I’ve long maintained: the various and great religious festivals and observances --the so many Holidays and Holy Days—make eminent sense relative to our creatureliness in the midst of the yearly cycles of Nature.
We have instincts, spiritual itches that these so many seasonal habits and rites scratch.
This is to say, universal human needs, emotions, responses and such are embedded in Holiday and Holy Days. And, so, in this regard, religion is a natural phenomenon, a product of human yearning and aspiration.
This is true for the great season of birth and renewal in this time of year. On the national calendar, it is known as spring, beginning with the vernal equinox. On the church calendar, it is known as Easter with its season of preparation called Lent.
Lent began on Wednesday—Ash Wednesday. It ends on Holy Saturday that proceeds Easter Sunday. In church lore, Lent is a time for introspection and sacrifice, 40 days of preparation for the most holy day of Christianity: Easter.
Lent resonates to a natural instinct to imitate Nature’s renewal, or perhaps more accurately, to answer the stirrings of renewal within self.
I read it last week, but I love it so, I’m going to read it again, a meditation by a venerable 20th century Universalist minister, Clinton Lee Scott:
The Teutons of ancient days, after the long hard winter, rejoiced when the season's cold began to pass and the promise of spring was in the air. They held joyful festivals and sang praised to their gods. The "lengthening days" were for dancing and feasting.
The the ponderous councils of the church moved in and proceeded to take the joy out of the season by prescribing that Lent be for self-denial, sackcloth and ashes, and a shortcut to holiness.
We should do better. Lent should be a season not of gloom, but of cheer, not of sulfur and molasses but maple syrup and raised doughnuts, a time to celebrate the goodness, the beauty, and the utility of life.
Lent is not a time for monastic introspection but for expansion of mind and heart, for vigorous exercise and deep breathing, a time for getting the whole self tuned up so it can function harmoniously with the forces that lift the tulips and make the grass grow. It is a time for becoming more alive, for making love with your mate, and for getting acquainted with your children.
Now this little piece is as rich in spiritual wisdom as it is rich in old-timey New England references. And it predicted what has become conventional wisdom by contemporary spiritual types for meeting the spring. No area of contemporary spirituality has been apparent as the recent enthusiasm for home and domesticity, as evidenced in a proliferation in the 1990s of what are called shelter magazines, such as The House Beautiful, Town and Country, and Martha Stewart’s Living.
When I searched the Internet for using spring cleaning and spirituality, I found a proliferation of similar articles, including several on the theme of spring cleaning from a 2005 edition/posting of Soulful Living. The articles even had a piece of text on which to draw: “Out of Clutter, Find Simplicity. From Discord, Find Harmony. In the Middle of Difficulty Lies Opportunity. ” [attributed to Albert Einstein.]
After I read the articles by authors who specialize in the convergence of contemporary home, domesticity, and spirituality, I identified something timeless yet very up to date about the meaning of spring cleaning. Call what I’m about to read, that is also a clear and wide window into what might be called the contemporary soul—the yearnings and aspirations of the human spirit as spring approaches.
I hope you find these excerpts illuminating about the human sources of spirituality. And I hope you find them inspiring enough for you to also seek harmony with that which “lifts the tulips” and “makes the grass grow”—a time to become more alive.
[The following articles may be found in their entirety at Soulful Living, 2005: http://www.soulfulliving.com/apr05features.htm]. Individual copyrights held by the writers of the articles.]
Tips for Springtime Space Clearing: Christan Hummel
Spring cleaning goes beyond normal everyday cleaning. It's a major project of home revitalization: to make everything new by removing dust and dirt, to make sure everything is in good repair, and to put things in order, so that you will have everything in your household in working condition for the coming year.
There is a rhythm to Life, a time for growth, and a time for death. Cycles are important to observe: moon cycles are often used for planting, cutting hair, beginning new projects. Similarly, observing the cycles of the sun of day and night, being more active during the daylight hours, and winding down in the evening when there is less energy available. As well there are the larger seasonal cycles, solstices, equinoxes, and the times in between them (what the Celts called the cross quarter days.) When we are in tune with and align consciously with these cycles of nature, the rhythm of Life, we find more harmony and balance in our lives.
Spring is a natural time to go forward and celebrate the energies which are coming out of the hibernation of Winter. … Now that spring has come, we can support those tender little sprouts of Life by clearing out the past and creating a space for them to grow and flourish.
When we follow these cycles, we harness the Life energy of the planet and begin to dance to the same beat of Life. So by paying attention to the cycles of Life, we begin to work with them to receive the gift of their energy.
With some small investment on our part, we can dramatically change the energies of our environment making our homes a sanctuary to reflect our highest intentions and dreams.
Spring Cleaning for the Soul: Kathryn L. Robyn
Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center, dividing it into two columns. This is your Spirit List. Identify which things make you feel wonderful and which make you feel uncomfortable. Put things that Buoy Your Spirit down the left side. Those that Sink Your Spirit go down the right side. Take your time; and make a note in your journal about any feelings or questions that come up while reviewing each of your possessions. Commit yourself to return to any issues that arise, for further exploration.
Some things will clearly be headed for the trash. Anything is a burden if it doesn’t make you feel good, a millstone if it actually ticks you off—if that’s not clutter, I don’t know what is. Surely there are 50 ways to toss your trash. If you can’t quite face sending something to the dumpster, make a note of your hesitation and take a first step by packing it up for storage. Label your box with the exact contents and set it aside to let it "season." Living without it for a time can help you get clear on whether it ’s ultimately headed for keepsake status in the attic, rotation to be brought out another year, or history in a garage sale or donation bin. Remembering the old adage, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, your "spirit-dampening" items can become a gift to you when transferred to someone else’s ownership—either in the form of cash money or a charitable tax deduction, if not simply in the relief of seeing them go. Turning your trash into treasure clears out old energies that dragged you down like nothing else. However you choose to release them—store, sell, donate or dump—let go of all the unnecessary burdens you can....
Spring is the time for each of us to usher in new growth and possibilities. It is a time to be more open to love and joy. In ancient times, the New Year started at the Spring Equinox. In fact, astrologically it still does. In many traditions, this is the start of the New Year. The Roman year began on the ides of March (15th). The astrological year begins on the equinox when the moon moves into the first sign of the zodiac, Aries, the ram. The Greek god Ares is equivalent to the Roman Mars for whom the month of March is named. This is also the festival of Nawruz, Persian New Year, which falls on the spring equinox.
Now is the time that we are able to renew our hopes, aspirations and dreams. Yet, we cannot do this if we are weighed down by old beliefs that create barriers for opportunities and fulfillment. Loving yourself and appreciating others is a key to achieving your goals in life. The Spring Equinox ushers in a time of new balance. The season invites you to become aware of whatever is out of balance in your life and to put in the corrections.
Take some time to contemplate the following:
Could you change your diet so your body can safely eliminate toxins and regain its natural rhythms?
How much of your time is spent working?
How much of your time is spent worrying?
How much of your time is spent with friends? Family?
How much of your time is spent enjoying yourself?
Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night?
When is the last time you took time for yourself?
How can you grow in a healthy way and become more open, compassionate and accepting?
Can you simplify your life? ...
You should be guilty if you are not taking care of yourself. All other guilt is useless and a burden. If you have made a mistake do the following:
Take a few deep breaths and allow your body to move into a state of relaxation.
Call in and connect to the Universal Law of Forgiveness and asked to be forgiven for anyone you have hurt in words, deeds or actions. Then ask that the cause of this mistake be released and consumed. This will free you to be in your life completely.
Spend a few minutes sending yourself love and light.
Send energy to anyone you have harmed consciously or unconsciously.
See if there are any concrete steps you need to take to heal or reconcile a relationship.
Spring Cleaning as a Spiritual Act
Spring Cleaning: Debra Lynn Dadd
There must be something about cleaning to welcome spring that dwells deep within our instincts. Just as the windy storms of early spring scour the land before new growth arises, and new seedlings shake off dirt as they shoot up through the soil to greet the sun, so too do we humans feel the impulse to open the windows and clear away the dust and cobwebs of winter on the first warmer days of spring.
Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in cultures around the world--and for purposes beyond simply removing dirt. In China, for example, the agriculturally-based springtime New Year’s celebration is preceded by a thorough housecleaning, both to remove accumulated grime and to rid the dwelling of any evil spirits that have taken up residence so they don’t come into the new year. …
Here are some tasks that are traditionally included in a major spring cleaning:
Put away winter clothes and take out spring and summer clothing.
Sweep and vacuum floors, walls, and corners.
Wash floors and carpets.
Clean window panes, sills, and frames.
Replace thick winter curtains that keep heat in with light summer curtains that allow breezes through.
Remove storm windows, hang up screens.
Brush or vacuum stuffed furniture and remove spots.
Wash every surface in every room that has accumulated dust or grime.
I like to finish a spring cleaning by bringing in loads of spring flowers and placing them in vases in every room.
Spring Cleaning for the Soul: Sunny Schlenger
[W]e need to clean out the deadwood once in a while – so we can get a clear view of what’s actually there now. Removing the deadwood is not always the easiest thing to do, especially for pack rats. We get very used to having our belongings around, even if they’re serving no useful purpose. That was the case with my hemlocks. When I thought of the years I’d spent staring out at them while I worked and all of the experiences I’ve had that they’d borne silent witness to, the idea of chopping them down seemed impossible. But that was then, and this is now.
And that is one of the keys to being able to part with things. Often it’s not the things themselves but the memories they represent that we’re holding onto. But memories can be preserved in other ways, such as in pictures. So many times when I’ve run out of space to store items and have to make choices about what to save and what to get rid of, I’ve taken a picture – of my favorite raggedy Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, a shelf of old college texts, a broken baby toy. And my row of hemlocks.…
Think of spring cleaning for the soul as a way of removing the deadwood that blocks your perception of your best self, and enjoy the present-day vistas that emerge!
These six selections seem so mundane and ordinary that their insights are easily ignored. But isn’t this the definition of conventional wisdom? And what is conventional wisdom but tangible truths of our lives?
These days people are more apt to say, “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual.” In my estimation what I’ve read to you today are expressions of contemporary spirituality!