Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that you’re not actually handling something as well as you thought you were?
This morning I was doing dishes, keeping an ear out for the ding of the laundry being done, my eye on how much time I had left before my husband and son got home from the grocery store, my brain making a list of what I need to pack for an upcoming trip, trying to figure out how to address logistics for my father’s memorial service, while simultaneously responding to two client texts and a text from a craniosacral classmate. In the middle of that, my husband called to ask where the peanut butter is at the grocery store. I laughed, told him, hung up, and tried to remember where I was in that mental gymnastics routine… couldn’t… and calmly told myself “It’s ok, you’re doing the best you can”, before bursting into tears.
I then screamed it out to the empty house, “I’M DOING THE BEST I CAN.”, scaring the crap out of my cats, but feeling better for having been so firm with the myself and the universe.
The thing is- I’m ok. No, really… I am. Because it’s actually possible to be hanging on by a thread and also be deeply at peace. You see, my thread is made up of stainless steel. It’s been carefully crafted through years of purposeful, gut-wrenching, painful, self-introspection and intentional growth, so that while it may be a very thin strand at the moment, it is unbreakable. And actually, I consider this to be one of the most important things I’ve learned over the years about spiritual transformation- it’s not that those who are “evolved/fill in whatever word you want to use for people who have done a LOT of self work” never again have problems or struggles, it’s that we learn how to be truly, deeply, ok with these struggles. We develop tools that enable us to discern our true priorities- what really matters – and what it’s ok to let go. We learn how to take care of ourselves, and how to prevent hurting others when we aren’t at our best. And we also realize that the path is not one straight line trajectory to never again feeling pain or having a bad day; it’s about learning how to navigate all the ups and downs not only with dexterity, but also curiosity and a sense of invincibility. Which sometimes involves screaming obscenities to an empty house.
But how? How do we turn a thread made of yarn that feels like it might snap at any moment into a thread of stainless steel?
First of all, sorry to say there’s no single correct answer; it is a unique, individual journey. I can tell you the books that moved and shifted me. The courses I took; the people I was exposed to; the healing modalities I love. (Check out my Resources page, a lot of it is listed there!) But ask anyone else who has created real self transformation in their lives “How did you do it” and they will give you a completely different answer than mine. Not only that, no one is ever going to give you a single tool, book, or guru (if they do- run… it’s never that easy). They may have a “most valuable player” (for me, that would be my mentor Dr. Dugliss since he introduced me to so much of what has helped me heal and grow), but it isn’t going to be just that one single thing. It’s always a combination of things that create the overall state of growth. There is no silver bullet.
Because of this, it’s supremely important to be looking at yourself from as many different angles as you can think of. Physical, energetic, emotional, mental, intuitive, spiritual… just to name a few. We are such dynamic creatures, full of so many layers, and we MUST address them all if we want to find true sustainable growth. This was brought home to me recently by a friend who has a tendency towards depression- their only outlet to prevent a full on downward spiral consists of working out. Recently they got injured and found themselves unable to exercise for three weeks during a particularly busy time at work while some difficult things were also happening at home. The pressure and stress this created almost undid them, because they were not able to utilize their single coping method. This is what we want to avoid- putting all our selfcare eggs in one small basket, so to speak. We never want to say, “I’m fine, so long as I can do X.”
A third thing to remember is that one of the most important traits you can develop during the process is a curious openness to both what you’ve never heard of, and what you might have heard before but didn’t land at the time. Example: About ten years ago I attempted to read Eckhart Tolle‘s A New Earth and it made zero sense to me; I got maybe 20 pages in and just gave up. I remember feeling so defeated- this book was supposed to change my life! I opened it again five years ago and ended up highlighting basically the entire book because it made so much sense and resonated so deeply. This is growth. This is one example from my life that showed me just how much a little step here and a little step there can change us. We also don’t need to “buy in” to everything a book/method/teacher is selling in order to gain some deep nuggets of wisdom. I recently took a little mini course on manifestation from someone I’d never heard of, and while I certainly did not agree with everything they said, I got a lot out of the course simply because of what it brought up for me; because of the *way* it challenged me. So stay open, you might be surprised by what you learn!
Fourth- it’s not just about knowing what to do, it’s about practicing it not only when you “need” it, but also when you don’t. Great quote from Brene Brown: “It’s not a knowledge base, it’s a practice.” Yes, yes, yes. You can know all the things, but if you don’t continue to implement them until they become effortless, you limit the extent of possible growth and transformation. So many of us come to realize we need to make a big change in our life because we hit rockbottom; we have a dark night of the soul and decide we need to alter course when we are trying to climb out of a hole we can’t see our way out of. Our 3rd long term relationship falls apart and we begin to wonder what role we are playing in our own soap opera. We get fired from a job… again… and realize maybe we really aren’t a “good team player”. And we start to wonder… how do I fix this? And so we turn to the self help books and start trying to implement practices and it’s HARD because it’s so foreign and takes time to work, but we keep at it and the needle starts to shift. We begin to feel better. And because we feel better, we start letting off on those practices because we feel like we don’t need them anymore, why bother? And that is the BIGGEST mistake a person can make, because if you aren’t consistently good at something when it’s easy, how can you expect to be good at it when it’s hard? This is why trying to institute a gratitude practice when you feel that there is nothing in your life to be grateful for is so challenging. Trying to find joy when you are depressed is like climbing Mt. Everest when you have never been hiking. Trying to lose weight when you are 50lbs over and you don’t exercise OR eat well feels impossible. You can do it, but if you don’t *keep* doing the practices that finally made the pounds come off, those pounds will creep right back on and you have to start all over again. So we need to practice the tools we learn All. The. Time, so that instead of them being a state that we have to constantly work on maintaining, they become a trait that is effortlessly intrinsic to who we are.
And finally, the spiritual growth journey is not just about the “spiritual”. It’s not just about meditating and reading books by Ram Dass and Tara Brach and trying to transcend. Yes, we want to open our hearts and connect to the divine, but if you only look up while you’re walking down the street, you chance stepping in dog poop. We need to have the ability to keep our eyes ON BOTH. On learning the tools to help us live a divinely connected life full of abundance, love, and synchronicity; as well as keeping our eyes on the road directly ahead of us and continuing to be present to the practicalities of our day to day. No longer is the path to spirituality one of becoming a monk; in fact, the fastest path to growth is that of a householder, because it is one in which all the spiritual tenets are challenged daily. Think of it as strength training for the soul; you need to challenge your baseline if you want to grow. Easy to remain peaceful when your day consists of eating, meditating, sleeping, and praying. Not so much when the kid is having a meltdown, the washer broke, there’s no food in the house, and your partner is away on a business trip. If you can find joy and gratitude, acceptance and peace in *those* moments, you are truly on your way.
So- my thread is made of steel, and while I’m now more aware of just how much stress I’m feeling surrounding issues pertaining to my father’s passing, I’m also full of profound gratitude because part of the reason I was unaware of my current stress level is that so often during the day I feel intense joy watching my child play with his father; love while I receive such unwavering support from my husband; peace as I fold laundry in the house I love, and self compassion as I recognize I am, indeed, doing the best I can…and that’s enough.