6 Myths About What It Is To Be Spiritual

*Originally published on Elephant Journal.

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Ten years ago, at the age of 24, I had a spontaneous spiritual awakening while meditating at our family cabin in Colorado. My awakening blew me open in ways I never knew were possible. My ideas of God, spirituality, our purpose here and just about everything else got flipped upside down. Previous to that, I had certain ideas about what it meant to be “spiritual,” which largely involved compassion, being perfect, and wearing a lot of purple. Ten years after that experience on a mountain in Durango, I can see how my ideas of what it meant to awaken were a bit misguided. Here are just a few of the myths about spirituality that I wish someone had told me so I could have spared myself a lot of self-judgment in the process.

 

  • Myth #1: As you awaken, life will get easier.

 

The truth is, as you evolve spiritually, life doesn’t become all rainbows and sunshine. I had thought that as I awakened, there would be more love, grace, and abundance than ever before. And in a way there is. I experience insane and intense moments of connection, beauty, and loving. However, I’ve learned that no matter how spiritual or connected you are, life will still keep throwing challenges your way. In fact, as we deepen in our spirituality, often times we experience more chaos and upheaval than ever before as we are clearing karma faster and faster. We are here to wake up, not always be 100% happy.

 

  • Myth #2: A truly spiritual being is ok with whatever happens to them because they are so neutral and clear.

 

Part of the spiritual path is about gaining neutrality and developing a witness consciousness. However, there are still times when I get angry, or sad, or feel disgusted. And these times are appropriate.  If you’ve ever read the Bible, you’ll see that even Jesus had moments of intense rage. The spiritual path doesn’t mean losing your emotional reactivity, it means becoming more conscious of where your reactions are coming from, so you learn when it is appropriate to express them. And there are times when it is appropriate to be angry, full of rage, or heartbroken. There are times when what we consider “reacting” is actually Spirit moving through us, helping us to break open into greater understanding.

 

  • Myth #3: To be spiritual is to be all-giving, self-sacrificing, and to put the world’s needs above your own.

 

This is one I believed for a long time and many good-hearted healers, therapists, and teachers seem to share this same belief. The old spirituality was about sacrificing ourselves for other people or for a higher cause. But we are in a new era now. In this new era of consciousness, we are here to love our selves first and foremost. This involves putting ourselves first in our own lives, before we extend ourselves to save the world around us. Doing so will set an example for other people who are sacrificing themselves in bad relationships or crappy jobs. Your permission to liberate and love yourself will give them permission to do the same.

 

  • Myth #4: Spiritual masters are always compassionate, always loving, and always “perfect.”

 

This is one I still grapple with. I had an image of what is means to be an enlightened spiritual being which included being all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving and compassionate at all times and all ways. This led to be being walked on, used, drained, and depleted in my personal life. What I have since learned is that the spiritual path is about deepening into loving, but we also need wisdom and discernment as partners to that loving. I thought that as a spiritual person, I wouldn’t need boundaries, but it turns out I need them more than ever. As I have grown spiritually, I have a greater capacity for true loving, but less tolerance for being used, manipulated, or energetically drained.

 

  • Myth #5: If you are spiritual, you have to be “nice.”

 

Being “nice,” isn’t all it is cracked up to be. This may sound dramatic, but “niceness” is like a virus. It is the way many of us have been programmed in our families and in our cultures to behave, be still, and not make waves. Spiritual masters were not “nice.” They were deeply loving and could love and touch the divinity inside those around them. But they knew they did not exist to please other people. They knew their purpose was much bigger than being “nice” to keep the peace. There is a difference between inspired acts of generosity and kindness, and being nice to please other people and fit in. This does not mean you have to be mean to be spiritual either. It is only a call to examine your own personality traits and which ones are authentically you, and which ones you use to maintain an image of what it means to be spiritual or good, Truth be told, I think most people who meet me would describe me as “nice.” I open heartedly love and adore people I come into contact with. However, I can see how my internal need to be “nice” kept me in some energetically abusive dynamics for far too long.

 

  • Myth #6: To be spiritual, means you stop being human.

 

I had assumed that as I awakened more and more, my personality would soften and my body would be in perfect health. I thought I would stop getting cranky when I was hungry, or mad at my boyfriend when he steals the covers at night. I thought my health issues would vanish. The truth is, as you awaken, you deepen in your humanness. Instead of getting mad at myself for getting irritable or grumpy, I am more and more coming to love that very human sweet part of myself who needs protein ever four hours and is upset and cries when someone verbally attacks her. To be spiritual doesn’t mean you stop being human, it means you accept and love your humanness even more. You begin to love yourself for your humanity, not in spite of it.

 

What I am learning is that spirituality isn’t about divorcing yourself from your humanity. It is about embracing and loving all parts of you, especially the very human part. Can you meet your humanity with loving? What about your anger? Can you love that rage and all it is trying to do for you? Can you embrace depression and sadness and heartbreak? Can you love yourself even when you don’t feel perfect? Or when you are ill? Or have lost a loved one? Can you love yourself fiercely, no matter what? That is spirituality.

 

Why Being Sick Isn’t Always A Bad Thing

Sick me with my new favorite mug. At least I have really good tea to keep me company.
Sick me with my new favorite mug. At least I have really good tea to keep me company.

As I write this, I’m surrounded by a littering of tissues and three half-full cups of green tea. I slept for about four hours last night because it was so hard to breath out of my nose. My voice sounds nasally, deep, and distinctly congested. At this moment, my limbs are heavy and I feel like I could not get off this couch even if I were being chased by a wild cheetah.

I am sick with a cold for the first time in four years.

I feel lucky in that I rarely get sick these days. Yet, because of that, I forget how much a little cold can bring me down for days.

I’m not actually all that surprised a doozy of a cold has hit me after four years of congestion-free bliss. As most of you know, last month was very stressful and emotionally draining as I dealt with two family deaths. I’ve been in the process of recuperating my energy and replenishing my overtaxed adrenals since then. And I know being sick right now is really important for my body. I know this cold is good for me.

Illness is a great way of releasing.

The post-nasal drip I’m experiencing is helping me to release some of the emotional residues I was holding onto as a result of stress, grief, sadness, and shock. The congestion in my head is helping me to release the experiences of the past month from my very cells. Old memories, regrets, and emotions get to drain out of my body and my energy field through the snot leaking out of my nose. This cold is part of my healing.

I’ve been thinking about illness lately as I am preparing to do a podcast with the very talented Jessica Flanigan, a friend of mine who is a clinical nutritionist (and just released an amazing book). We are going to be speaking about the role of chronic illness in the spiritual path, which is a topic that is close to my heart as I have dealt with many physical issues on this path. I’ve been asking for guidance as to what to share about this topic. And every time I sit still and ask for the truth about illness, I hear “Illness has value.”

This is not something we are ever taught to consider. In our culture, illness of any kind is considered bad. The medical model sees illness as something that has gone wrong with the body, an imbalance of some kind. We fight illness with a vengeance. However, from what I have studied and learned from my own experiences, it has become clear that illness can have tremendous value.

In this case, the little virus that has entered my body is helping my cells release long-held pain and memories. This cold is helping me process my grief and anguish. I know, deep down, that this cold is here in service to me.

Previous illnesses I have had, some quite serious, have also shown me this deep truth. Illness can have tremendous value. Sometimes they come in to help us clear out our bodies and emotions. Sometimes they come in to move us onto a different path. Sometimes they are here to clear a karma. Sometimes they come in to wake us up to parts of ourselves that need attention and love. And sometimes they come in as grand wake-up calls to ask us, “Do you really want to be here? Alive? Human? Prove it.” When that wake-up call comes, it can be terrifying. But if that call comes, it serves to get us to choose life, to really choose this life we currently have.

There is value to be found in illness. Illness helps us to release, heal, clear, and if we are lucky, wake up. We get to wake up to our true selves and to our desire to really be here, alive on this planet.

I’m not going to fight this cold. I know it has a job to do. I’m going to drink my tea, blow my nose, watch some Netflix, and let it do its thing. I’ve found that the more I accept the gifts of illness, the easier illness can resolve itself.

What To Do When You Feel Like A Scary Monster

scary monsterI will admit it. The past couple of weeks, I have been a grouchy, irritable monster. Every little thing has set me off, like the volume level of my iphone when it vibrates on the counter, the sound of my boyfriend’s chewing, driver’s who pull out in front of me, mold on the new tortillas I just bought, the rain, the sun, and the overabundance of water in the decaf Americano I ordered at the coffee shop across the street. I haven’t been proud of my actions and have even been a little short with the people around me.

When I used to have irritation-bursts like this, I used to panic. I thought to myself, “What am I doing wrong? Did I not feng shui my house properly? Are my hormones insanely off-kilter? Am I not meditating enough?” When I felt something that seemed different as compared to my usual state of being, I automatically assumed that I had done something wrong or that something was wrong with me.

Our minds are so quick to make what we experience, about us. And most of the time, our minds like to find explanations that somehow involve us having done something wrong. The mind is funny that way. Rarely does the mind think that what we are experiencing is the result of something right that we are doing in our lives. The mind really likes to make us wrong.
In actuality, my two weeks of irritation might have been because an old pattern was clearing out of my energy field, or I was integrating a new level of consciousness. It might have been because a friend of mine was experiencing something distressing, and my energy field was unconsciously helping her work through it. It might have been because my body was detoxing and coming back into balance. My irritation might have been the result of my body doing something right.

The truth is, I have no idea why I was so irritable. None at all. I used to think that being spiritual, and intuitive, meant being able to understand why everything happens. And sometimes, I do get messages about a particular experience. However, what I have realized is that the “why” isn’t always important. Granted, if there are chronic patterns in your life that you can’t seem to shift, understanding why they are there is important so you can move through them. But for things as transient and fickle as moods, trying to understand the “why” can just add more fuel to the fire.

So try this…Next time you find yourself feeling and acting like a scary monster, instead of getting stuck in your head, trying to think your way into understanding what is going on, take a deep breath and let go. Let go of the need to understand it.

You are human and there are myriad energies moving inside of you and through you at any given time. Don’t try to understand them, just let them move.

And of course, my irritable monster mood did shift. I’m back to feeling like “me” in a way that is even deeper than before.

More and more, I am learning I can trust whatever arises.

Feeling panicked? Connect with the Future You.

Safety. Whether or not we consciously realize it, safety is the feeling we are all scrambling for most of the time.  We think that more money in our savings, a bigger house, the right partner, or exclusively organic food will bring us the safety and security we desire. We want to make sure we can survive this often harsh place called Earth so we stockpile money for a rainy day, or get married to assure we are never alone again, or find the best supplements so that our body is never sick again.

This desire for safety is hard-wirIMG_1966ed into our brains. We are instinctually driven to survive at all costs. And thank goodness we have that wiring or we might have all accidentally walked off cliffs by now! We need our desire for safety and security so we can survive day-to-day.

However, when our life circumstances start to change and we are faced with the loss of a job, or the loss of a loved one, or a break up, our survival self gets triggered and we freak out. You know the panic that sets in when you’ve just been laid off or when you someone breaks up with you unexpectedly? It is the kind of panic that grips your body and makes it hard to breathe. It sends your mind tailspinning into anxiety. It feels as though all your stability is being whisked away from underneath you. Your sense of safety has been threatened and quite naturally, the survival self starts sending “DANGER, DANGER, DANGER” signals to your body and brain.  At this point, our body’s completely lock up and we lose connection to that deeper wisdom within us that knows that this is all ok.

Your Soul knows that endings have to happen to propel you into something even greater. And oftentimes, we cling so hard to safety that our Soul must forcibly remove us from our current situation so we can meet our new destiny.

So how can we deal with these forced ejections out of our comfort zone? We can consciously start to connect to the other, deeper parts of us that know the divine plan. There is a part of us that knows deep down, everything will be ok. You can call it your Soul, God, your Higher Self, or Bob. It doesn’t matter what it is. The important thing is that we connect with what it feels like and what it knows. Doing so will help integrate the divine safety and wisdom that is in you. You’ll feel a lot better and start to see that all the fear that the survival self puts us through really isn’t necessary. Everything will turn out ok in the end. The fear and drama that our survival self creates isn’t necessary to propel us into finding safety. The Soul will lead us into safety.

Try this meditation to start integrating the Soul Self into the survival self.

Meditation to Connect with Future Self

  1. Sit someplace that is quiet and comfortable
  2. Take a few deep breaths
  3. Notice where your body feel tense, scared, or anxious. Just witness it.
  4. Call forth your future self. This is the you in the future who understands why all of this is happening. She (or he) understands that this is all for your greater good. She is infinitely wise and completely at peace. She is whole. She understands.
  5. Let her come hold you….gently rocking you. Let her just be with you. Just allow yourself to rest in her arms. Allow yourself to open up to the safety and peace she feels. She knows it will be ok because she has walked through this and seen the end. Let her just comfort you.
  6. Ask her for any messages she has for you. Don’t censor. Just allow any thoughts, feeling, images, or words to arise.
  7. Take as much time as you want to feel the complete peace and safety of your future self.
  8. Know that everything will be ok. You will be ok. There is no other possibility.