Now it’s Spring, why not spend time in a flower garden or in a park? An arboretum is a great place to be with trees and often provides a special sort of quiet. In an arboretum you can take a spirit walk. That is to be at one with nature. There among the trees you can listen to the breeze moving through the branches and the grasses. Birds too can be heard in the quiet of a tree-lined pathway. There’s no better sanctury for birds and butterflies than an arboretum. A walk with nature is a healing thing. Stay there as long as you wish, but make sure your visit is long enough to take in the various forms and colours that the world of leaves and petals provides. You can glean so much in such a short time. Nature is ever providing something wonderful to look upon. Look not only to what’s growing around trees or those flowers growing along the way, Look beneath your feet too. What do you see? However you choose to spend your time, be aware that you are a guest in someone else’s home — nature’s — so act accordingly. Eve
“Nature is part of our life. We grew out of the seed, the earth, and we are part of all that. But we are rapidly losing the sense that we are animals like the others. Can you have a feeling for that tree, look at it, see the beauty of it, listen to the sound it makes; be sensitive to the little plant, to the little weed, to that creeper that is growing up the wall, to the light on the leaves and the many shadows? One must be aware of all this and have the sense of communion with nature around you. You may live in a town but you do have trees here and there. A flower in the next garden may be ill-kept, crowded with weeds, but look at it, feel that you are part of all that, part of all living things. If you hurt nature you are hurting yourself.”
This article originally appeared last year in Rhythm of the Home Magazine. I’m reprinting today in honour of the Spring.
When we align ourselves with the primary action of each season, we can harness the energy that permeates the natural world and, thus, facilitate our own transitions. During autumn, as we witness the falling of leaves, we open to the energy of shedding and ask ourselves, “What is it time to let go of?” In winter, as we watch the stillness settle over the land and notice the hibernation of our own soul, we ask, “What arises in my quiet and solitude?” In spring, the literal and metaphoric seeds that lay dormant for several months tentatively poke their heads through the warming earth then burst into full bloom. And in summer, we celebrate the fruits of our labor and enjoy the days of water and sunshine, asking ourselves, “What is it time to celebrate?”
On the threshold of spring, we begin to notice a quiet awakening within. The intentions that we set during the long days of winter, both for ourselves and our children, may have lain dormant these past months, but now we see the first green heads pushing through and realize that the dawn of something new is upon us. Spring is the season of hope and renewal when, encouraged by the increase of light and warmth, we find the energy to take the necessary action that can push the tentative new beginning into full awakening. Now is the time to ask yourself: “What is longing to be born? If I set intentions on New Year’s, how can I draw upon the energy of renewal and call those intentions into action? What changes and rebirths do I observe in my children? What seeds of new beginnings were resting in the underground caverns of my child’s mind and are now bursting into fruition?”
Spring is green, tender, and alive. It’s the childhood stage of the seasons of transitions where innocence and purity permeate the atmosphere. As nature wakes from her winter slumber and you observe the first pale green leaves unfolding out of the buds, ask yourself, “What is childlike inside of me that wishes to come out? What is it that is longing to be born? What do I see in my child that is aching for release?”
The early weeks of spring often bring a restlessness. As hopeful and optimistic as this season is, there’s always an element of discomfort in the world of transitions. Said bluntly, change is hard, so even when the change is positive – like birthing a new part of yourself or watching your child master a new skill – there’s an itchiness of psyche that occurs when the old self or skill level falls away and the new one hasn’t fully emerged. In summer we celebrate with joyous abandon, but spring is still tentative, and there may be days when winter settles her snow over the land and we’re pulled back into the silent, underground world. When we understand these natural cycles of death and renewal, we can make space for them in our inner lives and help our children make sense of the process of change.
If winter was a season of sorrow, allow the light winds of spring to wash away the residue of grief. If winter was a season of sickness, let the freshness of spring restore you to health. If winter was a season of loss, notice the new life and rebirths that surround you. If winter was a season of silence, invite the birds of spring to bring song back into your life. If winter was a season of hopelessness, connect to the perennial signs of hope that rise up in the natural world as if to say, “Today is a new day. Today I can start something new and find that place of beginning within. Today I am alive and for that I am grateful. Today I see love manifest in the miracles of nature and I whisper a quiet but certain ‘Yes.’” Photography by Eve. Photos taken with a Lumix LX7 camera.
Ah, how wonderful is the advent of the Spring!—the great annual miracle…. which no force can stay, no violence restrain, like love, that wins its way and cannot be withstood by any human power, because itself is divine power. If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation would there be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change!… We are like children who are astonished and delighted only by the second-hand of the clock, not by the hour-hand. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Kavanagh, 1849
Winter is behind us now. This brings a feeling of light, hope and openness. We can look out of the window at trees and see them forming leaves. Golden Daffodils adorn our gardens once more. The snowdrops and crocuses are also bountiful. This year more than most! I like to think it is not only a new beginning but also a time to ponder on what lies ahead. Although in the quiet moments of a Spring day, reflection on what has past is often more on our minds. Dare we expect more from this new year than the last? In the old Pali dialect, the language of the Buddha (upanijjhāna), “reflection” has the self-same meaning that it does in English—it means to be like a mirror or the surface of a deep pond, to receive an impression and hold it without adding anything else. It also means to contemplate or consciously consider. To listen to the inner voice of reason.
Years ago, at Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York, Bhikkhu Bodhi spoke of this, and of the Buddha’s advice to his 7-year-old son Rahula. The Buddha told his son about the importance of honesty, telling young Rahula to practice reflection—to reflect on the inner and outer consequences before, during, and after doing something. Please consider trying this. The results are subtle but quite amazing. Consider how you feel before you perform an act of generosity, during, and after. Also consider how it feels to do something less than noble or not do something. Let’s say, not to eat or drink too much or be angry or stingy, to un-grasp the hand of lifelong habits. What is amazing is that this type of practice of reflecting on the quality and consequence of our lives is a way to expand time by opening and deepening and enriching the time we have to spare.
In meditation or just being alone with our thoughts , we allow ourselves to reflect on something that has already happened. We can allow a memory or experience to arise within us, and like the surface of a deep pond, reflecting the moon without fighting it or fleeing from it or freezing it or adding anything at all. Remember that the ancient root of the word, “understand” means to stand under, to allow the truth of something to soak in. It also suggests holding and supporting, standing under our own experience, receiving it. Think of the lake under the moon.
Crocuses in the garden
Re-written from an article published in Parabola magazine.
Might be a good idea to subscribe. They need supporting.
“When the sun rises and shines,
Not all the lotus buds in the lakes and ponds bloom,
Only those that are ready, do.
The rest have to bide their time,
But all are destined to bloom,
All have to fulfill that destiny.
There is no need to despair.”
~ Sathya Sai Baba
This is the dark time before the light. The light of Spring hovers but not quite here yet. We are now through the month of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day when the North Pole is tilted farthest from the sun. Our ancient ancestors observed this event by watching the stars and the shortening days carefully chronicling the movement of the sun. They learned that the darkest day is followed by a little more light and warmth when a new cycle of life struggles to emerge into the fullness of the new season.
When we are left to our own devices, our thinking mind tends towards a certain pessimism that all will be dark forever. The light will never return, our minds tells us; it is always darkest before it is pitch black: that is the kind of doom and gloom prediction that often dominate us most during the grimness of the winter months. A perpetual gloom that descends and refuses to let go. Our minds are that way. We see only the dark and the cold. Educated as we may be, we are wired to a reptile mind that wants to flee from the gloom and freeze and to return to the light and the warmth. When we imagine only the dark, nothing anyone can tell us will make it otherwise. It is not until we enter the world of fresh observations, sensations and possibilities, that there is a shift in thought. When we sit down to meditate or spend time in nature, or just taking photographs as I have done here, that we rejoin the living world.