We really are having a beautiful early spring. I am so enjoying the sunshine and blue skies, and the energy of the new season. I heard a priest talking on the radio this morning about Lent, and how the meaning of Lent is spring. How it signifies the death of the old, and the birth of the new. So many of us give things up for Lent – for me it’s chocolate again this year! – but how many of us take up something new? Many years ago, I heard someone talking about Lent being an important time to adopt positive changes, rather than denying ourselves something for a matter of weeks, and then simply going back to our old selves. But this message of Lent, and of the spring, is so often forgotten.
Think of spring cleaning, and we think of cleaning out our homes, but could we take this further and clean out the clutter of our wider lives, our minds, our beliefs, our behaviour patterns? Could we use the energy of spring to rid ourselves of our outdated opinions and thoughts, could we really die to our old selves, and be reborn? Could we let go of the old, and see clearly what we need to do to move forward in new, fresh ways?
Buddhist writer Pema Chodron suggests in her book ‘When Things Fall Apart’ that we need to hold our opinions more lightly, to stop ourselves from taking a stand and using our position to alienate and distance ourselves from others. To be less attached to our beliefs. In ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’, we are urged to let go of everything, to let every moment be like a little death. If we don’t let go of each moment as it happens, then how can the new moment be born? It is so easy to end up living in the past, dwelling on perceived slights and harms, and to miss the beauty of the moment.
In Jin Shin Jyutsu, the Safety Energy Lock 9, located around the lower shoulder blades, relates to this cycle of life. Its meaning is ‘let go of the old, receive the new’ and interestingly the next Safety Energy Lock 10 is known as the ‘warehouse of abundance’. This suggests that by letting go, by letting the natural cycle of life work in us, we will step into our true nature, one which is truly rich and wonderful.
One way we can work with letting go is by watching and meditating on the breath. Sitting quietly and just observing the breath flowing in, flowing out. Allowing ourselves to let go with the outbreath, and then to receive the inbreath – not taking, not reaching and straining with the breath, but simply allowing it to flow in – and then to leave again. Letting go of the old breath cleanses the body, and makes space for the new breath to flow in. Similarly, in life, letting go of what no longer serves us allows a breathing space, a place where possibilities are endless, where the more positive has room to flow into our lives. In pranayama practice, we learn that it is the spaces, the pauses between the inhale and the exhale, where meditation can truly begin. At first, we work gently, just noticing the pauses, without trying to sustain them in any way.
In ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’, Sogyal Rinpoche describes the pause at the end of the outbreath as a profound experience:
‘Each time you breathe out, you are letting go and releasing all your grasping….Each time you breathe out, and before you breathe in again, you will find that there will be a natural gap, as the grasping dissolves. Rest in that gap, the open space’
(Rinpoche 1992: 68-69)
Every aspect of our lives tends to be full and cluttered, not just our homes, our days, our diaries, but also our mind with its endless chatter, its endless preoccupation with what might happen, what has already happened earlier…it’s easy to miss the present moment. This is what mindfulness meditation is all about. Really savouring the moment, feeling yourself walking, cooking, eating, whatever it might be. Sitting and observing your breath is a wonderful place to start and to embrace the spirit of the season.