“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and grass grows by itself.”-Zen Proverb
With the first day of spring briefly behind us, most of us have begun to feel the renewing energy that it brings to the earth and to us; the first blooms on the trees, longer, light-filled days and the accompanying optimism both of those bring. Springtime represents youth, possibility, newness, reproduction, and energy. In springtime, life comes alive. Birds sing. Flowers grow, and insects hatch. Hope abounds in spring, because life grows by itself. In spring, life seems easy. We do very little, and yet our ideas, our hopes and loves appear, seemingly out of nowhere, and, with little effort, they grow. How great is that?
While many of us may be ecstatically waving blizzards and frigid temperatures goodbye, it’s important that we don’t let the wonderful youth and energy of spring pass us by without noticing all the magical things that occur during this season. Instead, we should slow down and notice all of the new growth and colors that are surrounding us everyday. Here are three ways to mindfully welcome and enjoy Spring:
Getting outside doesn’t mean you have to take an intensive trip to the beach or up to the mountains (but if you can, awesome); you can find an outside oasis often right outside of your office or by taking a walk down the block. Take a seat somewhere outside and simply observe everything around you. Look up at the sky and watch the movement of the clouds. Notice the new blooms on the trees. Notice the sound of the birds chirping. Notice the new colors around you. Notice how it feels to breathe in the fresh air. Take a few mindful, deep breaths here, choosing one of those things to focus on and smile at the beauty surrounding you. For a more thorough guided meditation that embraces and uses the natural world as a guide, check out our most recent podcast with renowned Spiritual teacher and ecologist, John. P. Milton.
Another great way to appreciate and observe the growth of the season is to germinate and plant your own seeds. Watching each phase of growth is fascinating and instills a certain sense of wonder for life in you.
Slow Down & Create Space
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”–Lao Tzu.
As contradictory as it may sound, sometimes slowing down is actually more productive than constantly going. In our busy lives, we become focused on action and productivity, as if the earth would stop spinning if we stopped spinning. As you arrive in spring, you may find yourself overwhelmed with “to-dos”—spring cleaning, planning your summer vacation, finding a dress for your friend’s wedding, finishing up a school semester, registering your kids for a sports camp or whatever it may be. However, it’s important to savor the present moment and realize that the most important things for sustaining life continue to keep moving without the completion of your many “to-do’s.” Instead, think of ways to interact with the world around you, or simply be still and do nothing at all. Prioritize the things that must get done, and then leisurely work your way through them. Everything not going according to your plan? No worries. In nature, a tree will grow around an obstacle.
Another way to create space, more literally, is to declutter. Many of you are probably familiar with the adorable Japanese woman, Marie Kondo, who recently took America by storm with her decluttering method of Konmari and her Netflix series, “Tidying Up.” Though somewhat strange and revolutionary to most Americans, The Konmari method is tied to beliefs rooted in Shintoism, an ancient Japanese religion that has become an aspect of everyday Japanese life. In my simplest attempt to explain the experience of Konmari, to me, it is showing an appreciation for the things you own and only keeping things that “spark joy” in your life. It’s a giant mindfulness activity that creates space in your home, and as a result, in your mind, which simultaneously fosters gratitude and responsibility. It encourages you to be mindful about your possessions and slow down through the process of careful choosing and folding. My boyfriend & I completed this tidying process and created so much space in our lives, both mentally and physically. I’ve always been a very organized person and have never owned a lot of stuff, but this process really showed me an appreciation for the things I had and now I experience joy by looking at all of my nicely folded and stored, self-curated items. As cliché as it may seem, I encourage you to check it out and give it a try.
Appreciate your Food
Spring usually brings along a variety of new and fresh fruits and vegetables for you to savor, but so often we rush through our lunch break or end up shoving a couple of strawberries into our mouth while we’re finishing up an email. Next time you pick up something fresh from the grocery store, take the time to truly enjoy it and appreciate the miracle of growth that occurs during this season.
Here’s a simple mindfulness practice for enjoying and appreciating your food:
The next time, or even every time, you drink juice think of the miracle you are experiencing. Long ago a seed was planted by a person. They prepared the soil, placed the seed into the soil, watered the soil frequently, and waited. The seed transformed to a sapling and eventually a tree. The tree, after years of careful tending, bore fruit. The fruit was picked by someone at the right time and the juice was carefully extracted from the other parts of the fruit. The juice was packaged and placed on either a boat, a truck, a plane, or all three. The juice was delivered to a store and placed by a person onto the shelf. Refrigerators kept the juice cool. You or someone who cares for you purchased the juice and brought it home. You can now simply open your refrigerator and enjoy the real fruit of many years of labor, the toil and hard work of many people.
This mindfulness of what you are doing while drinking your juice can be extended to any area of life. The practice of being mindful creates gratitude and wonderment. We can say thank you to everyone who contributed to our nourishment before we take a drink, and this gratitude and joy will begin to trickle down to everything we do and impact all of the people around us.