The Nine Rites of Spring

by Jack McLean

Published in Gulf Islands Driftwood (1998)

Well Spring has sprung again. Even though the vernal equinox (equal hours of day and night) does not occur until March 21, the unmistakable, welcome signs are upon us. According to the ancient and venerable principle of correspondence (“as for the outer world so for the inner world”), the natural rhythms of Spring lend themselves marvellously to parallels with the dynamics of spirituality.

Springtime is the fitting symbol for what has been called variously in the world religions rebirth, renewal, reformation, restoration and resurrection. All of these words point to the restoration of hope, good news, the triumph of life over death and the promise of eternal life, a return to joy and the need for celebration. In light of this outer inner correspondence, I offer here a few practical suggestions for spiritual renewal and the progress that comes in season.

  1. Restore the Balance. We may take the vernal equinox as the perfect symbol for balance or the moderating principle of spiritual life. From the Latin words aequus (=equal) + nox (=night) the coming equinox reminds that there should be a balance and harmony between our material and spiritual needs. The symbol of the Tao of the Chinese religions (yin/yang) is a reminder to keep polar opposites in balance. Like the Icarus of Greek mythology, if we become drunk with the power of our own trip, we shall crash into the sea.
  2. Forgive. Nothing harder to achieve if we have been grievously hurt by another, but nothing more liberating than to forgive, forget and begin again.
  3. Speak the “L” Word. Tell those who are dear to you that you love them. Better to tell them while they are still here than there. Love is a powerful word and must be spoken in honesty and sincerity. Followed up with kindly deeds, it restores healing and confidence.
  4. Grieve. Wounds are sacred things to spiritual warriors. If hearts break, they break open, revealing the seed of a new birth in the midst of the old shell. Hearts that bleed are a sign of life, a sign that the warm blood of human fleeing is still flowing, that you are still alive. If you have lost a loved one, there is no harder test to bear. Remember and be grateful. Embrace the vastness of time as your friend. For grief, like the tides of the oceans, ebbs and flows. In the flow of time you will discover that “this too shall pass.”
  5. Letting Go. The Buddha taught that the root of all our psychological pain is clinging or attachment to misdirected desires. We experience clinging as a burning thirst of desires never fulfilled. Lovingly embrace this situation or this pain. It is the way it is. Resistance brings persistence.
  6. Live Fully in the Present Moment. This moment — now — is the only bit of time that we shall ever own. By overcoming today’s test, by attending to today’s problem as best as we can, by assuaging today’s pain, by solving today’s riddle, we shall be empowered to break that vicious circle by which we “will be freed from the darkness of continually repeating the past”, of creating for ourselves a new life at every moment.
  7. Rejoice! You Have No Choice! This Spring take the time to celebrate the victories that you have won in your spiritual battles. Self transformation is no doubt one of the most formidable, subtle and difficult tasks we face in life. Victory comes slowly and the battle is won by inches but there is an immense satisfaction in recognizing that we are making spiritual progress. Spiritual progress signifies that we are more fully reflecting the divine image, becoming our true selves, fulfilling our potential and the purpose for which we have been created.
  8. Gracefully Accept Reversals and Setbacks. The great Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung said that human experience was “soul work.” Part of this soul work is to accept the fact that advances are accompanied by reversals and setbacks. This phenomenal world seems to be full of contradictions and paradoxes. But I believe that ultimately spiritual progress is linear. The mind, the emotions or the body may suffer shocks and seeming reversals. But spiritual lessons cannot be unlearned. We move on.
  9. Be Creative and Spontaneous. Break the dull routine. Go wild and dance with the Torah in your arms. Sing. Shout aloud. Get up in the predawn. Say some prayers to the morning sun. Meditate on the bounties of your life. Feel the sacred moment and watch the wonderful mystery of the rising sun. Listen to the breaking note of the first song of the birds at dawn. Speak your gratitude aloud. Practice “random acts of beauty and kindness.”

Praise for the Spring Time!

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