Two laws constantly guiding me:
1.) We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control our thoughts about our circumstances.
2.) As above, so below. In other words, what I see in the external world is simply a macrocosm of what’s happening inside of me. And the reverse of that is also true– when I heal myself, I heal the world.
I’m finding this holiday season to be one of the best of my life. For the first time in decades, I’m welcoming all of it, procrastinating nothing, and connecting to my spirit more deeply than I perhaps ever have. I’m not wishing for things I can’t have, or focusing on what doesn’t feel so good– like increased tourist traffic in Santa Fe and long lines at the Post Office.
And through all of this, perhaps because of it, I can’t help but compare the blissful feelings I have this year compared to my circumstances last Christmas, which were profoundly different. Full and painful disclosure…last year at this time, I was in a depression so deep I could feel no joy at all. I had nearly died in August after a total abdominal hysterectomy went horribly wrong, and though I worked hard to bounce back from that physically, by around October my psyche completely tanked. I had so much physical and emotional trauma in my system, it was all I could do to get out of bed each morning, and some days I just didn’t.
I have the honor of being a transformational coach with a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology, and I work with a lot of people going through major life events of their own. Though I was going through so much last year, my busy client schedule wasn’t a burden for me. It was life-giving. My clients helped keep my head above water. I was able to take all of the tools I use in my work and immerse myself in them for my own life. Looking back and right into my present day, I’m so grateful for my clients who have the courage to express themselves honestly and authentically, who aren’t afraid to fall apart when they need to, who push themselves to think and believe differently in service to their own strength and well being, who make every effort to show up, fiercely and relentlessly honoring their own hearts and spirits.
Their courage was and is a current that I cannot help but be positively carried by.
Because that’s how human beings function. We are all one. And when one of us falls, there are countless others to help lift us, simply by doing their own work. None of my clients knew I was struggling last year. They didn’t need to. Their courage buoyed me.
It’s nothing short of magic.
In addition to the power of the “as above so below” rule, there was a very specific practice that helped pull me out of my dark night of the soul.
I committed to turning around my cognition.
We can’t control our circumstances but we can control our thoughts about those circumstances. With every painful thought I had, I stopped it and asked myself, “Is this thought leaving me in a better emotional, spiritual, or physical place than before I had the thought?” No stories. No bullshit. No excuses. No rationalizing. If the answer was no, I took a deep breath, and redirected my thinking. And let me tell you, it was hard. It took so much energy, I felt like I was bobbing in the middle of the ocean, trying to stop and turn around the Titanic with my bare hands, with no footing, while being tossed around in thirty foot hurricane waves. Some days I wanted to curl up into a ball and give up. But I didn’t. I kept going.
I read one little printed line at the time: “The person who never gives up, can’t be defeated.” And I clung to that. I kept redirecting my thoughts over and over, wearing down my default negativity bias, creating something new, a more empowering state of mind through my crushing sadness.
And then I took it a step further, to build momentum, because it’s easier for me to focus on somebody else than it is for me to focus on myself. I started to ask myself if every thought I was having about another person, if they could hear my thought, was likely to make them stronger, happier, more empowered? Would my thoughts help them feel more loved, more valuable? Were my thoughts productive? If the answer was no, I stopped those too and redirected them.
We are all connected. We’re all one. When I damage myself (with harmful thoughts), my external world is affected. When I damage another (with harmful thoughts), I damage myself. As above, so below.
For three months, from October to December, I battled every demon inside of me and persisted with this practice, remaining vigilant against my own thoughts, while continuing to redirect every harmful belief that rose up from the depths of my pain. It was never easy. It took guts, and discipline, and stamina, and some days the onslaught felt never ending.
But it did end.
I made it through.
And it was like some kind of New Year’s Eve miracle, because the Universe flipped a switch at exactly the stroke of Midnight, January 1st, 2018, releasing me. The pain, the darkness, just…gone. It felt like for the first time in my life I walked fully into myself, and my skin fit me perfectly. All the intense work I had done over the past decade to build the life my soul was crying out for fell together effortlessly.
I eventually stopped waiting for the pain to come back. I wondered that in the beginning. After having navigated such hell, I wondered if and when it would return, when it would attempt to paralyze me in its annihilating grip again, suspending me in an unrelenting Cruciatus Curse.
It never happened.
I will forever hold myself to the practice of “do no harm.” It’s about leaving myself and everyone I come in contact with stronger with every thought. I’m not perfect, because I’m a human being, and I have to catch myself when I’m stressed, or hungry, or tired, or whatever… That’s okay. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about making an attempt.
Intention is everything.
To everyone who struggled in 2018, who is struggling now, who is caught in a pain cycle that feels like it may never end…just keep going, keep shifting, keep finding tools– please try this one–and don’t give up. There is an end to our suffering, and the doorway is our own thought patterns. We can control very few things in life, but our thoughts (in the absence of severe pathology) are one of them.
Don’t tell me it’s hard. I know it’s hard.
But we’re built for this.