Oh, spring! Both the name of a season, as well as a very active verb (meaning to rise, leap, or act swiftly).
At this time of year, our hearts leap at the mere mention of the word. Formally known as the Spring Equinox, March 20, 2016 marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun rises due east and sets due west on the Celestial Equator, and the earth receives exactly 12 hours of daylight. In keeping with our theme of fall and winter ceremonies designed to help you embrace the change of season, plant your seeds of awakening with our Spring Equinox Ceremony.
Spring Equinox Ceremony
Set aside 60 minutes for this practice.
Meditation cushion and blanket.
Journal and pen.
Find a sunny spot to sit, either indoors or outdoors. Work through the following questions in your journal:
If I were to grow a garden to represent my awakening, what would it look like? Would it be a small area of pots, trellises, and containers? Would it be rows of plants burrowed into fertile soil in an individual garden, or nestled among the greenery of a community space? Play with options until you can clearly picture your garden. Sketch it in your journal if you’d like. Spend about 10 minutes on this section of the practice.
Next, think about how you will identify and stay accountable to your goals. List the ways you retain information best and the tools available to help you. Do reading and journaling inspire you to awaken? Does attending workshops light the fire of your personal will? Is meditating in a community class the best way for you to establish a regular practice? Are you more accountable if you schedule a yoga class with a friend?
Envision the ways you learn and grow as seeds you plant and tend during the spring and summer. Choose some options that will blossom early in the spring—like asparagus shoots that grow overnight—as well as others that will be ready for harvest midsummer and fall. For example, you might take a class here on Yoga International now, attend a yoga festival during the summer, create a reading or podcast list to work through each week, and sign up for a meditation retreat in the fall. Take a few moments now to define how you learn, and develop a framework for your learning over the spring and summer. Schedule time on your calendar to fill in the details. Spend about 30 minutes on this section of the practice.
Put your shoes on and head outside for walking meditation. Stand with a straight spine. Begin breath, breathing in and out through your nose, while you soften your gaze and keep your eyes open. Standing still and upright, spend three breath cycles each acknowledging the following: What are you seeing? (Three breaths.) Hearing? (Three breaths.) Tasting? (Three breaths.) Smelling? (Three breaths.) How does the air feel on your skin? (Three breaths.) Then begin walking. Maintain a slow pace for this meditation, walking at one-half or one-quarter of your normal cadence. Feel the soles of your feet connecting with the earth. Walk with metta, or loving-kindness, for all that you see, including yourself. Feel the spring air moving the stagnation of winter out of your body. Continue walking for 15 minutes.
Finally, stop walking and realign your spine so you are standing tall. Take 15 cycles of breath, three each for the sensations of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Fold your hands in anjali mudra (prayer position) at your chest. Close your eyes and picture your garden. Give thanks to your intuition and your ability to care for yourself and your path. Picture your garden growing and thriving under your diligent care. Close the practice by bowing your head toward your chest, with a silent “Namaste.”
Recognizing Spring Equinox as a hopeful time of year is noted across many spiritual traditions. Nowruz (the Persian New Year), Holi (the Indian Festival of Colors), Jewish Purim, Christian Easter, and Sikh Hola Mohalla are all celebrated on or near the Spring Equinox. Ancient landmarks around the world also note this auspicious day. The Egyptian Sphinx of Giza marks the path of sunrise on Spring Equinox. At noon on this day, the Great Pyramid casts no shadow. At sunset of the Spring Equinox, the light casts a diamondback snake on the ancient Mayan step pyramid, El Castillo, and leads to an open-mouthed serpent’s head at the base made of carved stone. The Spring Equinox is also noted in the monoliths of Stonehenge, where the areas of the rising and setting sun are clearly defined.
In Pagan tradition, Ostara, or Eostre, is a goddess representing the dawn. Her duty is to oversee the budding plants and fertility of spring. Connected closely with Christian Easter, the Resurrection of the Son of God, the holiday of Ostara falls on the Spring Equinox and is also celebrated with flowers, colored eggs, and rabbits. Human beings have recognized the Spring Equinox for centuries. Taking part in a Spring Equinox Ceremony connects you with this consciousness and provides you with the space to set the intentions and path of your awakening.