Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons.
March 24th, 2019
The spring equinox always feels like an ignition key to me…
This is an amazing time of year to ponder big dreams and articulate fresh intentions.
This is always true in the springtime, but if felt especially auspicious this year with the equinox full moon. On Wednesday evening I did some moon bathing on our deck and caught this picture. The moonlight lit up our entire field. It was a wonder to see!
Balancing our Multi-Layered Lives | Spring Equinox
It’s officially springtime in the northern hemisphere. A season that helps us move from the dark, cold days of winter into the bright, hot days of summer. At the winter solstice I asked you to pay attention to the slow returning of light. Have you been watching it? Have you been feeling it? On Wednesday, the official equinox, light and dark, day and night were equal.
The spring equinox is a celebration of balance—a balance of light and dark, a balance of the inner world and the outer world. It’s also a time of awakening and fertility. The sun is slowly growing stronger now and the world around us is waking up and coming alive. As I walk through the woods every morning I’m surrounded by new buds ready to burst open.
In the Celtic tradition of seasons and elements, spring is connected to air. For months we’ve stayed inside, out of the cold. But now the fresh, spring air beckons us outward. We can open our windows and flush out the stagnant winter air. We can open our arms, feel the warmer wind on our skin, and release the embodied tension of trying to stay warm.
In the Vedic tradition the element of air is connected to the sense of touch and the energetic center of the heart. As we open our arms to touch the warmer air our heart is allowed a sense of expansion. And with this expanding energy we can pay attention to what this new season is asking of us.
With the arrival of spring comes a deep sense of potential. All winter long we’ve been drawn inward toward reflection. Now is the time to respond to our reflective wonderings. With this changing season we’re called to try and balance the inward reflection with some outward action. What’s the expanding energy of our heart calling for? As the sun grows strong, what seeds should we be planting? Of course, before we can plant anything, we have to prepare the ground. We have to clean things up. We have to look around and notice what needs to be done. What sludge has the winter left? What chores are filling up our to-do list?
Now, before we jump straight into action, let’s pause and remember that ultimately the spring equinox is calling us toward balance. As we’re deciding what to clean up and what to plant this season, let’s remember that there are many aspects of our being. In the Taittiriya Upanishad we’re reminded that we are multi-dimensional beings. Our spring cleaning and our spring planting should help bring the various parts of our life and being into balance.
The Upanishad teaches that first we are a body. We are physical and material. And it’s time to shake off the sluggishness of winter and move! What would it feel like to celebrate the arrival of spring by running through a field? By intentionally waking up your senses and feeling into the spring winds, the singing birds, the dewey grass, the warming sun? In the Song of Solomon, a sensual part of the Hebrew Bible which celebrates our physicality we read: “My beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12) So run through the field and rejoice in this new season. Feel your body. Feel the awakening, fertile nature that surrounds you.
Then take a meditative walk around and through the physical spaces that you inhabit. Make your spring cleaning list by noticing how your body responds to what you’re surrounded by.
Notice also that your physical body is animated by a pulse of life. Words like ruah in Hebrew or prana in Sanskrit speak of this animating force that keeps all our physiological systems working. Think about your heart pumping, your lungs breathing, your digestive system processing nutrients. Our body and energy can’t be separated. If we want to balance one, we need to think about both. Take a moment to visualize running through that field. Visualize returning from that field and coming into a physical space that has been deeply cleaned and organized. What effect does all this running and cleaning have on the quality of your energy?
Coming even deeper into your being take a moment to ponder your senses and your mind. What needs to be cleaned up here? Please know that I’m still asking a physical question. Have you ever stopped to think about how you keep your sensory organs clean? How do you clean your mouth, your ears, nose, skin, and eyes? Our senses and our roaming thoughts are deeply connected. Have you ever pondered what kind of effect you could have on the quality of your thoughts by paying close attention to your senses?
And what of the emotional mind and heart? If part of our spring ritual is walking our body around the garage and through the closets to see what needs to be cleaned up, what about walking through the baggage we carry around in the form of old stories and wounds? Practices like journaling, meditation, and fire rituals can help us notice the weight we’re carrying around and might help us to begin the work of doing a little emotional spring cleaning to help lighten our load.
We are a body animated by breath and energy. We are full of thoughts and feelings that manifest into behavior. And deep within us all is a nourishing spirit that allows us to feel joy and connection. What’s the gunk—physical or emotional—that keeps us from tapping into this spirit of joy always within us?
I invite you to harness the power of this season, these weeks of spring full of balancing and igniting energy, to balance and ignite your own energy. Pay attention to the growing power of the sun and feel into the fire of your own belly. You have within you everything you need to clean out the muck and plant the seeds that will help balance your life and being.
Just to make sure you feel this inner power, let’s end with a short guided meditation including a simple, but deeply cleansing breath practice:
If you’re sitting down, come to standing. Feel into the sensations of your body and move a little. Shake, bounce. Let your body find a balance between alertness and ease. When you’re ready you can begin to settle into stillness. You can stay standing or find a comfortable seat. You can close your eyes here or let your gaze drop down toward the earth.
Feel into the fact that your body is being breathed. Can you feel where your breath begins? Where it ends? Breathing through your nose, notice how far down into your body you can feel the energy and movement of your breath.
Let your attention drop down just below your rib cage. And bring your hands to the space right under your breastbone. Hold your hands there and feel the movement of your breath. Keep your attention in this place of your body. Your stomach is a little to the left, your liver off to the right.
Holding your attention here, begin to visualize the sun. We’ve moving toward longer days now. Visualize the growing intensity of the spring sun. And feel into the fire of your own belly. Take a moment to contemplate the acidic strength of your stomach and the cleansing power of your liver.
The ancient yogi’s called this inner fire Agni. Visualize a huge bon fire and imagine throwing something into the flames and watching it burn. With your next inhale imagine your incoming air fanning the flames and intensifying your inner fire—your inner agni.
With your next exhale, squeeze the muscles of your belly and imagine your guts lifting up toward the flames. Stay here in this action for a minute. With every exhale imagine that your lifting up the gunk of your guts—any stored emotional or physical junk is rising up into the fire. And with every inhale you fan the flames of your inner fire and burn up that gunk.
Begin to let your belly soften now and notice if your breath has picked up at all. If so, let it settle. Notice how your body feels. Feel into the connection between your inner fire and the outer fire of the spring time sun. Notice the quality of your energy, your mind, your heart, your spirit.
This is an ancient practice. One that is always available to you. One that can support your efforts of spring cleaning—of making space to plant new seeds that can lead you toward a greater sense of balance in your life.
May this practice be a blessing to you this season.
- Is there a ritual or an action you could practice with intention in order to officially welcome this new season? (like running through a field?)
What’s the expanding energy of your heart calling for in this early days of spring?
As you look around your life and the spaces you inhabit, what needs to be cleaned up? What sludge has the winter left? What chores are filling up your to-do list?
What needs to be brought into balance in your life?
As you ask these questions, don’t forget your multi-dimensionality. Remember your physcial structure, your energy, your senses, your mind, your heart, your spirit…
As the spring sun grows stronger, what seeds do you want to plant? In your garden? In your actions? In your heart?
We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation. What did this week’s sermon and reflection questions spark in you?