I’ve hit two spiritual bottoms over the past decade.
The first bottom came through the velvet hammer of addiction and self-survival that prompted a renewed spiritual path, centered in recovery.
Prior to the rooms of recovery, my spiritual life had atrophied so completely that my ability to do mysterious things like hold a job or pay rent had evaporated. I speak about some of my experiences hitting my first bottom in another piece on Elephant Journal.
The spiritual tools I applied during that period continue to develop as I unravel the remaining emotional and social entanglements of my second bottom surrounding a significant relationship that dissolved this past year.
In both cases, the emotional patterns were similar and the pain so complete that survival has necessitated fundamental life shifts. In both cases, healing had come through the development of what I like to call “spiritual fitness.”
I’m continuing to develop my spiritual toolkit, but the three affirmations that follow have been front and center recently, and my ability to practice them has been in direct proportion to my healing. I hope they may be of benefit!
1. I feel my real feelings. My feelings are my teachers—especially my tears.
There is no “spiritual bypassing” of feelings. My grief was an integral part of the process in each of my “bottoms,” and I’ve spent the better part of this past year processing a separation—a relationship death—that meant more to me than I fully understood a year ago.
It does take sincere solitude and responsibility to feel grief and to cry, to encounter those things at the heart of one’s brokenness. Our grief is our responsibility—no one else’s. No one can cry for us. My friends and family could feed me, help me drink water, and clothe me if I became unable to accomplish these tasks without aid, but crying—my grief, my feelings—are mine alone.
The healing that comes through this is our gift to receive and eventually offer to others who need our experience, strength, and hope.
2. I practice detachment from others’ expectations. Detachment is a behavior.
Practicing detachment has been all about changing behaviors. All my life I’ve been attempting to compensate my lack of courage and my fear of disappointing others by mastering the right words, the political art of people pleasing, and often passing on challenging conversations. I was exhausting myself attempting to control others’ reactions and emotions.
Practicing detachment gives our lives an opportunity to speak and grow toward a fuller expression of authenticity and empowerment. I can never grow if I don’t experience individuation. I have to get my head out the water and look up every once in awhile to check my points of reference.
Detachment is not an attitude as most assume. Detachment, as I’ve been working with it, is a behavior, a posture with a plan of action. For instance, I do not call my exes as a practice. I’ll take my car to events when I’m uncertain I’ll feel safe. I’ll separate myself from family dinners by going to the restroom—enough time for a deep breath, a phone call, a prayer.
Practicing detachment has helped me stay on my side of the street by asking myself hard, unfamiliar questions like, “Am I strong enough to allow those closest to me to experience the consequences of their actions?” “Does this relationship align with my values and goals?” “Am I attempting to control others by withholding how I really feel and what I really think?”
I know I’m still working through my codependent posture toward loved ones. I can’t “save” them or “change” them to make it better—though, sometimes I really believe that I can.
But I can change myself.
When I’m making a mess of it, as I often do, my mentor will gently remind me, “Don’t worry! The good thing about detachment is that there are always more opportunities to practice.”
3. You become what you think about.
After depressions, bottoms, and multiple humiliations, this is a framework of mind I need to survive. Most of us have heard this idea in one form or another. Negative thoughts attract negative experiences and positive thoughts attract positive experiences; “you reap what you sow” and “you get what you give”—almost every major religion communicates this fundamental idea in one way or another.
It has taken a long time to surrender my resistance toward “the secret,” and its religious flavor, but the more I learn about this spiritual axiom, the more obvious it becomes. It is now a vital filter for my experience.
I have a great deal of evidence: the years I was consumed by the fear of becoming substance dependent and how that fear came true through the art of attracting—my address was literally 420 for six years. I could talk with you at length about how my obsession with life’s unfair and unjust nature put me in a constant state of self-pity and victimization.
Suffice to say that over and over again my negative state of mind was consistently mirrored and confirmed by my experiences—another argument with a phone company’s billing office, another lost job, another abusive relationship.
Now I know that the dominating thoughts of my mind will inevitably yield their equivalent physical expression. Every day I use the tools of prayer, meditation, and visualization in an effort to reshape my thought life, peeling back the layers of my unconscious desires and bringing as much as I can into the light of my community, because I know that I can’t do it alone.
It really is up to us to apply and practice spiritual fitness on a daily basis to maintain and grow our spheres of influence.
Whatever they are, our lessons revisit us for a reason. We’re all in school and it’s up to us to remember to practice and relearn the same lessons again and again each day, each year.
As I feel my real feelings, I attract to myself more gentle encounters with friends and nature. As I shed my tears and detach from harmful patterns, I put myself in alignment with greater powers of transformation and freedom.
Mastery is our calling. The spiritual principles we’re working with are not forces subject to our whim and want; they’re ego-crushing and lawful, more physical and attractive, like gravity.
When I align myself with spiritual principles, they work or they work me—not some of the time, but every time.