We all experience a recurring cycle throughout our lives that contains four main phases: renewal, expansion, abundance, and contraction. It’s the same cycle that the earth experiences through its seasons and that the moon follows. Personal growth, earth’s seasons, and the moon’s cycles don’t always occur in unison (the moon will complete several cycles within a single season, for example), but the essence of each phase of the cycle is the same:
Renewal / New Moon / Winter – retreat to a state of rest and reset
Expansion / First Quarter Moon / Spring – new beginnings and growth
Abundance / Full Moon / Summer – culmination of one’s work
Contraction / Last Quarter Moon / Fall – release and let go
Last month I wrote about the phase of renewal. The phase that follows is expansion, right in time for the first quarter moon (starting today) and in the midst of spring, a season that so beautifully demonstrates growth and new beginnings.
Spring itself sings of life. The songbirds return with their music and the bears awaken, stretch, and reenter the world from hibernation. Animals that have grown winter coats begin to shed them. Farmers plant new seeds and flowers poke their fresh skin from the soil and reach toward the sun. Temperatures progressively rise and rivers grow full from melting snow and spring showers.
It’s a beautiful time in the Northern Hemisphere, to say the least. This phase of the cycle is also a beautiful time in one’s life.
This chapter of abundance first requires a period of clearing what’s no longer needed to make space for something new. Around this time of year, gardeners till the land before planting new seeds. This includes pulling weeds that would otherwise inhibit growth of other plants. Weeds grow wild and compete with other plants for light, water, and nutrients and will eventually suffocate them. Therefore, gardeners intentionally pull weeds from their roots and then develop an environment where cultivation of new seeds is possible.
The same process applies to personal and spiritual growth. A soul is... you guessed it, like a garden. Thriving and nourishing gardens don’t grow by accident. They take time, energy and intention. A healthy garden is one in which its owner continually uproots weeds, plants new seeds, and ensures the right amount of sunlight and water are provided.
Finding stillness is important before pulling weeds in your soul garden. By slowing down your mental dialogue and the external chaos of your life, even for a few minutes, you create space to carefully observe your inner landscape and find weeds that may be preventing personal growth.
Internal weeds can appear in a number of disguises: negative thought patterns that have grown thick roots and infiltrate all aspects of your life, unhealthy relationships or neglected boundaries with people who hinder your personal growth, addictive and habitual behaviors that are born out of your subconscious mind, self-limiting beliefs about your own potential, and many more.
With internal weeds (like with actual weeds), people often ignore them until they’re entirely out of control, or they cut them from the surface without reaching their roots. Cutting a weed is like numbing pain with drugs or alcohol or filling an inner void by seeking love and acceptance – it may temporarily eliminate the weed, but it will quickly grow back. The way to uproot internal weeds is to draw presence to them. Shine a line on them, dig below the ground to find their roots, acknowledge their presence without judgment, and then purposefully pull them from the ground.
Even when you’ve uprooted all weeds in your life at any given moment, new ones will grow back in time. Just as a physical garden will always require weeding (no matter how skilled the gardener is), so too must you consistently tend to your internal landscape. It’s an ongoing process, but it's worth the work it requires. The more you clear your garden, the more space you will create for things that nourish your life.
A recently tilled garden free of weeds warmly welcomes new growth. Once you’ve done the hard work of pulling weeds from your inner landscape, you’re now ready to start planting seeds. This process is the same as setting intentions. What do you feel called to plant? What are you hoping to eventually reap from your harvest?
Try not to get too caught in the future. Avoid thoughts like “What if something goes wrong and I don’t reap what I hope to?” or “How will I cultivate THAT?” These thoughts lead you away from the present moment and give rise to anxiety. Instead, acknowledge the future goals you’re being called to pursue and then direct your attention to how you can begin cultivating your goals in this single moment.
A helpful practice during this phase is to write down your intentions on a piece of paper. Then set them aside, shift your focus away from the future, and focus on the step you’re taking in this single moment. Don’t worry about the harvest; that’ll come in its own time. As Eckhart Tolle said, “What you encounter at your destination once you get there depends on the quality of this one step. What the future holds for you depends on your state of consciousness now.”
The arrival of Spring in your personal life often initially requires work and intention, but once you have cleared your space and planted new seeds, the invigorating experience of watching them grow bountifully into your life begins. How exciting is that? This moment has arrived because of the work you have done in the phases preceding this one; be fully present during it as you have through the others. Watch as your soul blossoms and your life grows abundant with the fruits of your labor.