to thoughts about why it was sore or when it would heal wasn’t easy. Relaxing helped, and so did focusing my attention on it for a brief moment before returning my mind to a state of rest.
It’s been interesting to transfer this mindset to something like standing on an overcrowded subway car or walking down a street that doesn’t have much shade at all.
Unless someone suddenly gives me the power to control the weather, there isn’t a single thing I can do to change the temperature or the humidity outside. It is what it is.
There is definitely something to be said for noticing perspiration forming on your skin or a hot breeze skimming your hair without immediately judging those sensations.
How does summer affect your meditation? How has meditating affected how you handle uncomfortable weather?