I immediately think of Harvest Home, a celebration of plenty, the bringing in of the crop, rewards for effort and hard work. It's all about abundance, reaping what we have sown. Apart from the obvious agricultural context, how else does harvest manifest in our daily lives? To each of us, it might have a different meaning. In this article, we will look at some of the many areas that bring us to our richest rewards, our most glorious harvests.
Firstly, there are the tangible examples:
Money is the main gauge of success in our society and that's okay as long as we don't judge ourselves solely by how much of it we have or don't have. If we work hard, we have a right to enjoy the fruit of our labours. Money success might come by way of material comforts such as nice home, up-to-date car, money in the bank, the ability to travel, income for luxuries, hobbies, clothes, etc. These represent concrete proof that we have been paid fairly for our achievements and productivity. They reflect an aspect of our own self-love and self-esteem. In that sense, money is a worthy form of harvest. If we haven't much of it, we can still value and enjoy what we do have.
Part of social status is established by what we do for a living.
It takes years of hard work and sacrifice to develop a career and it's one area of life where we can clearly see progress, from foundation to completion, like the construction of a house. I believe all work can be rewarding, not only what is classified as `important.' Attitude is the key component. If we resent our labours, there can be no harvest, only drought and lack. Yet honest work is one of the best indicators of life's true richness. What can be better than working on a project for months then to see it come to fruition? What about a few hours spent in the garden which you know will bring flowers, vegies and other goodies down the track? Even a simple meal prepared with love is a shared joy that warms the heart. Let your work product be your shining harvest.
Life is wholistic, as are our bodies. Therefore, we need to care for every aspect of our existence. It's no use meditating all day and neglecting our food intake or being financially healthy but unable to maintain positive relationships or spending hours at the gym but having no money to pay bills. In order for life to be meaningful, balance is required. We achieve this by giving due attention to each duty, each responsibility but also, each joy. The reward should then be a fitness of body and mind, a spirit that's at peace, nurturing, fulfilling relationships, no financial lack and a life that's pleasurable in all ways.
This is an obvious area of plenty, not, unfortunately, for everyone on the planet but nevertheless, whenever there's food, even the simplest forms like bread or rice, immediately we feel rich and blessed. That's why eating out with friends or gathering at home to share food is one of the cornerstones of any society, whether the participants are squatting over a simple repast in a field or eating gourmet food in a grand dining-room. We should honour food and give thanks always to receive it; we should honour the animals that give up their lives to feed us; we should share what we have and never discard or waste food thoughtlessly. We should also put only food that is healthy into our bodies, grow our own where practicable and not use food for the wrong reasons. In these ways, food becomes a joyful source of nourishment for us in every way.

There are also many intangible forms of harvest:
In nature, we see the full extent of our planet's great beauty and largesse. We see it in the plants, trees and flowers; the great oceans, lakes, rivers, waterfalls; the mountains, deserts and grasses, the earth itself; the food we grow to eat, the wealth of grapes whose blood becomes our wine and all the other many varieties of fruits; the sun, moon and stars, everything in the universe. If you live to be 1000, you could never count, let alone enjoy, all the forms of abundance readily available to us. The trick is to be aware of this proliferation and accept with open arms all that comes our way.
Animals too are part of our natural landscape. It's desperately important that we respect the lives of all living creatures and share with them the bounty of the world, never exploiting or using them cruelly. Those animals we bring into our homes and our lives give us so much in return that can numbered amongst our daily gifts.
To reap the harvest of our spiritual natures is to know the true meaning of joy. Whether meditating in a Buddhist centre, praying in a church or walking by the ocean, we feel most truly alive when we allow our spirits to transcend the mundane and soar with the angels above. It requires no special skill, only desire and the letting go of fear, doubt and limited thinking. Whatever we are doing each day, we can be in our spiritual centre if we choose to go there. This is a true example of getting back what you give out for we can never run out of love or inner resources, never tire from caring, never run ourselves short of our needs if we simply let gifts drop from our hands freely. It's holding on that hurts, that poisons and eventually kills off all that is pure and good.
Of course, love is life's greatest reward. Why then do so many people experience their greatest pain and disappointment from this emotion? Very simply, because love is one of the most misunderstood commodities in our world. Love is not sex or romance or even marriage. It is positive energy, energy that vibrates with joy, with aliveness and selflessness. It isn't about an individual or a family or a place; it is amorphous, nameless and non-specific. It just exists, within and without. It's available at all times to every living thing so no-one can ever really be lonely or alone. We carry love with us wherever we go. Some hoard it like a miser, refusing to share it or spread it, always feeling short and needful. With this attitude, all the attention and attraction in the world will not slake the thirst for more and more, thereby creating less and less. Abundance of money, success and popularity etc can only exist alongside abundance of heart or it's a hollow victory. Give love freely because you have an infinite amount at your disposal then watch it sail home to you in many different guises as the greatest harvest of all.
Life itself is our best teacher and healer. Yes, it's painful at times and frustrating and disappointing, unrewarding, even downright cruel. Our best efforts can seem to turn to dust and we wonder why we keep going. That's because we forget that we're here on the planet precisely to learn from all these experiences and also the joyful, uplifting, miraculous ones. I've learnt in recent years not to judge my difficult times as negative but to embrace them as part of the rich tapestry of being in a physical package learning spiritual lessons. I don't have to like them but by accepting that they too are for my highest good, I benefit even from the thorniest journeys, the darkest paths, emerging into the light stronger, more resilient, more accepting. So, life itself is our harvest. We already have it all at the moment of birth. We've already won the lottery because out of the billions of possibilities, we became realities. For a time, for a season and for our growth, we get to strut our stuff on this planet. Growth isn't the end result; it's the raw material, the reward and the purpose all in one.
This is a rare offering in 2004. Peace cannot be taken for granted or supplied on demand. More than ever, we need to seek it within ourselves and find the inner sanctuary where there is no war, fear, conflict or uncertainty. This particular form of harvest, like love, does not have to be earned - it's our birthright. But we can choose to block it by letting our external insecurities and pressures drown out the inner peace that is always waiting. I remember as a student in a Catholic school, being taught that Jesus was waiting in the chapel tabernacle for our visits. The nuns said he was lonely and I couldn't help wondering why he wasn't outside playing! but nevertheless, I would creep into the chapel when it was deserted in the quiet afternoon and sit for a while. This habit gave me a great love for silence and solitude and, to this day, I still find peace in an empty church where a sense of spiritual succour is palpable. Of course, I can find a similar feeling in many places, notably the sea. Find your physical haven and go there as often as you can but don't neglect your inner harvest which is stronger than any tree, more beautiful than any garden and more nourishing than any food.
A few years ago, I learnt about reflections from a wise man. It's about energy exchange, what you give out rebounds like a boomerang. We all give out vibrations, signals that we're not aware of but are picked up by others. They in turn respond to these and we receive `reflections.' It's a mirror effect and sometimes, what we see is not attractive but it's still us! For example, if you give out hatred, anger, criticism, negativity, these are the attributes you're likely to most engender in your life. Therefore, whatever you're getting in life that you don't like, look at it as if in a mirror and see where it's coming from. Are you enjoying loving relationships, freedom from money woes, a healthy body, peace of mind, a nice home, a reasonably hassle-free existence? This is your harvest. Bring it home! If you're putting in the work but not reaping the rewards, you're going about something the wrong way. Clear the blockage, ensure a free passage for all the good things you deserve, untangle the complications, get rid of the restrictions.
A harvest can only ever be a good thing. If a crop is dried out by drought or battered by a storm or drenched to mush by pounding rains, there is no harvest. A good harvest requires not only work but also faith, a smidgeon of luck and a whole lot of love. Foster an attitude of nurturing. Sow the seeds of life then stand back, walk away, do a dance, wait and let them grow in their own time. The metaphors for droughts and storms in our personal lives are control, fear, and negative thinking. Minimise these and encourage a spirit of optimism and enthusiasm then all your days will be walked in sunshine, your nights in moonlight and your heart light and free. You will no longer need to wait on a harvest or even bring it in; your entire life will be as a field of golden corn, which needs only the caress of the wind, the kiss of the sun and the stability of the earth to thrive.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Charmaine Saunders has been working in the personal development field for 20 years and is a counsellor who has, over the years, developed a warm, relaxed, practical style of counselling that has helped thousands of people to resolve their personal issues in a positive way. Her main areas of therapy are stress management, relationships, self-esteem, personal growth, sexuality, wellbeing and positive thinking. She has written 6 self-help books and teaches University courses in personal development, also is a popular speaker and media consultant.