Two of the most prominent poets in the English language begin their most famous poems by speaking of April. One wrote in 1387 and the other in 1922. Each sees the season of spring and the first full month of spring, April, as a suitable beginning for their poems.
But they take very different tones. The opening lines of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Cantebury Tales is more positive and speaks of siring and birth and flowers, while the opening of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland is more negative and refers to dullness, deadness, and of dryness.
Why would April be cruel? When it snows the first week, repeatedly? Perhaps. For me the answer may be that when you are sick and the world is waking up around you, the contrast between you, stuck inside and sick in bed, is sharper, harder and more piercing. I love Eliot for acknowledging that. In winter, when everyone is hibernating, not just sick people, we do not feel so alone.
As both poets note, spring time is one for beginnings and transition. Like last year, the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in DC are challenged again. They are about to bloom this first week of April and there is a possibility of snow over the weekend. This spring weather makes no sense. And this nonsense is similar to what it it like to live with a chronic illness – unpredictable and disorientating.
And as others focus on spring cleaning or shedding pounds or venturing outside, what does this time of renewal mean for those of us who live with an unpredictable illness every day? How can we embody the spirit of spring when we feel tied to our beds? What can spring mean when renewal seems so far out of our reach? When we feel stagnant and stale all. the. time? When we would give anything for a resurrection of any kind.
Spring is not just about flowers bursting forth from the dirt. By examining other meanings of spring – as both a noun as well as verb – there other ways that one can embrace spring. Anyone in any state can bloom and create sweetness.
Here are 5 ways to bloom and embody the season of spring ―
1/ SPRING AS ORIGIN
Spring is the source or origin of something, the first or early stage of life. Even if we are not 100%, we can still recommit to new start. We used to begin our year in the springtime, in March, which is why the last months of the year are rooted in the numbers 7 (sept), 8 (oct), 9 (nov), and 10 (dec).
For me, this spring, I resolve to a consistent bedtime, a (more) regular meditation practice, and to consistently reach out to friends. All of these practices will enhance my wellness. I start again.
One very helpful lesson from my meditation practice is that we can always begin again (at any time of year). Spring moves us to begin again no matter where we are or how we are. And to start where we are, which by the way is the title of a great book by teacher Pema Chödron Start Where You Are – A Guide to Compassionate Living.
2/ SPRING AS FLEXIBILITY
Spring also suggests a malleability ― that ability to spring back to normal when an external pressure is removed. My bed springs absorb me and my weight but when the gravity of my body is not there, the bed bounces back to it’s original form. We too can strive for that flexibility.
My illness has the power to keep me bedridden for weeks at a time. When it comes and how long it stays is not up to me.
But I can stay nimble in response. I can adapt to the barriers and boundaries. Spring can be a way of being – a flexibility, a buoyancy.
One of my yoga teachers taught that trees that can bend in the wind don’t break. So spring can be a time of agility and fluidity, and we should aim for that outlook.
3/ SPRING AS CREATIVITY
This time of year is one of creation. The Hirshhorn Musuem featured a very popular exhibit featuring the work of Japanese artist Yahoo Kusama and some of her best-known creations which feature dots going on into a seeming infinity. She attributes her most ground-breaking work directly to her physical limitations; one curator wrote,
In response to the labor intensity of this work, she started to utilize mirrors to achieve similar repetition…The reflective surfaces allowed her to transcend the physical limitations of her own productivity.
We too can utilize our creativity to find innovative ways around our limitations. We can extend and magnify our efforts. Just because we may not have the energy or ability to create like before does not mean we should not create at all. We can create, and we can innovate. We just have boundaries that challenge our creativity. And if we are lucky and the muse strikes could even have those boundaries boost our creativity in innovative ways that change everything, like it did for Kusama.
4/ SPRING AS GROWTH
Life is growing up and bursting from the earth all around us now. Humans grow through learning and evolving and changing. We strive to improve our habits and our skills. This effort is more true if you live with an illness. But with an illness you have symptoms that can thwart and force you to give up. But don’t. You can learn ways to grow and evolve around a force.
For example, gravity is a non-negotiable force. As a yoga teacher, I describe headstands and handstands as a dance with gravity. We respect gravity’s push and pull as a partner and don’t fight it. We’re responsive. The same is true when you’re partnered with chronic illness. We cultivate ways to work skillfully with our illness rather than resist it. Fighting an immovable force, as physics tells us, is futile. Rather than banging your head against the unyielding wall of reality, explore how to dance around your illness for the easiest way forward.
I also like the image of a surfer riding a wave. The wave is a very powerful force. But we can grow and then reap the benefit of our improved skills. So work to learn how to surf the tumult and waves of your illness. Duck and weave when you need to. Rest and retreat when you need to. Don’t worry about being strong enough to defeat the force; when you fail, and you will, you’ll just feel bad about your “weakness.” Instead, be skillful enough to work with and around it. Amy March says in Little Women, “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” The thing is – learning can help keep the fear at bay.
5/ SPRING AS SOURCE
Finally, spring is a source of water, the beginning of a stream or river. The water flows naturally from the earth. World Water Day aims to ensure safe drinking water around the world and recognizes water as a necessity of life. Water’s sacred symbolism as a source of renewal and rebirth recognizes water as source of life.
So make spring a time to evaluate your own sources of renewal. What refreshes you, easily and naturally? For me that can be a change of sheets, an open window or a visit from a friend. What are your sources of renewal? What nourishes you?
Spring is a beginning – a beginning of poems and the beginning of a fresh start.
While the outside world comes back to life, we can still find meaning and create a sense of renewal for ourselves and in our lives this springtime no matter the actual weather outside or the barometer in.
It is possible. We can bloom and create sweetness in our lives if we ―
Rouse and renew yourself however you can and relish your own spring. On full blast!
Material provided by Wellspring Stones LLC should not be construed as medical advice, prevention, diagnosis, cure or treatment for any condition. The information we provide is for general educational purposes only. If you are not well, if you may have a medical condition, or if you want to use a new treatment or take any medications or supplements, please first seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider. See our Terms for more.
You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.