re/VIEW: Mark Nepo
Mark Nepo reflects on his spiritual journey, our polarized country, and how being open-hearted ...
The vernal equinox, also known as the spring equinox, is the date when day and night are essentially the same length, happening around March 20 in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a time to celebrate the beginning of spring, when daylight begins to grow longer than the dark of night.
Across time and around the globe, the vernal equinox has been celebrated as a time of growth, and a time for new beginnings. Rooted in and inspired by the natural world, we can see this as an opportunity to look for and honor the places in our lives where we are growing, cultivate conditions that will support our nascent creations, and invite more light into the shadow aspects of ourselves.
Creating intentional practices around these themes of the spring equinox helps us breathe life into what we want to create more of and generate the energy we need to grow in ways that are meaningful and important to us.
We don’t have to look far in spring to see signs of new life. It can take your breath away to see snowdrops bursting through ground still covered in snow. Imagine a seed, deep in the cold earth. There is a blueprint for life contained in that seed that inspires the stirrings, yearnings, and the reaching for the light. Life pulls us forward toward growth, but it’s not always easy.
Practice: Consider the challenges you are facing in your life right now. You could journal or take a walk in nature and let your mind explore the following questions: How are these challenges asking you—or perhaps forcing you—to grow? In what ways must you stretch yourself to expand into your new form? How can you offer yourself some sunlight and water along the way? Nourishment is required in order to grow, so offer yourself the kindness you need as you push your tender shoots through the earth of your life.
In the natural world, fast-growing plant species are often the most vulnerable when any kind of pests or destructive weather move in. Certain trees known for their rapid growth are quickly knocked down when storms arrive. It’s important for strong roots to develop in order to create a stable base for a solid trunk. Structurally, humans are the same, though culturally, there is a strong inclination toward quick fixes. Cultivating patience begins in the present, and focusing on the senses offers easy and practical tools to root yourself in the here and now.
Practice: Use your senses to find an access point to the natural world. Listen for the sound of birds singing or water lapping a nearby shore. Look for signs of new life on the trees and shrubs you pass throughout your day. Feel how the sun caresses your skin or the rain washes over you. Smell the earth as the snow begins to melt or the tea in your mug as you sit quiet and cozy at your window.
Everyone has a shadow side, a part of themselves that they are critical of or have a hard time looking at. Often that part of ourselves is avoided, neglected, or ignored. Emotions of deep sadness, anger, and vulnerability are often relegated to this realm. When you are on a path of growth, it is normal to bump against your shadow. However, in order for you to grow, there can no longer be the option to repress or ignore any part of yourself. Just as the idea of the monster in the closet was enough to keep you up at night as a child, your shadow self becomes much scarier when banished.
The practice of befriending your shadow is one of acknowledging and allowing your feelings. For anyone with years of experience ignoring and neglecting difficult emotions, this will take time and a good deal of practice.
Practice: A powerful way to make friends with your feelings—especially the most difficult ones—is aptly named for springtime contemplation: RAIN. Developed by meditation teacher Tara Brach, this technique helps each of us cultivate rich wells of self-compassion. Outlined by Brach in her numerous books and teachings, the acronym stands for: Recognize what is happening in the moment; allow the experience to be whatever it is; investigate what is happening within you with judgment-free curiosity; and nurture yourself with a gesture of kindness. The power of RAIN lies in acknowledging the truth of how you feel and gently and kindly turning toward it instead of away from it.
Weave these spring equinox practices into the rhythm of your daily life and you will begin to feel the momentum of growth and expansion.
Explore the spiritual meaning of Ostara, a spring equinox celebration.
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