New beginnings & Refreshing Springs

The Sun hangs upon our celestial equator. Nature teeters on the precipice, and soon, Spring and then Summer will come flooding back. Light will come cascading through our clear windows, and the spirit of life will fill the air. We will breath in a new freshness, a new exuberance, a new beginning, a new perspective. As we think about the Spring Equinox and these ideas of balance, finding our balance, finding our centre, determining what enough is for us, we reflect on being a human being in this topsy-turvy world. Trying to tune ourselves into the ebb and flow of the seasons, to find balance in a consumerist world, to unplug, unwind, and breath free from our responsibilities, and the pressure of the next thing, we reflect on what our own sense of enough-ness is. Enough clothes, enough food, enough books, enough time to sit in the garden, enough chocolate, enough time to yourselves. It is impossible to impose someone else’s enough upon them. What is enough is such a personal thing. Only we know our own limits, and only we know when those limits are being exceeded. Only we know when such excess is a positive or a negative.

In the Christian calendar, we are currently in the season of Lent: a six-week period in which we prepare ourselves for the events that unfold during Easter, the events of Holy Week, and Jesus’ death upon the cross. The cliche discipline during this period is the giving up of chocolate for Lent, or something like that. The purpose therein, of course, is that we might become more aware, and conscious of what we have, of what the limits of our enough are. It’s like a process of stabilisation, or a self MOT, so that we don’t elevate unimportant concerns or things beyond what is reasonable. For Lent, I have never found arbitrarily giving something up that helpful. In college, we used to joke about giving up things we never did anyway - for Lent, I will not watch a single game of sports. Or, for Lent, I won’t have one slice of cake - feats that sounded impressive to some. Rather, I found just practicing being more aware was a better spiritual discipline. Aware of where the food I ate came from, the hands that grew it, aware of coal being burned in some distant power plant to light the room, aware of other people, their own worlds, their own challenges and pains. And through just practicing that awareness, one finds a kind of balance, their centre, their enough. One is able to see themselves as just one person, a cog of you like, in this vast and complex world of ours. It relates, I think, to this idea of Spring Cleaning – in different cultures Spring Cleaning has as much to do with self-awareness as it does to cleaning your house. In Persian culture for example, there is a practice called ‘shaking the house’ which happens on their New Year, which for them is marked on the first day of Spring. In this ritual each corner of the house is dusted, and items are polished in preparation for returning spirits. Or for the Chinese ‘Spring festival’, houses are cleaned to sweep away bad energy, and to leave space for good fortune to flow. There is an Indian proverb that states that every person is a house consisting of four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. We all have our room preferences, which we spend the majority of our time within, but if we don’t move into each room at least once a day, just to let the air flow, we cannot be a complete person. This metaphor of our inner four rooms, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, allows for an inner awareness which can help us to recognise the rooms we neglect within ourselves, and Spring is the best time to open all the doors, and make sure none of those rooms within our psyche are stagnating. When these four dimensions of our lives are aligned, we can appreciate more deeply life’s meaning and richness.

It might be useful to consider what each of these four inner spaces might look like for you. Which rooms do you spend most time in, which room is most cluttered? For me, probably not surprisingly, it would be the mental room. In the 21st Century, this is probably the room most of us spend more of their time within. Or think of the emotional room, filled with all those feelings. Some of us ignore that room. Maybe the mess in there is more than we can bear, and we keep that door closed. Or perhaps some of us spend too much time in there, reacting to life’s events primarily from a place of raw emotion. Keeping this room in check is the skill the Stoics prize, which we were thinking about last week. You would need to keep that room in check if you were at the beck and call of a tyrant. Spring is a time to let our houses breath, to open the windows and let the warm air fill the house, to blow away winter’s stagnation. The physical room relates to our connection to the physical environment. Is it not often easier to think in a tidy room? Or indeed, connecting with the spiritual dimension of ourselves can be aided a great deal by the environment we put ourselves within, be that on a walk in the country, up a mountain, in a quiet room, or within a Meeting House. The physical room also relates to our physical energy, getting as much sleep as we need, eating consciously, drinking enough water, movement, to breath, play, and exercise. This Spring Equinox then, as Spring is ushered in, let us make a conscious effort to open the windows, be that literally or metaphorically. Let us attend to our Spring Cleaning, whether that be literally or metaphorically. Let us remember not to neglect those four rooms, especially the one we probably neglect most of all, the spiritual room. The Spiritual room, of course, is not about religion, or doing religion, but about finding those things which make us feel most alive, how our spirit expresses its deepest values in the world. Being within our spiritual room just requires us to identify what that is - being in nature, being with loved ones, doing a particular job or hobby, caring for those in need, sharing a meal. This room is perhaps the room which helps us the most to integrate the whole self, integrate all four rooms within our psyche, the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, into one whole person. For this is the room of creativity, energy, and peace. Living in the four rooms simply requires us being aware of them, being present to them. And so, this Spring Equinox, let us find our balance, find our centre, find our enough.