We've all been through a lot lately. These times of challenge and change can bring doubt and uncertainty, casting dark shadows across our lives. Yet summer is a season of light when we can begin cultivating greater hope.
Hope, like the plants in our gardens, doesn't just happen. It must be cultivated. It takes care and conscious effort to bring greater joy and hope to our lives, especially in dark times.
Research in psychology tells us why, reminding us that we have a "negativity bias." As a natural protective behavior, we pay more attention to the problems and potential threats in our lives, while taking the good things for granted. To cultivate greater hope, we need to make an effort, to pay conscious attention to the good. Positive psychologists call this "savoring," intentionally focusing on and enjoying the moments of beauty in our lives. This practice of savoring has been shown to relieve depression and increase our happiness, optimism, and hope. And decades of research have shown how savoring the beauty of nature can heal us in body, mind, and spirit. 
This summer you can pause to notice the small miracles in the natural world around you. Some examples in my garden are:
- Sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh off the vine, filled with the warm taste of summer,
- Pumpkin vines, planted from seeds from a friend, demonstrating the power of seeds to generate new life,
- Green beans climbing up the stakes in the ground, reaching up, connecting, and climbing with their remarkable inner intelligence.
- And sunflowers blooming, turning their golden heads toward the sun in a process called phototropism. Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine and an international symbol of hope.
The natural life around us offers subtle invitations. Can we bask in the beauty of summer, experiencing the renewing power of nature? Can we climb like the green beans, reaching up to new heights? Can we turn toward the light like sunflowers?
Please join me in this short meditation. Go to the window or step outside to connect with the renewing power of nature.
- Take a long, deep breath and release it.
- Then focus on one part of the natural world around you—a tree, a flowering plant, vegetables growing in the garden, or the sky above.
- As you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, focus on nature's beauty, the colors and patterns of sunlight and shadows.
- Feel the connection, as you breathe in peace, breathing out tension.
- Listen for any lessons this connection brings.
- Pause for a moment of gratitude.
When you are ready, return to your regular activities.
I wish you joy in the process.
 Rozin, P., & Royzman, E. B. (2001). Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 296-320.
 Hurley, D. B., & Kwon, P. (2013). Savoring helps most when you have little: Interaction between savoring the moment and uplifts on positive affect and satisfaction with life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1261-1271; the national Hopeful Mindsets project includes "Happiness Habits," encouraging people to savor the good in their lives to build greater hope. See https://hopefulmindsets.com/
 Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrated framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169-182; Ryan, R. M., Weinstein, N., Bernstein, J., Brown, K. W., Mistretta, L., & Gagne, M. (2010). Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 159-16; Zhang, J. W., Howell, R. T., & Iyer, R. (2014). Engagement with natural beauty moderates the positive relation between connectedness with nature and psychological well-being. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, 55-63; Ulrich, R. S. et al. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224, 420-421.
 For descriptions of the sunflower as the symbol of hope, see https://hopefulcities.org/art/