Spiritual Practices: When To Let Them Go

When what used to work doesn't anymore, including our spiritual practices, it's an invitation to expand to a new level of consciousness.
 
Looking back, I can see how many times I have been hard on myself when a practice stopped working. It has been patterns of not trusting, of wanting to control, of holding on tight to the way things are, and of forgetting my essential nature as the sacred and creative emergent source.
 
It took me time, after my car accident in 2001, to understand the intelligence in it happening. I was injured physically, but it also shook me emotionally. I found myself dependent on others and needing to accept their help. My understanding of love at the time was transactional. In my mind, love always came with conditions. So if I asked for help, I'd expose my vulnerability and open myself up for a dynamic I didn't want to engage in. I was afraid that my inability to navigate it would lead to me losing my freedom in some way. And if I accepted help, I'd owe the other person, bound by an unspoken contract between us. I wasn't used to truly letting people in.
 
Receiving so much help and kindness was overwhelming. I had managed my world by being the strong one, the resourceful one, the one no one had to worry about. That was my identity. And there I was, needing people to bathe me, to wash my hair, to comfort me when it was time to ween from the morphine, to make food for me. But as the weeks went by, I softened to the love around me. Friends and family truly wanted to help and I felt myself exhale more, surrender more, and I realized that if I wanted to have love like the one Paul had shown me the summer before, I would need to bring my walls down, let people in, and feel the intense unease inside that crept up when I was emotionally vulnerable. The universe was giving me a second chance to say yes to this new, softer and more expansive way of being loved. And with this gift, my sense of self evolved.
 
Five years later, I am at a crossroad again. For the past 2 years, I am in chronic pain. I am a mother, married to Paul, completing my Ph.D., and I can't see the "why" I hurt so much and the "how" to heal from it. I feel trapped inside my body, I am angry at it, and I am disappointed that after all the work I have done on myself I can't figure this out. It wasn't until the Women In Leadership workshop (which I describe in my book) that I understood that accepting love from others was one thing, but feeling it coming from within for my own being was a whole other level of love. Through deep breathing, bold love from the facilitator, and a willingness to trust my body and surrender to the intense emotional baggage it carries I healed my pain. I understood I had mother/Mother issues, and until I could let the Mother love in fully, there would always be a feeling of not being enough in the eyes of my mother, others, and myself. Again, my identity morphed and expanded, this time to include more than my connection to others, the one I had with myself.
 
I was convinced there was nothing I couldn't get through with my new awareness. Conscious breathing, attention on the impulse inside my body, and a touch of sacred coming from shamanic practices would bring me to the level of freedom, awareness, and spiritual self-reliance I was now craving. I embarked on a spiritual journey that brought me a new powerful and freeing perspective on life. The tools I acquired would serve me for the rest of my life.
 
In 2010 I was introduced to a version of transcendental meditation called Primordial Sound, and I began practicing it daily. I was also introduced to many Vedic sutras, one of them who changed my life: Aham Brahmasmi- I Am The Universe. When I repeated this sutra, at the end of my meditation, I felt it moving through me so tangibly. I felt so completely free, opened, and boundless. I knew I only wanted to identify to this feeling, this expanded awareness. The context of this vibration brought me home to my emotional freedom. I was a professor at the time, beginning to feel the weight of the academic context, and my body was telling me it was too restrictive. I was often sick, had low energy, less and less motivation to do what needed to be done. But I pushed through because I believed that with my new spiritual practice, I could do anything. I truly felt that the practice could take me above and beyond all and any issues. But after a couple of years, the pressure in my body got worse, and I couldn't continue forward on this path I had chosen.
 
I reached out to a beautiful teacher-friend of mine, asked for help, and began an 8-week course on non-duality he was leading. My mind was soaking it all up. I loved the expansive container of this lens. It felt like the next step for me. Toward the end of the program, we came to the part where we were invited to contemplate what we subconsciously identified with, and I struggled with the exercise. I asked for help. I told him, full of confidence, that I felt I was at a place in my life where I didn't identify with roles or personality traits anymore, so I didn't know how to do the exercise (right! lol). He looked at me with wise eyes, and with a kind smile asked me about my meditation practice, and I told him about the mantra and sutra. He asked me to close my eyes, breathe deeply, feel the sutra and go all the way to its edges. While I was feeling that wide-open space, he said: "No matter how expanded the perception is, it is still a perception, it is not "it". It is an identity, therefore restrictive, therefore not who you truly are. You are so much more than Aham Brahmasmi". With his last words, I felt myself lose all reference points. For a moment, I was floating in nothingness, with nowhere to land, nothing to hold on to. He was with me, and I trusted him, so I stayed with the experience until it settled and I opened eyes. I didn't know who I was anymore. I knew I wasn't anything I had known myself to be up until now. I began to understand that I was more of a creative and unfolding process than anything fix, impossible to pin down, to arrest, to identify, to limit. This felt a little scary but more exhilarating than anything I'd experienced before.
 
This new consciousness brought me to a place where I became highly aware that the only thing I truly knew was "I AM", and that what comes after will come and go. Discerning these words that followed "I AM", whether they be in my thoughts, my meditation, or said out loud, was essential to maintaining emotional freedom, flow, peace, and harmony within myself, as well as a deep connection to my divine creative source. I realized that my human intentions and expressions in this life couldn't stay stagnant and that my spiritual practices needed to remain fluid and adapt to where I was heading. I stopped being hard on myself when chaos ensued. I saw it as a prediction of change ahead, often bringing a new level of awareness.
 
Since then, I have had many shifts in my daily spiritual practice. I've come to understand that when I hold on to something that used to work, even if it was beneficial, meaningful and life-changing at some point in my life, it is important to revisit it, to soften my gaze, and adjust my perspective.
 
When our body breaks down from an illness, an injury, or a traumatic event that happens to a friend or a family member, and we find ourselves incapable of meditating, praying, doing yoga, connecting like we used to before, let's stop and reassess. What if instead of seeing it as a personal failure, we saw it as an invitation to expand to a new level of consciousness? What if letting go of the sacred practice is what is needed to allow a more expanded way to be with Source?
 
If you haven't read How To Know God by Deepak Chopra, I highly recommend it. It helps navigate your way through shifts in consciousness, recognizing where you find yourself and where you are going, so you can trust and surrender more easily.
 
Nothing happens by happenstance. So next time things fall apart, see if you can bring in a different lens. Perhaps even bring a little smile to your face, showing your gratitude for the opportunity to grow and deepen your spiritual experience on this earth. It's not always easy, but the expansion is well worth the ride.
In divine love, always,
Anne

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