A Spring Reflection on Potential, Expectations, and Possibly Oppressive Lifestyles

Our current topic is spring as rebirth and, being an earth spiritualist, I wasn’t quite sure what to say first.

Around this time of year, I reflect on the holidays as a growth of personal initiative and potential, the symbolic quickening of sprouting seeds, the re-awakened earth that can be felt, smelled, tasted, breathed. This theme points directly to my practice, but mostly it is exciting because I am usually the one bringing nature into the conversation – now, I will start in the natural frame and turn back out towards human-based needs and ideas, namely, our expectations for ourselves and the conventional (often problematic) demanding lifestyles we lead.

Hopefully these connections will make sense. But first, to talk about spring’s rebirth, I need to point to winter.

I believe in, depend on, context. To feel the richness of spring, to appreciate the growing warmth and return of green, we need to experience the cold, dead quiet. In winter, the earth slumbers, receding beneath snowy layers to rest. Many of us feel it with every frozen breath as we scurry down the street avoiding ice. So with the spring thaw the world feels alive again, bringing hope, a quickening, renewed energy – maybe even for hauling out the yard furniture, like I did today. We witness an environmental birth.

There is some concern in speaking to spring’s symbolism in our personal lives, that growing energy and potential of spring, because sometimes I feel that we privilege that kind of behavior and focus. We are under demand for output at work and home, constantly generating activity. Maybe I am misunderstanding our culture, but it seems as if we, especially young people, expect ourselves to constantly be visibly succeeding, and we limit our evaluation to particular categories. Even though I try to be careful, sometimes I fall into the trap of comparison and self-judgment. The symbolic rebirth, the growing sunlight and faster energy of spring, is very real, but we seem to be demanding a constant spring/summer of beginning new things and witnessing them manifest. It’s damaging without the decline of fall and rest of winter. Sometimes we yearn for simplicity, for internal life and contemplation. This is not a bad thing. We do not need to fear the night, the quiet, the receding energy of the waning side of the year and its snowy hibernation. We must rest the soil to be sustainably fertile for new seeds.

The other side of reflecting on spring is to feel too clearly the nature-stripped conventional American lifestyle. I don’t know what you do for a living, but I think it is safe to say that most of us work indoors. Perhaps in a controlled environment, with air filters and temperature control. Fluorescent lighting. Same work hours every week, every season. Our conventional lifestyles attempt to function outside of the earthly context, away from the seasonal, monthly, daily shifts of nature. As a whole, it seems that we charge forward unaffected by the earthly context of our lives. We do acknowledge the seasonal shifts, switching out the sweaters for shorts and changing some of our activities, but we are ultimately disconnected from a massive piece of our reality.

When we feel the shift of the season, we are back in our bodies, our greater context, even if only briefly.

My faith practice, as an earth spiritualist, is about bringing me back into connection with those broader contexts. To respond with body and spirit as the earth turns forward in her cycle, and engaging the symbols and myths as opportunities for reflection. Spring unfolds across three holidays in the contemporary British/American tradition: Imbolc, for fresh spring shoots and the promise of the coming thaw on February 2nd; Ostara, the vernal equinox holding darkness and light in balance around March 21st; and Beltane, the fullness of spring manifesting in greenness and light on May 1st. The symbolic rebirth of spring is written deeply into the traditions I am influenced by, and that feeling of connection to the earth is a deeply spiritual experience for me. And in bringing my awareness to seasonal rhythms, I am honoring my ability to perceive the shift and reconnect to the reality of our bodied, earthly-grounded lives.

Whatever your background is, I hope that you have a moment today to pause for a moment outside, watch the seeds floating through the air, and feel the growing activity around you.

Photo by Thesupermat (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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