Welcome to spring! The Spring Equinox, which happens around the third week in March, marks the point at which the darkness of winter finally gives way to the light of the warmer months. Then, every day for the next six months, light exceeds darkness. As the world around us goes through this dramatic shift of focus from dark to light, we can’t help but feel it.
Just as the dark depth of winter urges us to hibernate and turn our attention inward, with the event of spring we start to “wake up,” come out of ourselves, and think about planting new seeds (literally and metaphorically). In my home state of Minnesota and other northerly regions, March can be a bit of a tease. The light brings on dreams of warmth and growth while the weather is just as likely to be burying us in the biggest snow drifts of the year.
This month of March—too early, in many places, to get started on the garden—is the perfect time for the important work of taking stock of what we’ve grown over the past year. This step is important whether it relates to our personal growth or the vegetables we grew last year. If we don’t stop and reflect, we’re likely to create the same thing over and over again, whether we like it or not.
This step is also crucial because what we give attention to we tend to grow bigger. Consciousness is a powerful force. Simply by holding something in mind we give it creative attention. Even physicists are realizing that experiment results have a way of reflecting the scientist’s expectations. Seeing “the glass half-empty or half full” isn’t just an overused definition of optimism and pessimism. It’s a powerfully creative act. The more we focus on the “half empty glass,” the more likely we are to drain the half glass we started with down to nothing. The opposite holds equally true and reviewing the growth we’ve accomplished in the past amplifies our power to experience accomplishment in the future, just as dismissing how far we’ve come keeps us perpetually in a state of having a long way to go.
As you take stock of the last year of your life, is it easy to see an abundance of positive growth, successes, and forward movement? If so, your next step is easy. Instead of focusing on the hurdles you imagine lie ahead, consider what your life might look like in another year of as much growth. Remember how you envisioned your future a year ago. Were there blessings and leaps forward that you didn’t expect? If so, imagine the coming year filled with at least as many surprising turns for the better. Don’t try to plan or guess what these will be. Just let yourself feel excited at the thought of how much you’re likely to accomplish based on how much you’ve achieved this year.
What if you look back and don’t see much positive growth? Or worse, if it looks like you’ve taken a few steps backwards? First and foremost, know that the interpretation you give to your experience is a creative act and has a tremendous impact on what you create next. So if you feel that you’ve just stood still over the last year, consider that perhaps you’ve stood still the way plants “stand still.” Have you ever watched a plant grow? You can stare at it all day and not see much happening but that doesn’t mean it’s not growing. Meaningful growth sometimes requires time to develop in a way that’s strong and lasting.
Even dramatic change that comes quickly sometimes requires time for us to see it. I’ve witnessed any number of people release physical illnesses spontaneously through spiritual work. One was a woman who had attended some of my spiritual healing services. She shared that she had become free of a chronic asthmatic condition she’d struggled with all her life without realizing it for many months. It wasn’t until she became aware, one day, of being in an environment that would typically have provoked an attack that she realized she not only felt fine, but she hadn’t had an attack in ages. She didn’t notice the absence of her illness until it was long gone. Sometimes our expectations about how change happens won’t let us accept or trust a change that happens too quickly or too easily and our minds need time to grow into the change we’ve already made.
OK, so, maybe you can’t relate to the “plant growth” metaphor and really believe your life has been stuck in a pit of stalled movement. There’s still a bigger picture to be seen here that can provide momentum rather than inertia for your next season of growth. Imagine all the ways that standing still is a powerful part of moving forward. Think of a seed lying dormant underground during the winter months, or a caterpillar motionless in its chrysalis. A seed growing in the wrong season would stand no chance of survival and a half-formed butterfly emerging too soon would never fly. Even though you may never see the bigger picture of why, consider that your “still” time was simply not the right season for forward momentum. In the absence of visible change, ask what have you been incubating under the surface, out of sight? Keep asking until you get an answer. There is one.
And if you think you’ve taken a step backward in your growth, consider how even backward movement can be a step in the right direction. Think of an archer pulling backward on a bow to create the momentum needed to propel an arrow, or a jumper taking steps backward before leaping. Think of how pruning a plant creates more lush growth. I remember a time when the harder I worked, the more my business fell apart. I felt like a miserable failure whose talents were minimal and unwanted. It was a horrible time of life. I would never choose to repeat it. But, in retrospect, I would never want to have skipped it because I’m not sure anything less dramatic would have gotten me to change directions and find the much different and better path that allowed me to excel and succeed. (It also taught me to be more flexible so I haven’t again needed to be beaten down so thoroughly before I change my course!)
Even the worst failures, losses, lapses, and emotional or physical break-downs provide opportunities. They enable us—sometimes force us—to develop new priorities, grow new strengths, and to find our buried vulnerability, tenderness, and receptivity.
All this allows rigid patterns of living and thinking to crumble so something more alive can grow. As you appreciate the importance of what’s fallen apart and acknowledge the things you’ve accomplished, you cultivate fertile ground for your next growing season.