This morning the sun has warmth; the blue jays are calling in the trees and the earth has begun its annual journey back from the sleep of winter. A farmer moves his manure and straw out from the barn in the valley below us; the cows and horses step out into the muddy paddocks. A robin is seen hopping on the softening earth.
All these smells, sounds and sights bring a country person slowly and naturally to the theme of renewal. It is not the same for the city person who struggles with mounds of dirty snow; clogged street drains, and the remnants of the ‘last’ winter cold or flu. Across this land, it has been a hard winter for many. Fierce weather, lots of illness and a sense of frustration with the economy and the political discourse have made discouragement an easy ally.
So now is the time to begin a personal renewal. The spiritual life follows rhythms in much the same way as the physical life. We can take advantage of nature’s re-birth to inspire our own personal sense of beginning anew. If we step outdoors in the morning and begin to consciously take long deep breaths (ten full pranayamas perhaps) thinking of filling ourselves up with a feeling of spring, we can begin this process.
If we go for a walk in a park or along a beach, no matter our muddy feet, we can see how Mother Earth is softening and opening and we can join her in our thoughts. We can ask: “How can I be more open? How can I develop further on my journey towards compassion? How can I become more present? More mindful of my own actions, more mindful of others and their needs?”
Every religious formation I have studied has a spring renewal system. We can renew our formal vows within their context if it is relevant for us, or in a simpler way, we can re-ignite our own personal ethics. By reflecting on the gifts we have been given we can re-start the journey towards an enlightened consciousness, and re-commit to refining our actions to be more merciful, kind and loving in all things.
“Why bother?” you ask, ”Why make all this effort when I have so much to do, so many bills to pay, and the tax season is almost upon us!?” The proof, my mother used to say, is in the pudding. If we make this effort we will find, over time, that we become happier. If we harness the mind to renewing our compassion, clarity and energy, a miracle takes place. Not a fast, magical epiphany but a slow movement towards finding tranquillity and clarity in what we have ‘Now’, where we are ‘Now’. We find we are meeting the challenges of life, no longer seeing them as obstacles so much as lessons to be learned. Life as it is becomes more rewarding. A second miracle slowly emerges: our partners and associates benefit from this change in us and the environment in which we work and play becomes happier.
Try it out. Put it to the test! That’s what the Buddha asked us to do.
Copyright 2013 by Catherine Rathbun
Catherine Rathbun (1943-2015) received her traditional teaching name, Lama Jetsun Yeshe, from Ven. Karma Thinley Rinpoche, a lineage master of the Sakya and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, in 2002. She taught meditation at York University (1989 to 1997) and was the founding teacher at Friends of the Heart, a meditation centre in Toronto. She wrote Developing the World Mind and Clear Heart, Open Mind. Her columns for Parvati Magazine now form a book entitled “Radiating Joy”.