Can Spiritual People Lose their Shit?

There I was having cleaned all weekend, up and down the stairs doing ten loads of laundry. The rest of the time was spent meticulously cleaning the house, taking care of a cat fresh out of surgery and doing head checks on myself, my toddler and partner so often I may need new glasses. We had been exposed to lice a common rite of passage for children I guess. Our cat cut the side of his body open the same weekend and almost died. I was stressed but I wasn’t feeling because I was in problem solving mode.

Then at night,  as most toddlers do when routine is thrown off, my son decided he wouldn’t go to sleep. As introverted mom, with not even a second to myself for over three days, I was about to lose it. And then I did. After the fourth time I tried to put him to sleep, after he pulled my hair and bit me (which he hadn’t done in over two months), I started having a breakdown. I said “no more nurse” and then started crying and begging him just to go to sleep. He pulled my hair again and then started laughing which only made me plead more. My partner was in the other room, later stating that he was immobilized because our sick cat was on his lap. Hmm. Then my son finally said “Awww” like I was an unfortunate creature and kissed and hugged me. I realized how utterly ridiculous I was being, but as humans do we sometimes need to lose our shit. I was humiliated in front of a toddler, my toddler who I felt I had let down.

I grew up in a yelling household. I will never forget how it shook me so I keep a very close eye on my strong emotions. I tend to be a pretty calm person thankfully, with a very long fuse. The thing is when that fuse is burnt out; burnt to a crisp by the demands of things like being a mother, it goes off. And though I didn’t yell at my son, I showed him these out of control emotions and I’m not sure how I feel about that or how I should feel about that. Right now I feel pretty damn guilty. I feel like maybe he will lose confidence in me as a mom. I feel that my partner has also lost confidence in me. This is one of my biggest fears, people not trusting my capability.

Many would take a look at my background and offerings and say “yes this is a spiritual person”. I mean I practice yoga and chant and shit. I even say that I am an advocate for spiritual empowerment. Shouldn’t I then be held to a different standard? But what is it to be spiritual? And if we are spiritual are we allowed to lose our shit?

No. Everything and Anything. Yes.

To me spirituality is one aspect of health in the larger scope of health. And honestly not just to me. In my public health studies, we often discussed mental and spiritual health as part of the big picture of health. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” There is a difference between mental and spiritual health of course, but it isn't included in their main definition. It is further discussed by the WHO Health Assembly and agreed that “ The spiritual dimension plays a great role in motivating people’s achievement in all aspects of life.”

So I would argue that ALL of us have a spiritual aspect of health to nurture. I am not proud of losing my shit, but all humans lose their shit and all humans are spiritual. Being spiritual is not a right that only certain people have attained. It’s just a realm of our being. There are systems of spirituality I have learned and I teach, but they are only systems. They break. We break. Breaking is necessary. Why? I mean we always hear that don’t we? Breaking is part of life. It just is. To be more clear, breaking reminds us of our humanity...especially those of us soaring high with lofty spiritual goals. Breaking reminds us of our roots, our dirty, stinky selves. Breaking causes us to remember what it is like on earth. Breaking teaches us compassion if we let it. Breaking causes us to say “me too” when someone expresses their shame.  Breaking is our root. Spirit is our crown. To muddy our crown with our humanity is truly beautiful as it is ugly.

As I worry about how I, a spiritual teacher (shudder am I really?) a yogini, a positive, attached parenting vegan could lose my shit, I let myself feel my humanity. I feel fully my guilt and my shame and do not avoid and numb out..though it is tempting. I broadcast it here so that you may feel that it’s ok to feel your humanity. Maybe you more readily flow between the mud and the heavens. Teach those around you, people like me who are so damn hard on ourselves. I plan on examining further why I lost my shit. I mean that is spiritual work to me, examination, but for now I feel the sickening feeling and disappointment in myself. I am sitting with the ick.

 

Sitting with the Ick: Shadow Work in 5 Ways

The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
— Carl Jung

Shadow work is a heroic way to approach personal and spiritual development. I say this because it’s not easy. It’s actually one the hardest things you could ever do...face your shadow. Shadow work thought to be a complicated topic, but it doesn't have to be. The shadow is parts of ourselves that we deny or repress that end up sneaking around affecting our lives. It can be detrimental. When we deny ourselves of the truth, we aren’t living as full of a life as we could be living. So this is why we face it, to gain more control and freedom. I’m all about freedom and by facing and sitting with the ick we can gain freedom to be who we truly desire to be.

Ick: A feeling of yuck usually present when the shadow is present. Hard to describe, but often manifest itself in physical symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, and guilt.

A lot of us are mistaken into thinking spirituality is all about love and light. We associate self-love, self-care with this love and light. We are confused in thinking that light is not about darkness too. The moon casts a shadow. The moon enlightens as it reveals our shadow. We are our ick. Facing it, sitting in it, feeling it it shines light on our free selves. This work is an act of love to ourselves and to those around us.

It’s like finding out you talk in your sleep or snore. It’s like recording yourself voice or video and seeing yourself as a stranger. It’s revealing you to you. Revealing our shadow is exciting, humiliating, and enlightening. And it’s not all unpleasant stuff we hide either. We hide good and brilliant things for fear.

Here’s an example...

One of main shadows (I plan to write more about this) is this desire to please all and to be understood. I mean we all want to be understood, but I put that above my own desires. I have had some BIG ideas that I have watered down because I haven’t seen them actualized before. I have sabotaged them unknowingly. I have even collaborated with others and put art under a group name instead of my own to hide. I hid behind community to fail safely. I didn’t know I was doing this. And I stand here on my own, under my own name running this business. I realize how I had to work through this. I still love collaborating and community. I sincerely love working with others, but my shadow side, my fear, twisted it. You may find while working with your shadow that it is ever so subtle, slightly twisted from the truth, slightly less than authentic. That’s not good enough for me anymore. I don’t think it is for you either so let’s do some work.

I do shadow work in three main ways.

Embody.
Do practices to purposefully bring things up, to get my head out of the way. You will see more ways to do this below.

Notice.
I have become aware of how certain situations affect my body and mental state. I am always learning more about myself by simply noticing.

Process.
I am pretty good at this one since I can be over analytical, but once you embody, notice and realize things what then? You process through things. You don’t have to fix yourself or anything like that, it’s just naming the feelings and triggers.

Here are 5 ways to do shadow work. These are just a starting place.

  1. Track your triggers. Now you don’t have to actually write these down, but notice feelings in your body consciously even for a day. Track feelings in your body when you talk to certain people, when you go certain places. This is a meditation you can truly do all day. Notice how you embody your day. I am tracking my mood along with what I eat and drink this month because I’ve been slipping in this area of care for myself. Mindfulness incorporated throughout your day will reveal a lot. Do this with curiosity and not judgement. Just see. Just feel.
     
  2. Journal. This may be a good way for you to write about your triggers throughout the day. I have a practice of writing 5 minutes (sometimes more) every day. Sometimes I don’t feel like it which I find interesting. Then I realize those are the days I’m avoiding feelings and it's even more important that I write. At first your journal may be boring and full of things you don’t think matter, but they do. The more you journal, the deeper you go. I would suggest having a journal ready for any of these other exercises to PROCESS what comes up.
     
  3. Embody it. Have you ever been on a run or done yoga and something rises up inside of you? Did you think about something you haven’t thought about in years? Noting these feelings can be a powerful way to work. Something about movement moves energy around for us to do healing internally as we heal externally. You can do this by dancing, doing yoga, running, anything. I did 40 days where all I did for spiritual practice was dance for 5 minutes a day. I cannot tell you enough what I got out of that in 5 minutes or less a day. I plan on teaching what I call transformative yoga when I begin teaching one on one and group yoga classes. Sign up if you are in Kanas City to find out when my classes will be available. I also include yoga in every tarot subscription I send monthly.
     
  4. Tarot. You know I am way into tarot. I am into it for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that is helps me access parts of myself where our thinking brain doesn’t get in the way. On a psychological level tarot can access things hidden in our subconscious. I cannot explain why exactly but tarot digs things up. Get a deck and play with it and get a core reading from me. We pull at least two or three cards about the shadow self. This is why I warn that it isn’t for the faint of heart. You must be very brave to want to know this about yourself. Knowing you though, you are very brave and you would settle for nothing less than the truth.
     
  5. Ritual Bath I used to hate baths. They seemed like a waste of time (obvious shadow at play there). Also have you heard people say that a bath is like sitting in your own filth? Well I guess it kind of is and that’s what shadow work is. Sitting in your own filth. I started doing baths with purpose and call them ritual baths, but they are only as special as you make them. I go into a bath I put great care into setting up. I set it up almost like an altar in my very simple bathroom. Crystals, stones, incense, essential oils, teas...all of it nurturing. Then I sit in silence and just feel. I used to not be a crier at all, but when I let myself feel it comes out. Crying is incredibly cleansing and healing. You could totally do this sitting on a meditation pillow zenned out of course, but I find the bath helps me stay in silence much longer. I find it takes a bit of time for the ick to rise up and present itself so laying in a bath for 30 minutes is easier on your body than sitting.

    I did a little walk through of how you could do shadow work in the tub while doing a good breathing practice paired with it:

10 Ways to Become Spiritually Empowered

Hacking your spirituality is one of the most bad ass punk things you can do. Spirituality does not look a certain way. It also does not inherently mean putting crystals in your bra and chanting, though I am a big fan of chanting and boob awareness. Spiritual empowerment also does not exclude religion. This point may seem obvious but how many times have you heard “I’m spiritual, not religious” . On the other side of it religion is not inherently spiritual. Lots of people have religion and no real spiritual awareness.

So what do I mean by spiritual empowerment? It’s a desire to be conscious of what is going on inside of you. It matters not what you call that inside...soul, spirit, divine badass ass or your actualized self. Above all it’s your inner truth. It’s what drives your decisions, your desires. It’s that thing that tells you yes or no on something or someone. It’s listening to your gut, your intuition. I doubt many would argue that this is important to them. It’s important work this self work thing.

 So here we go….how can we get there?

 The following are tools but any tool we  use should empower us. It should remind you of your own power and the amazement of the world around us. Spiritual Empowerment should not be dependent on anyone or any ritual. These things should never be something you check off your list. The practice should work for you. It’s an awareness of what lights you up and what doesn’t and knowing that this can change. When we empower ourselves, we empower each other.

  1. Find some SOLITUDE  in your life...like yeah even away from your phone. I actually need solitude every single day. You don’t have to do anything special, just be by yourself. There is this thing called an artist date that Julia Cameron talks about in the Artist’s Way .  You schedule time once a week to do anything you want, usually to ignite creativity. It is something I would love to incorporate in my life more for sure.

  2. MEDITATE. Meditation  is not just sitting crossed legged. It can be walking or even taking a bath. One thing I find to be a common thread in most meditation is focusing on your breath and not much else. I post 5 minute or less meditations pretty regularly if you need some help here!

  3.  Spend time with others, practice CONNECTEDNESS by talking about awkward things. Exploring with others can be challenging and fun. Talk to others to remind you that you are not alone. I actually am not going to say that this should be in real life versus the internet. The internet is amazing for support. I would argue has saved lives by creating safe spaces for people who don't have them.  Yet, I will say there is something about looking in someone’s eyes that is magical.
     
  4.  MOVEMENT practice such as yoga, qoya, or running are a great way to get out of that head. I don’t know where my mind would be without doing some movement everyday. My favorites are yoga (of course) and walking. I used to be a pretty intense exerciser but I have found that these are best for my mind and body. Once in awhile, if I am exceptionally hyper you may see me running with a dog and a baby around my hood or doing burpees and kettlebells. Even this kind of movement can be meditative if done with that intent.
     
  5.  Journaling, WRITING morning pages, and automatic writing can be a powerful practices. I have found that things come out on paper that I had no idea were in my head and heart. We hold onto so much throughout the day and not just anxieties, but amazing ideas, solutions.
     
  6.  It’s no secret that I believe TAROT and oracle cards are a powerful tool to help you increase your intuition. I do not think you even need to believe in magic per say to use them. They can reflect what is inside of you and get to something beyond words. I don’t know how it works, but it does. I would say 95% of people I have worked with have never used tarot or oracle cards. Yet, each of them would tell you they have gotten a lot out of it.  Plus there are some fun and beautiful decks out there to enjoy.
     
  7.  Sometimes, my thoughts are loud so instead of meditating in a quiet way, I learned CHANT or sing instead. Now I do both or either depending on the day.  My voice is not great, but in two minutes I get pretty clear in the head. The anxiety is not so strong and my inner voice is more clear. If you don’t know any chants and want to try one, chant OM. It may feel weird at first but something about it is magic.
     
  8.  Get reiki or other HEALING from a professional. This is another thing that I have no idea how it works. I got attuned in Reiki I and my mind still can’t comprehend how it works. During my experience things happened that I cannot explain. I also understood interconnectedness through my experience. Regardless, reiki, massage or other bodywork can at the very least force us to relax and be still. The can allow us to quiet our mind and find clarity.
     
  9.  EXPERIENCE new things, take risks, learn from others. Go to what interests you, even if you don’t understand why. When you are drawn to things, this is your inner voice talking to you. You may just have fun doing whatever you are drawn to or it may completely change your path.
     
  10.  Become a WITCH.  By that I mean create your own path. By witch I do not mean wiccan or any other path. I mean a person who identifies as responsible for their own healing. It’s the ultimate spiritual hack. Identifying this way isn’t for everyone, but hacking spirituality sure can be. After all we are talking about spiritual empowerment here.

So again don’t think you have to do everything or anything on this list to achieve spiritual empowerment. I mean that would be ironic right?