The Joy of Spring
Spring is here and so we often find ourselves also getting more spring in our step too! As I write this blog today, I find myself sensing the joy in my heart expand and fill with the blue sky, bright sun, fresh air and green grass. The dogs and I are again playing in the creek behind the house. Of course, they are giggling as they smell the fresh scents, run in and out of the creek and check to see who is coming out of winter’s hibernation! On our way back to the house, Rayna and Carlie drag their feet just like little kids who doesn’t want to go home from the playground. I promise them they can hang outside on the front porch and I will give them a treat for coming back without complaining. I can certainly appreciate their joy of simply taking in the sun and fresh spring air and I join them in savouring the beauty of the day.
For most people, saying good-bye to winter is done with relative ease and cheer. We anticipate the longer and warmer days of spring when purple crocuses and white snowdrops emerge, followed by daffodils and tulips and so many other spring blooms all reawakening and brightening the backdrop of mud and last year’s leftover debris. For most people, the end of winter’s grief rarely registers as anything but a great sigh of relief.
And yet, Spring brings us a new kind of paradox where new life is mixed with new energy. With this new life, we often open with relative ease to ‘let go’ of a ‘bad mood’. We are empowered to ‘lighten our mind’ toward growth and renewal. In Chinese medicine, spring is the season of the liver and the ideal time to detox the liver system, helping it to ‘let go’. Just like we prune shrubs and bushes to promote healthy and richer growth, our bodies need support to be purified to promote health and vital energy.
In TCM, the metaphysics of frustration, bitterness, and the nuances of anger are often associated with the liver system and its (un)happy chi flow. What an interesting opportunity – the gift of spring to help us more easily release our anger! Spring invites us to ask ourselves: What anger can I let go to lighten my heart? or perhaps What anger can I let go of to increase the joy in my life?
The Disease of Anger
In his book When the Body Says No, Gabor Maté writes that holding onto anger creates a significant cost in hidden stress to the body. Some people know they are angry, but fear their anger. Others are not aware they feel anger because it’s ‘not okay’ to be angry, so they repress it deep into the body. Others believe that if they are angry, it makes them unlovable.
We are aware that unregulated expression of anger is problematic and hurtful to others. We also know that repression of anger causes disease in the body. Maté quotes a Woody Allen character: “ I never get angry. I grow a tumour instead.” So we often are faced with a significant inner conflict – if I get angry, I will rage on others and hurt them which I don’t want to do … or I might not be loved. But if I don’t express it, I will hurt my own body, my own being, even to the point of causing disease. Even our spiritual practice tells me ‘do not anger’! What a seeming doubly double bind we are in! The very thought of this double bind creates anxiety and fear in us because we fear the genuine expression of anger.
Getting Beyond the Double Bind
Allen Kalpin, a physician and psychotherapist writes that healthy anger is an empowerment and a relaxation. Anger does not require hostile acting out. Maté summarizes: People discharge their anger outwardly because they fear fully experiencing it internally. Both the unbridled expression of anger and its automatic suppression arise from an anxiety we first feel in early childhood. It is inherently anxiety-producing for a small child to be angry with those he is dependent on, Dr. Kalpin points out. The real experience of anger “is a physiologic experience without acting out“. The experience is one of a surge of power going through the system, along with a mobilization to attack. There is, simultaneously, a complete disappearance of all anxiety.
“When healthy anger is starting to be experienced, you don’t see anything dramatic. What you do see is a decrease of all muscle tension. The mouth is opening wider, because the jaws are more relaxed, the voice is lower in pitch because the vocal cords are more relaxed. The shoulders drop, and you see all signs of muscle tension disappearing.”
Moving beyond the double bind means we give ourselves permission to feel the surge of aggressive energy that arises with anger, calmly and without anxiety. We also choose to feel our anger without acting it out. Notice the spiritual ethic of so many wisdom traditions, Do not anger. It tells us to not act it out ( a behaviour, not a feeling … it’s the verb form). But for health and well-being, for the joy to flow vital in our hearts, we need to calmly experience the surge of aggression and speak to the injustice. We need to know we are loved and safe within ourselves even with our anger. And as we do, we ‘let it go’ and lighten our minds and hearts.
Compassion: Returning to Joy through Fierceness: The hidden blessing
In my work with psychologist and leadership coach Rev. Rob Voyle, we refer to the Three Faces of Compassion. He describes one of the faces of compassion as fierceness. Fierceness is often a needed expression of compassion in the face of injustice. Voyle states that this “compassion face of fierceness is a single-minded determination to bring about a just future”.
Listen to Martin Luther King Jr speak to the injustices Black America was suffering as a result of systemic racism (and still is). His voice is strong, yet his body is relatively relaxed. He does not mince words in his condemnation of injustices of racism. King has a single-minded focus in challenging and speaking to and expressing his anger about what is grossly unjust in America. His entire spine is filled with the power of “NO”, I will not accept this racism as my destiny. “I have a dream” he so powerfully and eloquently orates to his listeners. His compassion for his people, for his country, for all life was fierce. His joy had immense historical vision. It changed history. As did his healthy anger expressed through fierce compassion.
I am always amazed at the mystery of Universal flows liberating our hearts to increase our joy. The fullness that awakens with Spring and sun and fresh air, flowers budding and birds singing all brighten us. The letting go of the hidden anger, the all-consuming rage causing pain and disease enlightens our bodies and our minds. These two flows join together with a third flow, Love and Compassion of the Universe, creating a trinity of healing and blessing of a new and emerging joy.
With Spring now in full swing, I encourage you to prune the mental habits and filters that keep anger stuck in your heart and body. Follow the seasonal flow and take the time to cleanse. Enhance the flows of joy in your heart and life. Invite the sunshine back into your heart. If you need help bringing Spring back into your Heart, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started with soul coaching and whole life therapy. Together we will bring new flow to your body, mind and soul.