“The closer you get to the light, the bigger your shadow becomes.” – Kingdom Hearts
Most people turn to a spiritual practice to improve their life. What most people fail to understand is that the spiritual journey isn’t an easy path to walk. Additionally, the spiritual journey doesn’t really have a final destination. A spiritual journey continues throughout the rest of your life and as you progress you will new aspects of your life that bring tension against your development.
Most magical, spiritual practices use the spiral as a symbol of our spiritual journey. As you walk the spiral, you may be getting closer to the center, your end goal, but you may still find yourself passing through similar obstacles and lessons. In my belief and experience, these common issues are there to help gauge our progression. As we get closer to our spiritual center, our shadow aspects tend to come out with greater force than they did earlier on in our practice, or at least that how it appears. In reality, it may just be because we become are more aware of our complexes and have learned to recognize them for what they are as we grow spiritually.
Let me give you an example. One of my reoccurring issues manifests in my life as an intense fear of criticism. When I started curling a few years ago, my first skip was an amazing man named Tim. He was patient and helped me grow as a curler. However, as time went on and I made similar mistakes over and over again, he got a little tougher on me. As soon as Tim’s tough love approach started, I immediately wanted to quit. I lied to myself and said that I hated curling, but what I really hated was that someone was criticizing me. After beating myself up and doing more than my fair share of pouting, I realized that Tim was just trying to help me improve because if I were doing well, I’d love curling even more. With that mindset, I was able to reset and be open to instruction. I was good, and I knew that I would never have to struggle with feeling criticized again.
Then, the next year started, and I was with a skip named John. John was a monster. That may sound unfair, but he was a shit-talking, broom throwing tyrant, who told me to go fuck myself more than he said my name. He was once joking with me and called me a clown, and that was honestly the nicest thing he ever said to me. I went through my normal pattern of vowing to quit curling and being so in my emotions that I neglected to see that he had the same goal as Tim, to make me better at a sport I loved. Sure, he’s technique was different, but he just wanted to see me get better. I let go of my emotional reaction, and with John’s help, our team won the Men’s League for the curling club.
Again, I thought I was good, but this season started, and I am with a skip named Jeff. He has a reputation for being a worse tyrant than John. I immediately researched the refund policy to see if I could still quit and get my money back. Then, I saw my name on the plaque of winners. It reminded me that I had dealt with this before and this was my chance not to let it bother me. So, I grounded myself, and I’ve been mostly okay with Jeff since.
I’ve have seen the same response from spiritual people when they encounter more difficult issues such as depression, addiction, and financial distress. When things aren’t going as well as we’ve planned, we tend to forget that we are witches and resort to old patterns. What follows are a few tips that I use when I’m going through a downswing in my spiritual journey.
- Take preventative measures
Just like with physical health, our spiritual health requires preventative care. Kelly Ann Maddox once said in a video that she uses the times when things are going well to keep up with her daily practice as a way to gather strength for any obstacle that may just be around the corner.
In her book, Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson talks about taking the good days and making them amazing, so she has a reserve to take into the bad days on her journey with depression.
As spiritual people, we can use our practice to fill our energy wells so that we have a storeroom of power to draw from during difficult times.
- Embrace the sacred Toddler
When things aren’t working well for me and become overwhelming for me, I get really sad, and then really pissed off. I used to stay away from the altar when I was upset, but then I realized that the Divine that gave me life also gave me my emotions. They are a vital part of me.
So, when I get angry, I may spend a day walking by my altar with my middle finger in the air, but I eventually find my way back. Then, I let it out. I tell my patrons just how pissed I am that they have seemingly abandoned me. I rant and rave, and when I’m done, I find this stillness. Then, through journaling, art, or divination, I find the cause of the situation and am ready to move forward.
- Look for the lesson
Inside every struggle is a nugget of spiritual truth. Every obstacle brings with it a lesson that you may need to learn. Don’t just contemplate the fact that there’s a lesson, bust out your spiritual magnifying glass and Sherlock Holmes that shit.
Discover what the lesson is. Narrow it down to a concise sentence. For example, for my situation with the curling club, I narrowed it down to “Criticism helps me grow.”
Once you understand the lesson, look for other examples of this lesson at play in your every day. Before you leave your house say “How can I learn more about this today?” and embark on your day ready to learn.
- Lean on your tribe
During times of difficulty, the first things most of us do is pull away from those who care about us. I think this is a subconscious way of protecting them. It could also be rooted in feelings of shame or unworthiness. Your tribe will always be there (and if they aren’t, they aren’t your tribe!).
Talk to you friends. Let them know what’s going on. Accept the help they give you.
- Don’t quit
When we experience hardships despite our spiritual practice, it’s easy to chalk it up as a wasted endeavor and walk away from our practice. Regardless of what your practice is, you are going to have hardships. It’s a fact of life and an opportunity to put your spiritual toolbox to use.
Keep up your daily practice in whatever capacity you are able. This will help you refill you well, even if only slightly, and you’ll be better equipped to handle the shenanigans that life sometimes throws our way.
I hope this is helpful and would love to hear any tips I may have missed. This post was the result of a recommendation from a friend of mine. If there are any topics that you’d like to see me write about, leave me a comment.