I almost titled this “My Spiritual Hangover” because it’s a perfect description of how I felt the first week of 2012. After navigating through the classic holiday triple-header of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years more consciously and successfully than ever before, I experienced an aftermath of weakness and vulnerability; similar to how your muscles feel the day after a strenuous physical workout. It’s something I’ve noticed can happen when we break through old dogma; it can take a bit of time to adjust and learn how to sustain the new-found mindfulness.
Even if you weren’t someone who made a serious effort to maintain a higher consciousness throughout, the holidays take their toll. Highs lead to lows, until we develop the ability to maintain balance. So here’s how I found the way to keep my sails up through the aftermath without tipping the boat and ending up in a life raft.
Recognize the Cause: Any fellow Virgo will empathize with my choice to over-clean my house for the start of a fresh new year. (There really should be a law that women over 50 are not allowed to clean anything ever again!) I re-injured my back, which caused pain, which drained my energy, which became the catalyst for throwing me off in the areas I had been successfully disciplined in: nutrition, exercise, staying present, and being positive.
It doesn’t take long for the mind to find an opportunity to run old tapes. Any reason will do and, before we know it, we are back to procrastinating, resisting, and self-sabotaging – and any one of these can quickly lead to depression and inertia.
Recognize the Effect: The drain of energy in my mind and body had created a state of weakness, and I was succumbing to quick-fix tendencies with long-term, disastrous results. But here’s the key: I stayed aware as I began returning to unhealthy foods and portions; as I stayed up too late watching television (disturbing my mind and disrupting my sleep patterns); as my thoughts became increasingly negative and self-defeating. And this is very important: I chose to view myself with compassion instead of judgment.
Ask for Help: I recommend starting with God before going to people. The possibilities and resources are far more infinite, right? It’s not uncommon to find me sitting alone in my car in some parking lot, uttering the words I often hear at Marianne Williamson’s weekly lectures in Los Angeles: “Dear God, I am clearly not in my right mind. Please help me. I don’t know how to get out of this, but I am willing to see it differently.” Any honest conversation of prayer will do.
Re-Engage with What Works: For me, it’s a daily spiritual practice of meditation and prayer, writing, and walking or exercising that helps me stay in the positive flow of life. I often work with an altar, where I light candles and place what I am surrendering or praying for. And just as I go to God for spiritual assistance, I go to Mother Earth to support my physicality and feed my soul. When I found myself feeling low, I forced myself to re-engage with one or more practices until I was able to resume them all.
Be patient: with yourself and others, and with God. Leave some space for the Universe to respond to your willingness to shift your perspective. Stay quiet, open, and allowing, as you remain aware and reflective. If negative thoughts continue, don’t dwell on them. Let them pass as you repetitively choose thoughts of love instead.
And remember you are never alone in what you are going through. That Oneness thing? It’s true. The human experience is the same for everyone; different on the outside but the same on the inside. The Buddhist practice of Tonglen is a beautiful way to experience that truth. When you are in pain of any kind, close your eyes and imagine everyone who is feeling the same pain. Then inhale all of that collective misery and exhale a deep breath of freshness and relief to all of you sharing the experience. Even a few minutes of this practice will demonstrate your ability to transmute anything and experience the truth and power of our Oneness.
May our Happy New Year, be our Happy Whole Year!