Healing occurs in the mind, heart, spirit, and body. Any system of self-improvement that does not address all of these essential components of the human being is lacking. I believe this so strongly I’ll repeat it: Any attempt to heal only one aspect of yourself without addressing the others, will ultimately lead to imbalance and unhappiness.
Just as your car, business, or favorite recipe must have all key components working together for the final product to be successful, all aspects of YOU must be in alignment in order to function at your full potential. Most of the information & insights on this page are related to depression and feeling 'stuck' because I find those are two of the most common ailments people suffer from today.
Depression, Despair, Feeling 'Stuck'
If you’re experiencing deep emotional pain, consider yourself blessed.
“What?” you might be thinking, “Consider myself blessed? To feel this isolation and despair?”
You are blessed because you have the capacity to experience some of the most meaningful depths felt by a human being. Often times it is through depressions that we develop soul, humility, compassion, and strength. You are facing darkness head on. Not everyone is that brave - and not everyone has a heart big enough to contain the amount of sadness you feel.
I realize you may be suffering right now. You may be experiencing confusion or loss - or feel as if you derailed from your truest path and are just living life as a series of shallow gestures with no meaning attached to them. Please understand, this is all part of the strongest soul’s journey. Every challenge you face is a test of your stamina... and this WILL pass. Even if you don’t believe in God, or any power larger than yourself, take a look at this simple truth:
I taught third grade for a year in a suburb of Chicago. It was a difficult time in my life, as I had just returned from living in Morocco and was having trouble re-acclimating to the States. I was also trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life...and it wasn’t teaching third grade in a cornfield (no disrespect to third-grade teachers or to corn-dwellers; it just wasn't me!) I was so distraught that I sometimes crouched behind my classroom desk and cried. When I went to a doctor in hopes of being referred to a therapist, the doctor insisted on writing a prescription for me instead. “Pills are cheaper than therapy,” he told me. I couldn’t believe it! Needless to say, I did not follow-through with the prescription. I turned to healthy eating and spirituality to pull me through the transition.
Back to my third graders...one of the in-class assignments I gave was for each child to close their eyes and pick a random word or phrase from a collection of magazine clippings I'd placed in a hat. Then, each child was instructed to incorporate his/her selection into a story or poem of their imagining. While most kids came up with silly narratives like "And then the leather baseball glove punched all the cars in the street!" or "The pickle jar was in charge of the entire kingdom," there was one student whose creation stood out.
A quiet little boy named Tyler selected the following phrase: without leaving a footprint. He diligently bent over his desk and glued the phrase to a piece of construction paper before composing a poem with a blue marker. When he was finished, he walked to the front of the room and handed the following to me:
All Things Big and Small
as small as a pebble
as big as the sun
this all just comes and goes
without leaving a footprint
I couldn’t believe it! How did little Tyler know something so profound at such a young age?
Answer: because we are born knowing. It is only the world that makes us forget. Our cultural conditioning, personal attachments, and egoic distractions keep us from perceiving the simple truths that lay patiently waiting to be re-discovered. It took Tyler’s poem being placed in my hands for me to remember that no matter how big my problems seemed to me at the time, they would all be gone someday, as would I. Meditating on that, everything was immediately placed within a much larger, more meaningful perspective.
Remember this phase: “And this too shall pass.” No matter what sadness or confusion you’re experiencing right now, it’s important to realize that it WILL come to an end. You WILL traverse this yawning abyss. Your heart, mind, and spirit WILL heal themselves anew.
Even if you feel like you made horrible mistakes that led you to where you are today, remember: you did the best you could with the awareness and wisdom you had at the time - and this is now an opportunity for you to learn and evolve. After making a 'mistake,' we are humbled enough to see the areas in our life that need to change. This may mean letting go of familiar people, places, beliefs, and mindsets that are limiting our ability to enter a new cycle of change. If you’re afraid to let go, that’s normal, but realize that unless you overcome those fears and move forward, you will forever remain stuck between two worlds: the old, familiar world you need to release, and the new, unknown, incredible world awaiting you on the other side.
The Dark Night of the Soul
“The painting that engrosses us is not the one that omits the devil, but one in which the devil appears thrashing, grasped by the neck.”
- William James
Higher guidance does not always & only present itself to us through peaceful messages and visions floating down from the sky. It can also come through stress, nausea, heartache, depression, illness, or any other route to get our attention. More often than not, you will be unaware that the crisis is spiritual in nature, and you may describe the dilemma as psychological - or even purely physical. How do you know if the root cause of your ailment is in your spirit? Here are some indicators:
1) Some essential part of you no longer feels alive. You may have a good job, comfortable relationship, & healthy physical body, but you still can’t shrug the feeling that you don't feel fully, authentically, vibrantly aligned with your true purpose(s) on Earth.
2) You may feel a deep absence or longing.
3) You feel as if something is trying to ‘wake-up’ or 'become more' inside you.
4) You are losing touch with your former sense of identity & are no longer sure what you want out of life.
5) There is a strong need to experience devotion to something greater than the physical world.
Having a spiritual crisis lets you know that you need to break free from the beliefs that are no longer serving your highest development. You must choose to stagnate or evolve. During a spiritual dark night (which could actually be many, many nights), you come to know the contents of your mind, heart, and soul while confronting your fears, integrating your shadow side, and challenging false gods who often do not give up their hold without a fight. This requires faith and stamina.
Remember: Sometimes we move away from who we are so we can know who we are not.
It’s also important to remember that a dark night of the soul DOES have a purpose; it is part of your initiation along a spiritual journey. You are preparing to allow for more Divinity to move through you. Real expansion begins when you clear yourself internally and release any tendencies towards fantasy, attachment, domination over others, greed, and ego-driven self-rightousness. Once those tendencies are conquered, Divine energy can flow freely through you, and you’ll be able to help others overcome the darkness in themselves and in this world.
I’ve been through my share of trenches and valleys...experiencing loss, death, spiritual crises, heartbreak, and unwarranted aggression. The simple truth remains: it all passes. And once you’ve weathered a big storm, you realize once again that all of life is a gift. To feel the sting of the cold, to hold a lover in your arms, to feast, to build, to suffer, to cry, to dance, to sing, to laugh, to die, to be re-born again—this is all a blessing.
St. John of the Cross was the first to refer to a spiritual crisis as a ‘dark night of the soul.’ He knew that because so few people can endure direct contact with heaven, God intended to strengthen them before offering them the ultimate gift of experiencing heaven on earth. Never forget that.
The Company You Keep
“Don't be distracted by criticism. Remember - the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”
- Zig Ziglar
“Even my chains and I grew friends, so much long communion tends, to make us what we are.”
- L. Byron
It is essential that you keep company with people who are nurturing, encouraging, kind, healthy, balanced, and empowered. Your parents probably drilled this into your head since you were a child, and you probably ignored it & hung out with destructive individuals anyway. I did too. Even as an adult, I sometimes find it challenging to step away from lovers, friends, or acquaintances who are no longer healthy for my self-development.
At first this might seem like an elitist attitude, until you realize that you’re not doing anyone a favor by enabling negativity and disrespect to perpetuate. Who and what you surround yourself with greatly influence your sense of self and perception of the world. If you have a friend who is polluting your life - be it because he/she is persistently negative, small-minded, judgmental, or controlling & restrictive, it may be time for you to step away. To be clear, I am not suggesting you abandon your loved ones whenever the going gets tough. I am, however, urging you to leave situations & people that prove to be chronically harmful to your well-being.
We must also be careful of the information and places we expose ourselves to. Everything we ‘ingest’ affects us positively or adversely - the books we read, the media we intake, the places we go, everything.
Now is the time to heal
Everything that happened those following weeks seemed to happen to support me. Even the insects were on my side - and whenever I began to drift into my mind (the land of stress and suffering) a fly or a ladybug would hit me in the face as if to say, “I’m here! Stay awake! I’m reminding you of something much bigger than yourself!”
six questions to
find your life
purpose or 'dharma'
Dharma is a Buddhist concept based upon the idea that everything is whole and complete, as it is. There are no accidents in this universe… including you! You are here for very purposeful reasons, even if they aren’t yet clear to you. You have a personal Dharma that is being fulfilled.
the 'bounce back' rate & why we de-rail
Remember: there is nothing inherently wrong with the fact that you fall out of your flow every now and then; it is only your dwelling on the fact that you have “de-railed” that becomes a hindrance. (Note: “de-railed” is in quotations because you are never really off track. Your detours and tangents are all a part of the process. Trust in that.)
how problems grow roots
Maybe the plant represents how un-appreciated you feel in your marriage. Maybe the plant is a dishonest business partner who you’re afraid to confront. The plant could be your poor eating habits, or the fact that you haven’t spoken with your father in seven years, even though he’s been calling you every Christmas to make amends.
the healing power of a dog
“Religion, is a smile on a dog.” Do you remember that old Edie Brickell lyric? I do. And at this moment, I don’t find anything to be more true. Dogs live in the moment…and only in the moment. Sure, they remember old tricks and all their favorite sniffing spots, but dogs don’t sit around worrying about the past or stressing about the future.
raw and free
Ryan made the same choice many of us do when we come to a certain age & begin to more fully value comfort, long-term companionship, family, and the maturity that develops from creating and committing to clear goals in order to grow. There is nothing wrong with this choice; however, the mistake many of us make is in thinking we need to retire our freedom in exchange for a more structured & steady routine.
the desiderata prayer
"You are a child of the universe no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."
Are you waiting for a sign?
Know what I’m talking about? Yes, you do. Somewhere in your life there’s that thing you KNOW you’d do if only you were more sure about it - that phone call you’d make, that city you’d explore, that person you'd kick out of your life, that business opportunity you'd take. If only you were certain - just a little more certain. You want to be absolutely sure...