It’s not your imagination.
You really do have Spring fever.
Your body responds to the seasons.
There are practices for aligning yourself with Spring’s gentle exuberance. One of them is Spring Cleaning, outside and inside.
Winter Clutter, Spring Clearing
Clutter accumulates over the holiday season and carries into the late winter. It’s comforting to be surrounded by things that make your interior spaces feel more cozy and warm.
In the spring as the days get longer and the weather improves, the clutter seems less comforting and more cloying.
You want to move your body more and begin to be outside more. You want to get the dust out of the nooks and crannies. It’s a kind of New Year – a clean sweep.
In the ancient world the New Year began in March and as the new life of spring began so did the new year. Spring Cleaning is a custom in keeping with the newness of the spring and a kind of New Year – a clean and shining starting over. A renewal.
Aligning With The Season, Outside And Inside
There is a direct relationship between our interior spaces, our Minds, and our exterior spaces – the places in which we live.
The feel of spaces and places is called Bhav in sanskrit. It is a word that means “feeling tone.” Places and spaces have feeling tones. A courtroom has a different feel from a church.
Two things create the bhav of a building. The first is the structure, the architecture. The second is the interior spaces – what you do in those spaces, what you place in those spaces, and how you live or work in them. Objects help to create a bhav– both the number of objects and the objects themselves.
You know this.
You have gone into someone’s home and you know immediately whether it is a happy house, a comfortable space, or whether the inhabitants are troubled. The spaces and the objects tell you that. They create the bhav of the house – its feel, its environment.
How do you create a bhav of happiness, tranquillity, and contentment in the space you inhabit? One of the ways to do that is to practice Spring Cleaning.
Spring Cleaning practices recognizes the important correlation between clutter and chaos, spaciousness and clarity, both in your exterior world and in your mind and body.
When you regularly unclutter from the outside, spaciousness results on the inside. Your body and mind recognize, on many different levels of consciousness, the value of your spaciousness. You uncramp as well as unclutter. Your body is more at ease and you may even feel lighter!
Aligning Inside Out
Many students who have been in a workshop or retreat with me have noticed that, after they return home, they feel an intense desire to clean the house, or clean out closets or storage spaces.
This is Spring Cleaning at work from the inside out. In a retreat or after a period of time of intense spiritual practice, your mind is less cluttered, you have more clarity. You naturally want your spaces to reflect that.
When you practice Contemplative Practice Yoga® regularly, your body feels more spacious and more at ease.
As a result you find you want your exterior spaces to reflect that inner spaciousness and clarity you get from doing your yoga.
Aligning Outside In
Even if you haven’t studied with me, there are times when you have experienced the desire to open curtains or blinds more, to light more candles, to put brighter bulbs in lamps, to polish silverware or other metal objects so that they shine more.
These are all expressions of Spring Cleaning occurring spontaneously from the inside out. You want congruence between your growing inner light and your exterior spaces.
When you unclutter in springtime, you are practicing from the outside in, starting with your exterior spaces. When you clean and tidy your exterior space, you get a corresponding uncluttering in your Mind, a clarity, a lightening.
Here are a couple of simple ways to practice Spring Cleaning and become aware of the benefits the practice conveys.
As you look about your living space at all of the things you have acquired, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do they serve you? Sort through things you own – whether items of clothing, furniture, kitchen items, etc. As you encounter each item ask yourself: does this object still serve me? Does this object still have meaning for me?
These are more specific questions than the “Spark Joy” which has became a popular way of working with clutter. “Sparking Joy” reduces your relationship to all objects to one dimension.
Objects, like your life, have different purposes and meanings at different times. It’s important to acknowledge those differences. Great works of literature on your shelf or art on your walls may not spark joy but are profoundly important to a life of self-reflection.
You may have more than one of the same kind of object, let’s say socks. Evaluating how many socks you may actually need will depend on which kinds of socks – winter or summer – how often you have time to wash your socks. Having spares may mean you can get through the week with one wash instead of three, and so on.
In this way you are subtly reflecting on whole patterns and habits of your life, not just on the objects themselves.
2. If you encounter objects you are not sure about, then create a storage space for those objects and store them for reconsideration at a future time. For some things the answers will be clear and simple: for example, with outgrown children’s clothing. For other things it may take longer to determine. It’s okay not to be sure. You can always re-visit them.
3. If you find an object still beautiful, meaningful, useful, or necessary, keep it. Spring Cleaning is not a potlach. It’s not an exercise in giving up objects that still have use or meaning because you think this makes you “unattached” to objects.
4. It is a practice of learning to discern the essential from the superfluous. It’s a practice about enjoyment and appreciation of essential things so that we may have the pleasure of their place in our lives and spaces.
Your practice may take place over some time. You can do this on a regular basis until you know you have uncluttered as much as you can.
And as you repeat these steps, because they are actually a spiritual practice, you will find that over time you will have kept only those objects which are meaningful, useful, or necessary.
These steps are only a beginning. They are designed to help you create space and clarity in your Mind and in your environment in keeping with the opening and growing light of Spring.
May you enjoy Spring and your Spring Cleaning!