Art credit: For the Love of Life by CHOR BOOGIE
We have all been there, at one point or another, facing the dark night of the soul. It hurts beyond words. We want to escape, medicate, fight. We just want it to stop—asap.
Sometimes we are so busy trying to conquer difficult states like anxiety or depression or addiction, we never stop to ask why it came in the first place.
We can become curious...
These states are trying to tell us something about ourselves & the world... And their true message may be found under all the resentments, fears, attachments, conditioning & well-worn stories.
When we listen, we may find the true need that exists under the "want."
These states may offer a heart-centered call to action. We may be asked by Spirit to create, connect, express, heal, transform, or serve.
Perhaps there is a call to create a work of art, a poem, or a community service program. Perhaps there is a call to work with a healer, go on a retreat, change habits, or experience plant medicine. Or perhaps the call is for silence, rest, and self care. Only you know.
“Listening” to these difficult states does not mean indulging or prolonging them, it just means paying attention & responding with compassionate skill. Indeed, truly listening to them may be just what is needed to midwife them through transformation.
Here are a few favorite ways to inquire into difficult states and "mine the shadows."
Cheers to the eternal unfolding, dear ones.
10 WAYS TO TURN PAIN INTO PEARLS
1. WRITE. Journal. Free flow a stream of raw words at hyperspeed. No editing. No censorship. Express recklessly. Write clear or cryptic, literal or poetic, linear or time traveling. Your choice. Super charge this one by timing yourself: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. GO.
2. GIVE IT A VOICE. Literally. What does the difficult state have to say? Talk. Sing. Grumble. Growl. Scream. Speak in tongues. It can be words—or primal sounds. Get weird. Do this alone—or ask a friend to witness. Hot tip: Smash your face in a pillow if you don't want neighbors to call the police. ;)
3. MOVE. Walk. Run. Dance. Shake like a wolf in a rain storm. Flee from dangerous spaces into safe ones. Or turn up the music and let your body create an untamed poem.
4. MEDITATE. Go inward. Just sit, pay attention, and breath. You can't do meditation "wrong" or "bad." It's not about accomplishment, though the contemporary Western mind loves to approach everything that way. Meditation is simply a way to explore, enjoy, & listen to your Self... and UNIVERSE/SPIRIT/CREATOR... and savor all flavors of existence along the way.
5. NATURE. Take a hike. Hug a tree. Talk to stars. Whisper to the moon. Touch a river. Dig your hands into the earth. Pull weeds. Plant a seed. Rake leaves. Stop and smell the roses. Listen to birds; they have a lot to say.
6. TAKE A BATH. Let that hot water slow you down and bring you into the present via your senses. Make it a ritual. Light a candle. Bless the space with a sacred aromatic like sage or cedar. Power up the water with a few drops of pure essential oils. Epsom salt and sea salt help to deepen the experience, draw out toxins, and saturate you with magnesium, a fantastic mineral that calms the nervous system and supports many healthy functions. Get ready for inspired downloads and epiphanies.
7. GIVE IT A NAME. Ever heard that old adage? When you know a demon's name, you have power over it. So get to know that anxiety, depression, addiction, or any other difficult state, and give it a catchy name. Naming it helps you to detach, observe, study it, and recognize it as a temporary pattern you've picked up—and not necessarily a fundamental part of yourself. In other words, these difficult states are just like fleas on your skin; they are not your bones or blood.
8. SWEAT. Any sweat will do. Japanese bathhouse, sweat lodge, or laying in warm sun on a beach. Move that fluid.
9. LEARN. Books. Courses. Retreats. Podcasts. Mentors. Workshops. Counselors. Hone in on those resources that speak to your need.
10. CONNECT. Community. Fellowship. Touch. Hugs. Trusted confidents. Support groups. Burningman camps. Spiritual organizations. Educational societies. You know, connect with real friends, the kind who will help you move and bring you soup when you're sick. If you don't have those kinds of friends, then BE one of those.
Experiment. Notice if your difficult state softens or changes after a few of these.
+ BONUS TIP!
11. SERVE. Help others get through the same challenge. ...But only when you can speak from some experience. In essence, don't try to feed others when you're still starving. The possibilities are endless.
Though everything in life may not always feel like "a blessing," we can make blessings out of whatever life throws our way.
All these tips aside, some difficult states may be too difficult for DIY answers, especially when trauma is a part of the story. If you ever feel that you might need additional support, reach out to a qualified mental health professional.
NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS HOTLINE
Text: 741741 in the US
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE
This page is for informational and harm reduction purposes only. This page is NOT intended as professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendation. Please always seek appropriate medical and psychiatric care for your conditions—from qualified providers that respect your personal choices for healthcare.
This is my kind of party... Milling about with thousands of glowing vegetarians, tasting all kinds of decadent delights that are actually good for me! There was even a yoga zone. Somebody apparently read my mind. I have been wishing for yoga zones in every public and private space. This fest is definitely an essential annual destination...
Seed Food & Wine Festival in Miami is the nation’s premiere plant-based food event of its kind, gathering an unparalleled group of more than 60 plant-based notable chefs, athletes, authors and celebrities for the festival’s third year. For 2016, event were held on Nov. 2nd-6th, including upscale dinners, fitness events and the nation’s first Plant-Based Burger Battle™. SEED celebrates delicious plant-based foods, fine wine, craft beer and spirits, lifestyle products, and companies, all while raising awareness about conscious and sustainable living.
Many thanks to JLPR marketing & public relations firm for the invite and positive vibes!
There were so many treasures, it was impossible to capture or fully experience all of them, but there are a few snapshots...
This super hero has been vegan for 30 years! Hardly the scrawny, pasty vision of common misconceptions. This is Geoff Palmer, CEO of Clean Machine Natural Sports Nutrition, and he must be doing something right. I was super impressed with their Clean BCAA natural food-sourced branched chain amino acids & electrolytes. It helps me to feel instantly hydrated, focused, and replenished post-workout. Oh, and it's super yummy. CLEAN BCAA™ delivers a 4gm daily dose of L-leucine, shown in a clinical study to increase 5-rep max strength by over 40% in just 12 weeks! I can't wait to try all their other products.
CLEAN BCAA features:
This is Nina, founder and visionary behind Sugar & Oats natural artisan made Vegan soaps, creams, scrubs, and skincare in South Florida. She carefully formulates all products with the purest plant based oils and 100% natural skin loving ingredients. Sugar and Oats promises to stay away from harsh chemicals, parabens, sodium laureate sulfate, and palm oils. Everything is cruelty free (not tested on animals).
Nina shared with me the touching story behind the inspiration of Sugar & Oats... She's a mama! And she wants the absolute healthiest soaps for her family.
I was blown away by the lavender bar soap. This is was the silkiest, most luxurious bar soap I've ever found (and I have tried all the good vegan major brands). The natural lavender scent was a perfect intensity. Also worth mentioning, the bar is a work of modern art, making it a great gift.
I’ve said it a thousand times. “I don’t have time to meditate.”
I knew that meditation was "good for me," but didn't prioritize it. I looked at it like a luxury to indulge in, rather than a staple like food, water, or air.
I did occasionally meditate, but I was no where near close to going steady with the practice. I was convinced, the rat race just gets too busy for me. I chased my tail around to-do lists, dishes, homework, errands, trumpet lessons for the tween, business obligations, creative projects, financial stress, and the endless “family matters.” I multi-tasked myself into oblivion all in the name of getting it all done.
When any exotic and elusive "free time" arose in my very busy life, I much preferred to be walking, running, sweating, dancing, singing, practicing yoga asana or mantra, making art, or studying sutra. “Movement is my meditation” or “art is my practice” or “studying is better than nothing,” I’d say, politely excusing myself from the more arduous task of just sitting quiet.
“I don’t have time to meditate... really, I don’t.” I was staunch in my statement, only to discover that there was no concrete truth in it.
When a loved one's health crisis took my family to hell and back, meditation suddenly manifested as a life-raft out of the molten chaos. It became the backbone of my balance, despite having no time for it—in theory.
Sometimes my meditation practice would be chock full of epiphanies, insights, and tranquil bliss. Other days, it would feel like treading through the mud of the mind: treacherous, irritating, or worst of all, banal. But I kept at it.
My meditation practice flowered slowly. I began to reach deeper and deeper places of stillness, even in the face of circumstantial chaos. More than ever before, I simply savored awareness, as a gourmet.
Then the magic started happening. I began to feel more harmoniously attuned to the whole. I expressed my soul’s purpose in the world with more grace, ease, and synchronicity. Meditation helped me to fully integrate my other spiritual disciplines and sacred medicines. My relationships deepened, new fruitful opportunities arose, I completed a book, and felt more creatively fulfilled than ever. With steady, long-term practice, meditation was shaping my life for the better.
It wasn't all rainbows and fairies, though. As meditation shaped my life, it was also an earthquake under the existing order of my life. Meditation carved away a lot of nonsense: toxic people, bad habits, activities that drained my energy, and useless distractions. At first, my life-make over felt abrupt. Yet, my meditation continued, as my heart demanded. Fresh shelf space was created, in my home—and in my life.
I was a skeptic who once said: “I could be getting so much done with these extra 10 or 20 or 30 minutes in the morning!” I was certainly moving faster without meditation, but not necessarily better. When I was speed-racing through life sans meditation, I was stubbing my toes and tripping over myself and needing to go back to square one again and again.
Meditation was no luxury to fit into the fringe free moments. Meditation had become the beating heart, the center, the ground, the very source of my fulfilled and peaceful existence.
Ultimately, meditation made time that wasn't there before.
3 ways to make time for meditation, even when you think there is none:
1. Go straight to meditate, before turning on phones or computers. Once the matrix is on, it can hook you right in. More, meditation will lead you to deeper places of introspection and mindfulness if media and communication are not gnawing at the back of your mind. So you're tight on time? Try this suggestion even if you only have 2 minutes, and watch what happens over time.
2. Create a ritual. Tend an altar with sacred images, flowers, power objects, and other inspiring items. Light a candle. Burn some sacred aromatic substance such as sage or incense. Listen to soothing music.
3. Be cozy! Have tea first to hydrate your brain, warm up your body, and stimulate your senses. When you sit for meditation, wrap yourself in a good natural fiber blanket such as angora, wool, or cashmere. The Tibet stores often have affordable, high quality ones. The yogis have known since time immemorial that insulating natural fabric not only concentrates body temperature; it also literally concentrates attention and life force. Use a comfortable meditation seat that is healthy for your knees, hips, and back. I absolutely love the Sun and Moon Originals brand buckwheat filled cosmic cushion.
Dedicate the fruits of your practice to someone or something meaningful. Then, practice letting of any attachments to what the fruits of your practice might turn out to be.
Enjoy your Self!
Infinite thanks to my beautiful husband who meditates with me every morning.
Gratitude to Scott Burgess of Our Lady Stardust Photography, who captured my meditation seal in black sand.