"Just as there are seasons in the world around us, so there are in our interior life," Teresa of Avila wisely observed. "We cannot expect it to be otherwise."
Spring is a season of renewal and rebirth. It's a time when buds become leaves and flowers, when healing rain washes city streets and falls like grace on parched country fields, when the hard ground beneath us softens to allow shoots of new life to emerge.
As outside, so inside. Spring is a time for cleaning out and making way for fresh possibilities and new commitments. It's a time to revive our senses and expand our horizons. It's a time to begin again.
With all that in mind, we have designed some spiritual exercises for your celebrations of the start of spring this week. Hopefully, they will help hasten an interior rejuvenation to match all the marvels going on around us.
1. Start Your Days with Rejuvenating Imagery
In the morning before breakfast, do this imagery exercise for rejuvenation, overall health, healing, and energy. Called "Tree of Life," it was given to us by Fran Greenfield.
Close your eyes and breathe out slowly three times.
See yourself walking along a path where ahead of you is a strong, tall tree.
Go to this tree and embrace it, knowing this is the tree of life.
Now stand beside the tree, leaning up against it.
As you stand here, feel yourself becoming as one with the tree.
Feel your toes curling down into the earth, drawing in its nutrients and strength.
Feel your torso becoming as the trunk,
and your arms reaching up through the branches.
As you and the tree merge together completely, see and feel its sap rising and circulating throughout, imbuing you with strength, peace, and the power to heal. Know and feel how the tree's chlorophyll is giving you energy.
Feel how it is to be the roots, the trunk, the branches, and the leaves of the tree.
As the golden sun warms you and the fresh breeze stirs you, imagine yourself in full bloom.
Feel and know how it is to be ageless — strong and full of life.
See how you are connected above and below,
to heaven and earth, to all that is, was, and that ever will be . . .
Breathe out one time, and slowly return now,
feeling rejuvenated, awake, aware, and entirely yourself.
Thank the tree for this experience. Then slowly open your eyes.
2. Clear Your View
Wash the windows of your house or apartment. Then spend some time in meditation clearing away the dirt that clouds your vision. Let go of any hurts, grudges, and resentments you may be holding. If there is anyone you need to forgive, including yourself, do so. Then create a ritual to signify that you are cleaning and polishing the windows of your heart.
3. Find a Friend
Find a stone companion that you can carry in your pocket. Look for a small pebble in a park, in a creek or river bed, at the seashore, in your backyard, or at a store that specializes in minerals. Pick one that speaks to you. According to James Wanless, author of Little Stone, this "friend for life" can be a conveyer of wisdom, a protector, an example of self-creation, a metaphor for peace, and a model of simplicity.
4. Clean Your Assistants
Gather together all the tools that have served you well during the past year and give them a good spring cleaning, getting rid of rust and grime, oiling parts, blowing out any dust that has collected inside them. Wipe off television and computer screens and telephone handsets. As you work, tell the tools how grateful you are to them for their assistance.
5. Practice Unity
Try the following Zen practice. As you are drinking a cup of green tea, say, "In my hands I hold a bowl of tea. I see all of nature represented in its green color. Closing my eyes I find green mountains and pure water within my own heart. Silently drinking, I feel these become part of me.”
6. Do a Walking Meditation
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, has written: "Touching the earth is a deep practice that can restore our peace and joy. One of the best ways to touch the earth is by practicing walking meditation." On this spring day, go outside and walk slowly, in a relaxed way, keeping a light smile on your lips. Be truly present with each step you take, being mindful of your walking. For more instructions and commentary on this practice, see Thich Nhat Hanh’s little book The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation.
7. Spend Quality Time with Your House Plants
Give your houseplants the experience of spring renewal. Repot any that need it. Take them to the shower and give them a good misting. As you put them back in place, praise their beauty and resilience.
8. Do an Energy Fast
To participate more directly in Earth's rhythm of light and dark, use no electric lights for 24 hours. To get back in touch with the smells and textures of your food, use no appliances while cooking for a day. To experience the true sounds of your world, don’t turn on the television, radio, or music system today.
9. Savor the Wonders
Read some haiku poems to focus your mind and senses on the wonders of spring; then try writing your own poems. Clark Strand's Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey is an excellent primer. Here's one example by Saryu to get your started:
"Without a brush
The willow paints the wind."
10. Get to Know Your Neighbors
Obtain field guides to the plants, trees, birds, and small animals indigenous to your area. Read up on their distinguishing marks, behavior patterns, territory, diet, and other qualities. Go for a walk and greet your neighbors by their names.
11. Cherish Beauty Afresh
Watch the video movie Enchanted April about four Englishwomen who rent a medieval castle in Italy for a month. This paradisiacal place tutors them in the spiritual arts of letting go, luxuriating in the senses, and loving. They discover that a vacation can be a soulmaking experience when it emphasizes the path of the heart, reverie, wonder, counting one’s blessings, and living in the present moment. Ponder the ways in which the change of seasons enhances the feeling textures of your life.
Prayers & Mantras
12. End Your Days with Prayer
The Earth is always a good teacher — and especially in spring. End your days this season with this prayer from the Native American tradition.
Earth teach me stillness
as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring
as the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
as the tree which stands all alone.
Earth teach me limitation
as the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration
as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
as dry fields weep with rain.
— Ute prayer