I saw a robin today as I walked across campus, a harbinger of spring to come. In a flower bed in front of my home office window there are a host of white and green snowdrops emerging from under those leaves that were not swept away last fall. My heart leaps at the marvel of them. Up here in the north-east corner of this great country of ours, in and around Boston, despite some frigid weeks in December, January and February we have had a mild winter. While all around us and especially to the south and west snowfalls amounts have accumulated above sixty inches (which is our average too), this year we are at twenty eight and a half inches. Of course we can still encounter some huge storms and maybe will, but on the other hand an early spring is also a possibility. In my native South Africa the change of seasons was not of note. Nine months of summer merged into three months of winter and then, at least in Johannesburg where I lived, the dusty winds of August (spring) heralded the first rains and onset of dry summer heat. Here the spring is a true rebirth. The talons of icy winds and below freezing temperatures slowly loosen their grip on the land and on our psyche. There is an explosion of buds and birds, lawns turn green, the air is warmer on our cheeks, days lengthen, and it rains (a lot). Suddenly the sidewalks are filled with suburban walkers and joggers. More people smile.
Over the past weeks my Philosophy class of college-bound seniors read and discussed Tibetan Buddhist master and Western teacher, Chogyam Trungpa’s book “Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior.” As I read their reflective journals these past days I was struck at how these two-thousand year old teachings caused a rebirth of sorts in my students, an awakening, an opening. They responded with touching honesty to ideas such as “basic goodness”, “being in the now”, “letting go”, and “drala” the energetic interconnection of all that is. Some wrote of their awareness of their own fears, of how they worry and question, of the endless conveyor belt of expectations they find themselves on, of the material rewards they have accepted as the goal they need to strive towards in order to be “successful” and achieve “happiness.” Trungpa suggests alternative mind-structures, those built of inner balance and harmony, gentleness and respect for self and others. He posits meditation practice as a giant step on the path to becoming a spiritual warrior. As we read the book I taught the basics of meditation and breath-focused attention practices and many students responded positively to the sense of inner calm they can begin to feel burgeoning within.
As Trungpa says “Synchronizing mind and body is not a concept or a random technique someone thought up for self-improvement. Rather, it is a basic principle of how to be a human being and how to use your sense perceptions, your mind and your body together.”