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March 1, 2004

Signs of Spring

In this part of the world, I am seeing the first signs of spring. The snow is melting, the sun is warmer, and the birds are chirping.

Although March always brings us more winter weather, for me, this first taste of the warmth to come makes the cold easier to take. It brings a sense of balance to the extremes.

In aboriginal cultures, life was often seen as a web of many cycles, including birth and death, creation and destruction, sprout and seed, youth and old age, forgetting and remembering, heat and cold, rain and drought. Every cycle has its polar extremes and all the degrees in between.

Ancient Chinese wisdom, as expressed in Taoism, makes regular references to the seasonal cycle of winter and summer as a metaphor for life. From this perspective, finding balance is like remembering summer when it's winter, and winter when it's summer. In doing so we celebrate the return of the light at Winter Solstice and do not despair. We celebrate Summer Solstice and plant food for the coming winter. It's like adding cold water to the hot or hot to the cold. In this way, balance is maintained.

Finding emotional balance is similar. When we are down, we often forget what it's like to feel up. When we are anxious, we forget what it's like to feel calm. I admit that it is difficult with chronic anxiety and depression to have much experience of balance. It's like being in the middle of winter. And that's when it's important to take note of the first signs of "spring."

Whenever we feel a little "okay," or have a moment that is not so painful—or even pleasant—it is helpful to take note of it, maybe even journal it. It is definitely important to feel it. These lighter moments are signs of what feeling balanced is like. The more that we take note of them, the more we are "shining sun on the snow," "pouring warm water on the cold"—pouring hope into the hopelessness. We begin to sense things changing, and that may give us renewed strength to continue the process.

I just saw a robin!

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