Spring Cleaning and Open Spaces

Canadian groundhog Wiarton Willy has already braved the cold and white of winter to decide whether it was time to wake up from his months of hibernation. Ewes are giving birth to baby lambs. Farmers and gardeners are pouring over seed catalogues. There is a stirring in nature. Days lengthen with the hours of sunlight and I am also awakening from my winter’s lethargy. I am beginning to feel energized and I want to DO something, ANYthing. It’s a good time for Spring cleaning. Some people love cleaning. I am not one of those people, and yet … once I get started, I find that it is very satisfying. I dare say that it is even therapeutic for me.

Along with cleaning comes purging. It’s the time of year when people go into their closets, desks, and cupboards and go through their clothes, papers, books, and things and clean out those things that are no longer needed. What is needed means something different to different people. Purging is a kind of letting go. Some things I let go with a sense of freedom and joy, other things with a kind of reluctance. Interior head/spirit space is created as I open up space in my closets, desk, cupboard and bookshelves.

A healthy spirit is also nurtured by letting go of things we cannot control, so as to become free from what keeps us from living a wholesome, authentic and loving life. Wisdom is needed to discern when to stop fighting and “let go” and when to hold on and persevere in hope.

The serenity prayer reminds us to pay attention to what is true for us in any given situation:
“God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.


The journey to wholeness, according to the mystics involves three major phases:
Illumination, Purgation and Union.

Popular spirituality has identified illumination as “awakening”. 

Purgation is part of the spirituality of descent. Suffering is part of life. Spirituality is about what we do with our suffering. To transform suffering into healing and life we need to let go of what we cannot control with our wills. This is what the Buddha called “non-attachment”. The 12-step program calls it “surrender to God as we know him”.  Christian mystics call it spirituality of descent. 

“Cling” is the operative word. We cling to what is familiar and we tend to fear and avoid what is strange. “Non-attachment” does not mean the same as “detachment”. For example, we are attached and continue to care deeply about our loved ones. Non-attachment means to ease the strangle hold I have on what I desperately want, what I desperately think is best, to stop trying to force the outcome to be the way I envision it. It means to sit with the ambiguity of not-knowing what will happen. It means surrendering myself and my loved ones to Divine Love. It creates space for life to emerge in any given situation.

Meditation can help us to recognize our clingy attachments. It is these attachments that intrude into our consciousness when we are trying to still our minds.  As I sit in silence and focus on my breath, I try to let go of the fears, anxieties and other things that crowd into my consciousness. Many times I feel that my meditation time has been 10 or 20 minutes of fruitless inner battle and yet, the exercise has loosened the grip of those things and given me strength for the day.  

Union – is a state of being in which our wills and the Divine’s desire the same goodness and wholeness. We know ourselves immersed in Love and we experience a peace that is not dependent on circumstances. Moments of Union come and go – just a flash that gives assurance that Divine Love is real and remains with us when the experience of the union moment has passed.

I am inspired and encouraged by these words of Henri Nouwen: “the beginning of any spiritual life is the movement from fearful clinging to fearless play.”