guest post by John van de Laar,
I’m not what you would call an ‘outdoorsy’ sort of person. I love technology, screens, and spending time in my home studio writing and recording music. But I love being connected with the natural world and its creatures. The constantly changing environment speaks to something deep inside me. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the world I encounter on the hikes I share with my wife or the small world of the garden outside my window, something about all this life that carries on with little regard for me feeds my soul in ways that nothing else can.
Right now I can feel the seasons changing. In South Africa where I live, the winter is losing its grip on the world. I can feel the sharp edge of the freezing Johannesburg mornings becoming dull. And the first signs of the life that will awaken in Spring are starting to show. Things aren’t really visibly different yet, but there is definitely a sense, a spirit, in the world that reveals the imperceptible changes that are happening in the earth.
Aligning our lives with the seasons can be a life-giving and healing spiritual practice. When we ignore the cycles of change in the natural world, we lose a sense of rhythm in our lives and our souls grow cold and empty. In the Northern Hemisphere, the liturgical calendar parallels the natural change of the seasons and offers an easy way to connect our spirits to creation. In the Southern Hemisphere, it takes some creativity and thought to engage with the seasons more deeply—but it’s not impossible to make it work.
THE SEASONS AROUND US
I have found it helpful to identify the gifts that are most meaningful for me in each season. With this in mind, I can prepare more mindfully as the seasons change and set my intention for the new season that is emerging in my corner of the earth. For example, right now I am contemplating themes like renewal, creativity, hope, and newness as I prepare for Spring. I am exploring ways that I can embrace this opportunity for renewal in my self-care, work, and relationships. I am investigating new avenues for creativity, and I am reminding myself of all the signs of hope around me.
When the season begins to shift toward summer, I will prepare myself for the abundance, sharing, celebration, and playfulness that always accompanies living under the hot African sun. Then when the leaves begin to change colour and herald the coming of Autumn, I will prepare to say goodbye to the warmth and nurture a healthy practice of letting go. I will give thanks for the gifts of the year and prepare for the coming cold and darkness. Finally, as winter returns, I will turn inward and reflect on the things that need to die within me and in my life. I will affirm my faith in the resurrection that will come in Spring, and I will make time to rest and allow my body and soul to draw strength in quieter, less energetic activities.
Following the seasons in this way creates a wonderful sense of rhythm for my spiritual and physical life, and it nurtures a deeper sense of wholeness and connectedness with the cosmos.
THE SEASON WITHIN US
This practice of preparing for new seasons as they arrive has taught me that it’s not only natural seasons that require mindfulness and preparation. The internal seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter don’t always happen in accordance with the seasons of the natural world. But they are equally important and need just as much preparation and careful practice as the more predictable seasons of the natural world.
For most people across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has been an extended winter of loss and grief, and it’s still a long way from releasing its hold on the world. The challenge was that we weren’t able to prepare—no one saw this coming when it did. But now we can practice mindfulness and intention to keep our souls healthy as we navigate this crisis and process our grief. But some of us have found ourselves in a Springtime of hope and possibility as the pandemic disrupted our normal routines and attitudes. We have discovered new ways of being and have recaptured values and dreams that may have faded under the pressure of what we used to call ‘normal life.’
Just as we take note of the changing seasons in the world around us, so we find aliveness and wholeness in noting the changing seasons within us. And the more mindfully and intentionally we can do this, the more meaningful and abundant our life becomes, no matter what may be happening around us.
A SEASONAL SPIRITUALITY
So, what’s happening outside of you? What’s happening within you? And how do these two seasonal journeys relate to one another in your own life? What changing of seasons, both internally and externally, do you need to prepare yourself for in the days and weeks ahead? And what do you need to do to be more mindful and intentional as you navigate the ever-changing seasons in your life?
A seasonal spirituality is a mindful one. It is a healthy one that recognises that every season has its place and role to play in our lives. And it is one that enables us to grow, create, play, rest, enjoy, and learn.
Bio for John van de Laar
John van de Laar is a musician, theologian, liturgist, writer, and community facilitator. His passion for spirituality and worship led him to create Sacredise.com almost two decades ago. Since that time, John has been helping progressive communities around the world to design moments of worship with deep theological roots and inspiring experiential wings.
Along the way, John has written three books including The Hour That Changes Everything, and has produced three albums of worship music.
John lives outside of Johannesburg, South Africa with his wife Debbie, and they have two adult sons.