Reflections meets as an entire school five times a year. We had just such a meeting on Sunday. As part of the ritual working, I often offer a mini sermon or two. I have been recording them for the last few years with the thought of using them in a book or podcast. This message however is salient enough to share now. I cannot promise that I will publish all the messages immediately after a gathering. But I do hope to find a way to capture them in some form or another.
Reflections celebrates the beginnings of each season at the cross-quarters. So Imbolc is honored as the beginning of Spring. So the theme was Spring's Sprouts. I hope you enjoy it.
There is a habit that we all have that we need to be more aware of as spiritual seekers. There used to be a commercial that said, “We will serve no wine before its time.” We seem to have a habit as modern humans of planting seeds in the ground, covering them up with soil, and then going out with a basket ready to pluck the produce. We aren’t waiting for it to actually germinate, sprout, bloom, produce fruit, ripen, and then be ready to be harvest. We put seeds in the ground, or we do not even put them in ground, we have the seed in our hands looking to cook dinner - straight from the seed to the plate. And with the exception of those things where actually we eat the seed, that is not the way it works.
There is a teaching that says, “If you want to learn how to lead a spiritual life, look toward nature.” There is a natural process; and this process takes time.
Often, at least I know I do this; we are always looking for the harvest. I want to see proof. I want to see the results. But we have just begun; it is only February. It is just the beginning of Spring. The sap is just beginning to rise in the trees. The ewes have only now begun to lactate; there will still be awhile before they can feed their young. So we are not talking about the height of Spring. The ground is still hard, frozen in fact.
So what I want to talk about is our need to be willing to be firmly in the time of the sprouts. Where growth will be very small and very delicate if at all visible. We have to be willing to be in that place of beginning. We have to be willing to allow that natural process to come forward. And so, I can talk about myself as a self-confession. As an Air person I have these big ideas and then I complain, “Why isn’t it here already?” So it is laborious for me, I have to do this, then this, then this, then wait, then this, then wait, then wait some more, then this, then this, then back up, backup, backup, then wait, then wait, then do this one other thing. It is maddening, right?
It is a really important practice for me to recognize how change happens, how things move, how things grow. And so it is a very critical practice for me to take a breath. [breathe] And allow things to be new, to be at its beginning. To not know all there is … yet. It is a difficult practice for me.
But it is really important in many, many ways, especially when we are coming out of one cycle into a new one, or when we are starting something new. We are right now experiencing a really early hint of Spring and so we need to be willing to allow ourselves to be with the sprouts.
Because, the first tender bright green shoots that come out are very vulnerable. And here we are shouting, “Come on, come on already!” We could dampen them, we could harm them before they have had a chance to root, grow, spread and get enough nutrients. It is the same thing with us. If that budding excitement is forced too early into something concrete, we can squash our own dream. That is what we do when we are unnecessarily critical of our first steps. That is what happens we have such harsh judgments at our beginnings.
One of the hardest things for me to remember is what it is like to be new at something and to totally suck at it. That is why I try to learn something new every couple of years. So I can remember to be gentle with myself when I am learning something new.
[Holding up my first knitted mitten] This is my first mitten. You may not be able to tell unless you know how to knit, but there is all kind of errors in this mitten. Because right now I need to be able to suck at mittens. And I have to able to suck at mittens before I can be okay with mittens.
There was so many times as I knitted this mitten when I felt so completed clueless. At one point, I had accidentally knitted in my place marker. I sat feeling dejected as my dear friends tried to reassure me that maybe I could pretend it was a bracelet instead of a mitten. My friend Ivo even suggested that maybe it was a charm bracelet as he tried to account for the clear plastic ring hanging off the cuff of my mitten. And as I unraveled what had taken me days to create I was quietly grumbling to myself. But it was because we all know what it is like to learn something new that my friends could encourage me. Sometimes we have to back up. And that is how change happens. And because I was willing to suck at knitting my first mitten, my next mitten can be an improvement. But I will not know for sure until I begin again, first this stitch and then another. Slowly building upon the previous stitch, until I complete it.
We never know when change is happening; we only know when it is complete. And it is the same with political movements. In the midst of so many movements, we had no idea if we were having any impact at all. There were so many times when we were consumed with despair. It wasn’t until five or ten years later we realized that we had a huge impact. But we didn’t know it at the time. When you are in the midst of change, you have no idea how much you are moving and changing.
And so we need to celebrate the beginning, we need to celebrate the sprouts, not only in the world, but also within ourselves and within each other.
The sap is just starting to awaken inside of us. The shell is just stating to crack for those little seeds we planted in January. Let us honor that in ourselves. Let us honor that in life and within others around us. Let us honor it within our work.