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.