‘Tis the season of sun, sand and surf! Many of us feel a boost in our moods when summer finally arrives with its steady stream of warm sunlight and opportunities to spend ample time outdoors. With a sunny disposition, it’s often easier to feel compassionate towards others and ourselves. With one month left of summer, here are some recommendations for spreading summertime compassion:
1. Train to be a hero. In the month of August there are frequent 5K races and walks, each dedicated to a cause or charity. Consider contributing to the relief of someone else’s suffering by participating in a local run.
2. Experience a new kind of workout. Setting aside time for yourself to exercise is an important act of self-compassion. If your routine at the gym has gotten stale over the winter, now is a great time to change it. There are many offbeat choices for athletes of any level that will allow you to take it outdoors. Consider outdoor yoga, bootcamps, rollerskating, kayaking, parkour or trapeze school. Give it a go!
3. Care for Mother Earth. Summer is a great time to offer weeding in a community garden, cleaning up litter on a beach that you love or planting trees in your local park. Show Mother Earth some compassion.
4. Donate your talent. Extend a helping hand by volunteering. Can you sew? Manage events? Develop mobile apps? No matter what your talent, there are loads of local social benefit organizations that could use your help, especially in the slow summer months when they typically see the lowest levels of volunteerism. Check out idealist.org for ideas on how to get involved with organizations that are doing good in your community.
5. Interview a distant relative. Summer is a great time to travel and reconnect with family you may not have seen in years. Reach out to visit a distant relative and ask to interview her. She’ll enjoy the company and will relish the opportunity to tell you her story. It has probably been a long time since anyone showed interest in her life and you’ll rediscover distant ties with family.
6. Share a meal. Summertime has many wonderful traditions involving food and friends: BBQs, picnics, watermelon. Yum! Try inviting a “stranger ” to join, such as your neighbor down the street whom you’ve never said a word to. Your impromptu generosity might surprise him or her at first, but you’ll both be surprised to discover how much you actually have in common.
7. Support others’ talents. Craft festivals and art fairs abound in the summer. This is showtime for creators who are incredibly passionate about their work. Purchasing their products is one obvious way for you to support their passion. Asking them thoughtful questions about their process, their inspirations, and their story show them you are inspired by their passion and is another way to give your support.
8. Donate your winter wardrobe. If you’re like most of us, you have closets full of clothing, shoes, blankets, and jackets that you used last winter. Perhaps some of it is no longer useful. Try cleaning out your closet by donating or recycling.
9. Compost your foodscraps. Drop off your household fruit and vegetable scraps at greenmarkets in your neighborhood. It is a wonderful way to invest in soil that will bring about new healthy plants and great harvests.
Sky Khan is a founding member of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care and an active presence at the Haven Hospice in New York City’s Bellevue Hospital where she provides compassionate care for the terminally ill and dying. She is the founder of Zenyc and a speaker, author and educator on the topic of kindness. She took Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Training at Tibet House in the spring of 2014.