I wasn’t sure if I’d every get to the place of being truly, truly grateful for my Achilles tendon injury. I had found appreciation in it- last year I wrote about how it taught me joy in slowing down and being grateful for what I could do. Yet I was only part way there. I wasn’t even close to how I feel now. I still had more pain to go through. Another summer of hobbling around in the mountains, more PT exercises and therapies like shockwave and PRP (both painful). On top of that, there was more heartbreak, more shadow work, and more emotional work that I had to experience.
In hindsight, cursed and blessed hindsight, all the pain was really one and the same, pointing toward what needed healing.
Now, I’d probably be a little silly to say it is all in hindsight. Even so, I’d be blind not to say that there is a breaking free.
When I decided to move into a yurt for six months, I mostly knew what I was doing. I wanted to heal, to repair the frayed ends of my nerves, the breaks in my heart, and the cracks in my soul. I just didn’t know to what degree, or even to what degree was possible.
What I realize now is that in the past two and a half months, I’ve essentially put myself in a self-growth and spiritual masterclass.
Upon rising, I’ve consistently done a Gabriel Bernstein meditation or exercises. Five mornings a week, I’ve been on my bike trainer listening to a new podcast, including Rich Roll, The School of Greatness (Lewis Howe), On Purpose (Jay Shetty), Deja Blu, Highest Self (Sahara Rose), Impact the World (Lee Harris), Pretty Intense (Danica Patrick), and Almost 30 (Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik) and so many more. Then, maybe I’ll listen to another podcast while doing my foam rolling and mobility or strength work. I’ve spent more time reading and less time watching Netflix. I’ve practiced, and sometimes simply attempted, to shut my phone off to journal, channel my guides and higher self, and practice meditation.
I have a deeper connection with my unlimited being (or, spiritual self), than I ever would have had I not had the injury. I think my ego’s reigns would still be strong, judging my worth by comparison, be it race times or how far I could push my body in what it could do.
Unconsciously, I was tired of the fight to prove my worth and control the narrative. My body told me that long before my conscious mind would. The body will always tell you what your unconscious mind believes.
Of course, I know I’m not fully “there” yet, but I’m learning, and beginning to embody, unconditional self love and true joy.
I’m grateful that the healing journey has been slow too. If it wasn’t, I never would have reached out to a wonderful Reiki therapist who is now on my “healing team.” I’m also starting with a new psychotherapist who met everything on my checklist: EMDR, somatic awareness, and spiritual coaching. I also know I don’t see all of the interplays yet, but am excited to see how the journey unfolds.
I do know that I will, at times, fall out of gratitude, for, if anything, forgetting seems to be a large part of the human experience.
Yet, I have this experience and this practice to come back to now. I have a gratitude and love that runs deeper than my fears.
One gift, or word, my older sister left our family with before she passed was the word “yay!”. I think she must have picked the word up from the minions in Despicable Me. I really don’t remember, but “yay!” and “awesome” became word that we associate with her.
While it’s not uncommon to hear any member of my family say “Yay!” and then see another family member smile, I only realized recently what an “awesome present” (all puns intended) my sister left us with.
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts that discuss things like quantum physics and vibrational frequencies, which a very teeny, tiny part of me has begun to understand on a logical level.
I’ve also begun, while alone in my yurt (+Pacer), seemingly out of nowhere and somewhat unconsciously, hearing myself yell “Yay!”. Pacer looks up from the couch and wags her nub, both of us realizing that at the same time that the sound came from me.
Yay! is an exciting, celebratory word. The exclamation point that comes after it is more of a given than a necessary component.
Yay! doesn’t just mean life is good, it means life is amazing, miraculous, and so much so that your inner being can’t help but shout “Yay!” It’s like the vibration, or the energy of the word is too big to contain inside of oneself and must instead be shouted.
As you read the word “yay!” over and over again in the blog post, can you feel the energy rising in your chest?
Why hold it in? Say it out loud with me. Yay!
How did that feel? How do you feel now compared to when you started reading this post?
Yay! is like sunshine in a word. It contains so much light that it can’t help but to burst forth, raising your vibration and that of everyone around you.
Even when not feeling great, try saying “yay”. When said without the exclamation, or in a monotone voice, it feels kind of silly to say. Which is still a lift in the right direction. And personally, while I’m not one to bypass uncomfortable emotions, a little silly on a dark day is still a much appreciated light. Whether a day is a bit gray or already sunny, I’ve now come to consciously start saying “Yay!” to raise my own vibration and let the Universe (Spirit/God/Mother Nature) know that I am grateful for what I’ve been given.
Have you ever seen this magnets that say “YAY! _______!” “YAY! MOUNTAINS!” “YAY! COFFEE!” “YAY! DOGS!” “YAY! CAMPING!” “YAY! LOVE!” “YAY! ADVENTURE!” “YAY! ADVENTURE!” “YAY! PIZZA!” “YAY! CUPCAKES!” “YAY! FRIDAY!” “YAY! PICKLES!” “YAY! FRIENDS!” There is pretty much a “YAY!” for everything, which is another way of saying that there is so much to celebrate and be grateful for.
This is your practice. Make saying “Yay!” a daily habit. Throughout the 16 or so hours that you are awake, say “Yay!” whenever you see or hear anything that makes you happy or thankful. “Yay! coffee!” “Yay! dog walks!” “Yay! lunch!” “Yay! friendly cashier!” “Yay! friend who called me!” “Yay! candles!” “Yay! books!” “Yay! going to be early!”
At the end of the day, just take note of how you felt. Then, if you want, do it again the next day. And then maybe again the next. Because life is way more miraculous that we’ve been trained to see. Yay!
[I always feel like I have to write a disclaimer when I write a post like this for fear that what I say will be misconstrued and called “toxic positivity”, even though the study of “positive psychology” itself is misconstrued. I am 100% for feeling all the feelings, because feeling them is the only way we allow uncomfortable emotions to pass, and the only way we can be guided to deeper truths. Maybe it’s because I’ve done the challenging work of going into my own darkness that I’ve gotten to this point, but I really, really care about feeling good and living a life that is directed towards joy. So yes, feel all the feelings, and then orient towards beauty, awe, and however you want to feel.]
I ran into the moonless night, not sure what I would find. Was I even searching? After all, I had no light, nothing, to show the way. What way?
Pulled forward only by something I could not describe. One blind step in front of the other, stumbling over rocks and roots. Falling. The dead leaves cushioning my hands.
It would have made sense to turn back, to the warmth of the fire. But in the pure black night, the way back had disappeared.
Then, in the stillness, in the silence of the dark, I heard a calling. So soft, I was temped to call it fiction. Yet fiction is not false. Indecipherable- was it coming from the sky? With my only choice to trust the yearning inside of me, I began to run again.
First hesitant, still falling- and then… Swiftly as a deer, the forest my home, I moved with primal, intuitive instinct.
I was running towards the light of the horizon, the pink and orange sky. My frozen breath, the only sign of my human body.
Until it wasn’t. Until I blended into the sunrise, leaving only footprints behind.
Without question, 2022 was a challenging year for me. While the events were not as harsh as in the year 2020 when I faced the physical death of my older sister, I faced my own spiritual death in 2022.
A great unshedding. Certain events led me to facing the pain inside of me, conversing with my own shadows, shadows that had protected me for so long…and letting them go. It was not an easy process, nor one that I would have necessarily chose at the onset. But I am grateful for it. It has already led to more love and joy in my life, or rather, an unveiling of what was already inside me. Of course, the journey is not over. I am still human after all. Yet I feel something shifting, slowly, and I am quite certain it is only because I had the courage to go into the darkness of my pain. Ironically, it is in the depths of darkness that one finds light.
This is a question many people have, but few have ever truly contemplated. We ask questions like, “If there was a God, how could He let children starve?” If we go any further than that, we usually end up at “There is no God” or “There is true evil (devil) in this world.” Neither of those answers do it for me. They’re just too incomplete, too reductionary. So I chose the path I lead my counseling clients on when they are feeling lost: go right into the darkness.
This essay is my attempt to explain darkness, from a human, spiritual, and mental health perspective and to answer the question “Is darkness real?”
My list on what darkness is or what could be ended up being a pretty long list. It included: evil, depression, night, shadow self, suppression of the light, death, rest, despair, fear, and shame. Some of the things on this list may read as inherently “bad”…but what about the night sky? What about rest? I quite enjoy my 8 plus hours of sleep each night, and anyone in Alaska will tell you that it’s hard to sleep without blackout shades. Then again, during winter, you’ll hear many Americans protest against the long, dark days, although I’ve learned to enjoy the extra time to move slowly and reflect. So if it wasn’t for our resistance to it, would the dark be negative at all?
As I was getting ready to write this essay, a friend replied to one of my social media posts on darkness. She asked me “Do you think the depression that comes with Winter is just something to sink into?” My reply, as usual, was nuanced. I replied “I would say it depends on how we want to define “depression”. Personally, I think surrendering to the “darkness” is simply part of winter/solstice. If I had to start definine things, I’d say depression is more going into the darkness and getting stuck there, rather than being able to go in and pass through.”
My counseling background tells me that depression is a few things. It’s the suppression of emotions, it’s the suppression of one’s true nature, and it’s the loss of hope. I think we could also call it the suppression of light. Like most therapists, I won’t say there are any negative emotions, just uncomfortable ones. However, many people do perceive emotions like sadness, fear, and anger as negative, and for various reasons (that’s an essay in itself), they don’t feel them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they go away. It means the emotions get stuck in their bodies and like clouds that continue to build up, they block out any light. In the darkness of that inner cave, it’s hard to find a way out without any help, or without hope, so people get stuck. Lost. Maybe this is what it means to be a lost soul. The true enemy is not the fact everything feels dark, it’s forgetting that there is a way out.
To break from theory for a moment, I’ll add my personal experience. When I experienced depression in my teens and twenties, depression was a mixture of numbness and intense self-loathing. Sadness was there too, but the tears also told me I “wasn’t okay”, that something must be wrong with me. Since then, I’ve had many therapy sessions and done a lot of inner work on my own that was all about going into the darkness, which was really just all my unfelt emotions and negative beliefs about myself built up. Feeling the “cloud of my emotions”, and really, experiencing the storm inside of me allowed the clouds space to move. This gave a chance for the sun to come out. Now, the emotions still come, but they pass through my body more easily.
Next, there’s the theory of the shadow self. If you are a visual person, you can literally think of your own shadow as the 3pm sun hits your body and creates a shadow of your body, like a stealth body guard. Our shadow parts are “the guardians” of the parts of us we reject and that lay outside of us, unaccepted and not to be seen, unintegrated into the whole of ourselves. Or maybe more accurately, shadow parts are the black cloaks that surround the vulnerable parts of us left deep, deep inside of us, almost forgotten…and God knows, we’ve tried to forget them. Shadow parts may also be considered our inner demons, the traumas we have not yet faced. If you’re from the midwest, your shadow part might be hiding the emotional part of you, since “being tough” and not showing emotions is considered a value in that part of the country. Or, if you identify as male, it may not have been okay to show your feminine side as a child. In fact, you probably heard it was bad or weird. So you rejected that part of you. To cover up that part of you, you may have even created an alter ego wrapped in toxic masculinity. The problem is, you’re not whole without the emotional, feminine part of you. Our job is to take our shadows, or rather, the parts that they are protecting, and reintegrate them back into our whole being.
Sometime during the writing of this, I went to see a Reiki therapist to help gain insight on why my Achilles tendon wasn’t healing. Among other insights, he shared with me the vision he had of me curled up in the fetal position. I told him “I know that vision.” In my darkest moments, or what I had then considered my “weak moments”, this is the position anyone would find me in. The image had come up many times in therapy, and I had touched on it doing inner child work, but there was always some resistance. The vision goes back to me as a young girl. Feeling alone, dejected, and unloved. My own darkness: the belief that I am not loved. Logically, I know that there are lots of people who love me. Emotionally, I’ve always felt separate. In one break up I found myself saying “Why don’t you love me?”. But it was never about the guy. It was my core wound. And all the shadows around that evolved to help protect me from feeling the pain of that wound. The only cure was to go in and do the intense, intimate work of learning how to love myself, to go back to my younger self and say “I love you. I will not abandon you.” It was and is some of the hardest work I have ever done and continue to do.
But what about evil?
I’ve always considered myself the type of person that feels the immense pain of the world. I resisted much of this sensitivity through my early 20s because accepting the cruelty was too much to bear. How could such evil exist? If there was a Higher Power, how could they let this happen? So I chose ignorance. I didn’t want to think about it…so I didn’t.
Now, I’m a devout vegan. The thought of an animal ever being hurt can bring me to tears instantaneously. In saying that, my goal isn’t to turn everyone reading this into a vegan (though admittedly, that would be lovely), but to simply help others be aware of when they choose to ignore evil in any area of their life, to ignore darkness. Additionally, I stay updated enough on the news to know what’s happening, so I can help or donate when I can afford to. Yet to go deeper into the wars, to women being executed for claiming their right to exist, to the children dying of starvation…well, I could easily get lost in the darkness all over again and simply go numb to the pain. There’s no sense in any of it…because a world not filled with love is nonsensical! Here, I’m not going to claim that I know with certainty the answer as to whether or not evil exists on its own (although I try), but I can theorize that in many spaces, evil exists where love is forgotten. I hand out no excuses, but I see many of the “evil” leaders of the world trapped in a dark space where love and hope has been so far pushed away that their memory has no recollection of it ever existing. I see them as children in the fetal position, in a cave of darkness surrounded by shadows, and wrapped in a heavy blanket of shame. The shame tells a lie: “I must not be lovable”. Because love is a foreign concept, power becomes the desired feeling and monsters help block the lonely child from the fear of being unlovable. With the inner demons too much to bear, they have created a demon out of themselves. If only they knew the truth: that they are love, not their shadows.
Suicide, on the other hand, happens when a person turns their inner demons on themself. They internalize the shame until it truly becomes too much to carry. Too much to live with. Instead of attacking others, they attack themselves in the most destructive way possible. It doesn’t seem like a choice, because all they can see is the shadows inside of themselves and the shadows have blocked out the light.
In both instances, the lie is that one is unlovable. That love is too far gone to ever get it back. If only they knew…
I guess that brings us back to the beginning.
Is darkness real?
Some would argue that if we created a room without windows, only darkness would exist. I would argue back that they blocked out the light.
What about the monsters under the bed? Would they still be there if we turned on the light?
What if we’re too scared to look?
A lot of great spiritual teachers say that fear is the opposite of love, which I believe is nearly the same thing as saying that darkness is the opposite of light.
If that is true, why would anyone ever be scared of love?
This is where I usually have to bring inner child work into therapy. When I work with adults, some of them are very set in the belief that they are not good enough, that they don’t matter, that they are undeserving of love. Then I ask the question…would they ever say any of those things to a child? Could a child ever not be good enough? Could a child ever deserve the bad things happening to them? “Hell no!”, they say. But what about their 7 year old self?
Without going too deep into attachment theory and developmental research, a child’s view is “selfish”, in that it’s hard to see outside of themselves for answers. If a parent hits a child, the only reason a child can come up with is that it’s because they are bad, not because the parent has issues. And so, this little, innocent child believes they are defective. Something must be wrong with them, because in a young child’s eye, their parents know everything and are the omnipresent being in their world. Truly, children depend on their parent’s for survival, so a child must learn to do whatever they can to survive, even if it means coming up with a facade, or the belief that they don’t matter. That’s the only way they can make sense of misattuned love. The only way we can make sense of darkness.
As adults, we forget about our own light, that the power is in us, not our parents and their demons, because we’ve created our own. We’ve spent our whole life living in the shadows and allowing fear to protect us from harm. It’s hard to see any other option. (Fear truly is responsible for our primal safety. For example, if a child can tell when a parent is upset, they probably know it’s a good day to stay in their room and “hide”. Remember, basic psychology tells us that fear is our bodies’ survival response, allowing us to fight, flee, or freeze when we need to.) The fact that we’re actually free beings, that love is our core, and we’re capable of truly amazing things…well that sounds crazy.
And I, as a mental health therapist, say “then we all must become crazy.” Or maybe we’re already crazy for living in a lie for so long.
Yes, it does suck to know that we’ve all been living in one big lie our whole lives (and many will choose to reject this simply because the “truth is too much to bear”, that they didn’t have to live in so much pain for 10 ,20, 50 years…), but the sooner we accept it, the sooner we can move to toward something better.
With that, my answer.
No, I don’t believe darkness is real. It exists, yes, but only because we’ve made it up. It’s been created from our own internalized darkness, not that different from how we’ve created skyscrapers that block out magnificent views and create large shadows in the afternoon sun. Darkness is simply fear and negative, false beliefs about ourselves that, and when given the power, can lead to truly evil acts.
Even as I type my answer, my shadow, my inner critic, wants to come in and say “Who do you think you are to say you have the answer to such a big question? You, Ray, are full of it.” However, after having gone through my own darkness, another thought, a ray of hope, comes in to say “But what if it is, darkness, really all just a myth? What if you’re right? What if there is something better?”
Being my own devil’s advocate, I ask myself the next logical question: Why does darkness exist? What is its purpose?
I’ve already explained, in part, how I think darkness arises around the absence of love, or rather, the belief we are unlovable. Yet, if you believe in a Higher Power,, couldn’t that Higher Power just wipe that thought out and send us a big sticky note that reads “YOU ARE LOVED UNCONDITIONALLY”?
As someone who loves discussing purpose and meaning, all I can do here is draw on the wisdom of the existential authors that have come before me. We must each make our own meaning of the darkness.
Is it to grow? Is it because that in suffering, we find joy? Is it our challenge to return to love, and therefore deepen our understanding of it?
The answer may be individual or it may be universal. I’m not entirely sure. What really matters is that we each have an answer for ourselves, for the meaning presides over our evolution.
Which leads us to…death.
Here, I turn to the sky.
Every day, the sun sets, and night takes over. The next day, the sun rises. A new day is born.
My main personal experience with death was witnessing my older sister’s slow transition to death in her cancer-ridden body. I still consider it a blessing that she was able to make that transition at home, surrounded by her family. To me, it was the hardest, most sacred, most love-filled moment I have ever been present to. Even at her funeral, amidst tears and mascara stains, there was so much love surrounding me and my family. Today, while I do feel my sister’s presence when I’m experiencing hardship, I feel her the most when I’m in a state of bliss. When I’m in the mountains on a bluebird day with my dog by my side. During those times, I don’t need to call on her for support, she is just there.
My research, both in reading and in viewing others, as well as personal experience, also tells me that we all experience several deaths within ourselves during this lifetime. In fact, biology tells us that we literally have a new physical body every 7 years. Then, there are our own internal transitions, leaving old versions of ourselves behind and becoming someone new. Various cultural traditions have honored these changes throughout history. Poetically phrased, this is the “phoenix process” of death and rebirth within our individual human experience. Until our ultimate physical death. Then, does everything go dark?
I don’t have a therapeutic or scientific way to answer this question. Yes, the physical body most certainly dies. From there, my current perspective is that life, in all its intricacies, is just too miraculous to be limited by this physical realm. My older sister tells me there is more, and so does my inner knowing. That answer is satisfactory enough for me.
The final question: If darkness, a human creation, is present inside of ourselves and in the world, how do we overcome it?
Ignoring the darkness can’t be the answer, as it just creates more shadows. What about fighting it? If we fight anything, shouldn’t it be darkness?
Yet, fighting in itself is a dark act that creates more polarization and more darkness that can only block out the light, although it can never kill it. The energy of war can never heal.
I’m tempted to use the word “surrender”, but that word, even if I define it as “stepping into the flow of Life”, will most likely be misunderstood. Instead, I will choose to offer this word, “befriend”. Maybe a seemingly odd choice still, but remember, fear is a protection mechanism. The shadows created by fear are attempts to keep us safe from feeling the pain of core wounds, with the ultimate core wound being the false belief that we are unlovable. Personally, I can look at my own darkness and thank it for protecting me as a child and as an adult, thank it for showing me what needed healing. Of course, looking at and befriending darkness on a worldy scale is a much bigger challenge. Here, I’ll simply say that what we’ve been doing obviously hasn’t been working, and we will only find creative solutions when we release our own internal fears. So the simple answer, almost too simple to be believed, is that the more we heal our individual selves, the more we heal the collective.
And that is the final piece to this essay. The darkness of separation. Another lie we’ve believed. Why loneliness is a known factor of early mortality. You and I, or “thou”, to draw on the work of Martin Buber, may not be the same, but we are connected. We are one part of the Whole.
If darkness was created out of lies we’ve believed, it’s truth that can bring us to the light.
So far in my research, or “Googling”, I have not found evidence to support the theory that “dog” is intentionally “god” spelled backwards.
But I don’t need the evidence. Whether or not it’s intentional, I already know the truth. Without question, dogs are simply extensions of God, which I’ll simply define here has pure, positive energy. Love and joy.
The more I listen to spiritual teachers, the more I’m convinced that all humans, or spiritual beings in human bodies, are meant to live in a state of joy.
With that, my job as a light worker, or therapist, is to help people move through their darkness and trauma to return to the light, a state of joy. Yet as someone who’s always been highly attuned to the darkness and light in the world, it still takes a lot of work (though less so than in the past). Hence, my gift from the Universe, or God…Pacer. My reminder, or angelic messenger, to return to love. A reminder that joy and peace are our natural states.
*I have to add… because one of my best friends is a cat lover. I think this post can extend to all animals.
*I truly contemplated entitling this blog “Manifesting for Muggles”, but I know not everyone shares the affinity for Harry Potter culture that I do. Also, what I really mean is “physically mortal”, as in, our bodies die, but our spirit continues on.
Is manifesting magic?
No…and Yes! (In my head, this is said in my best Buddy the Elf voice.).
Manifesting is a word that comes with a lot of different interpretations and connotations. Some people think the idea of manifesting is ridiculous, and others practice manifesting daily, with mixed results.
I’m here to provide clarity and some middle ground by sharing a little bit of my own journey with manifesting. If you’re a doubter, stay with me.
I’m not sure how old I was the first time I heard of manifesting. Maybe it was in one of Gabrielle Bernstein’s first books, maybe it was before that. But it certainly wasn’t the word I was using in my early 20s, when first started manifesting. Honestly, I didn’t even know I was doing it. I just knew what I wanted and I, with my Midwestern grit, was sure as hell going to figure how to get it. Only, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.
For example, after I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to take a trip to Africa and spend some time volunteering. I just had no idea how to do that. No one in my family had ever done anything like it. I had only been to one other country…Canada. I’m also from a middle-middle class family from Ohio and I certainly didn’t have the extra cash oozing out of my bank account. So I just started researching.
I was also signed up to run Burning River 100 that year, which was then the USATF 100 mile Championship and I was fortunate enough that summer to have the time train for the race. I managed to get second place to the legendary Connie Gardner, which I think earned me $500, the amount I needed to make the down payment to Cross Cultural Solutions, the organization I chose to volunteer with. During that time, I also was accepted to be a “loaned executive” for the United Way of Greater Cleveland. As the name suggest, usually this position is loaned out from other companies, but I was one of the rare solo hires. The job ended in mid-December as the big fundraising campaign ended right before Christmas. At one of the company holiday parties, I won one of the raffles… usually I’m the person lucky enough to win a dollar on a lottery ticket. This time, I won enough to help make another needed payment for the trip. The job ended at a perfect time too…I spent Christmas with my family, then took off in January to spend a month in Tanzania, Africa.
The next few years was a series of small manifestations, but there’s a few key take-aways here. I gave away my “business” cloths…the pencil skirt and pant suit. I didn’t want a job where I’d have to dress up. I landed my then “dream job” at Girls on the Run of Northeast Ohio. It didn’t pay much, but I loved the organization and the women I worked with. Not long after, my then boyfriend got a job at the University of Colorado in Boulder, right where my sister lived. I stayed a little longer in Ohio because I wanted to work another season with GOTR, but before I knew it, I was close to my sister and in the land of adventure. Oh…and I almost forgot to mention. At GOTR, I met a volunteer who had lived in Colorado previously and had backpacked the Colorado Trail (CT) with her dog. I had been on the CT before when visiting my sister and had a moment of “falling in love” with the scenery. Of course, this all led me to backpacking the Colorado Trail with my dog the very summer I moved out to Colorado (again, after never having backpacked before!).
I then made grad school happen, I got a wonderful internship in the mountains and found rare, affordable housing with wonderful landlords, and I opened my private practice, Wanderlust Counseling. Eventually, my heart started telling me it was time to move again. Actually, it had been giving me the nudge for awhile. After my sister and her partner moved and I found myself spending a silly amount of gas money to drive to further west to play in the mountains with my pup, the calling got louder (and yet still subtle….if you’re not use to listening to your intuition, it’s easy to ignore it).
On August 13th, 2022, just after many miles spent climbing Mt. Harvard and playing on the Colorado Trail in the Sawatch mountains, my twin’s sisters “home” mountains, I wrote in my journal “Universe/Amanda*- we want to find a place near here-close to trails, perfect for Pacer.” This accompanied a prayer I often said in my head “A van or something better.”
*Amanda is my older sister who transitioned in 2020. I know she always has my back and enjoys it when me and my other sister are together…because when I’m paying attention, I can feel it.
Less than 2 months later, my dog and I were moving into a Yurt, 20 minutes away from my sister, at the edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I honestly could not have come up with that idea in my head. It’s perfect. While I give some credit to the Facebook-verse (I had shared a post that I was casually looking for a place on a rentals page, a page that isn’t exactly and uplifting place to find housing), I tell people “I honestly think I manifested it” when they ask me how I found the Yurt.
*There are several reasons why a van would not have been a good option for me right now.
As you can see, or rather, read, my manifesting journey has been both simple and spectacular. Which is really the life I want to lead. Simple in not wanting a lot of stuff but spectacular in outdoor adventures, often in my backyard.
Personally, I can’t wait to do Gabrielle Bernstein’s 2023 Manifesting Challenge, and I listen to Abraham Hicks (the channeled beings or consciousness, that is translated through Esther Hicks) most mornings of the week. That practice has been going on for a few months now, and sometimes I still get tripped up and my Midwestern critic voice comes in that says its all nonsense. I get the raising my vibration piece…but then do I really want it? Do I not actually want it? Am I blocking what I’m trying to manifest? Wait, is that my vibration lowering? But I’m trying to raise it, I swear!
Then I judge myself for all that questioning, which is most definitely a block. Sigh.
In short, I’d say the simple key is returning back to your vibration, or stepping into how you want to feel. Which is really, really simple when you break it down with the steps I’m going to give you.
My 4-Step Guide to Manifesting
1. Know your core values.
I like to either think of core values as roots of a tree that ground us so we can grow higher, or like points on a compass, which I’ll use here. When you know your core values, you have a clear direction of where you want to go in life. You may not know exactly what that life looks like, but you probably know the feelings you want to have by following those values. For example, my top for values (in no specific order) are growth, adventure, family/friends, and kindness. Encompassed in all of that is what I feel like my purpose is: to be a light in the dark. If I follow my values, that leads me to a life of love, peace, freedom, and wisdom. Damn, that feels good.
(I’m a mental health therapist, running coach, and aspiring writer that lives in the middle of the mountains with my dog, although not too far away from my sister and her partner/my “brother”…see how my values all play out?)
2. Take a step onto the path.
Let your intention be known to the Universe. Say a prayer. Write it down. Initiate the spark. Clear your path. I don’t know if this step is necessary for a practiced manifestor, but for me this tiny step towards my dreams always seems to put things into action. I do a little research, I write a Facebook post, tell people about what I’m doing and want to do, etc. Usually, my values have already helped me to align and make it easy to take this first step (and laziness is not a value of mine anyway).
*I have not yet overcome my natural worrying tendency. This step, worrying, is definitely not necessary. For example, when I was looking for a place when I first moved to the mountains for the internship, I worried for months. And then, at the last minute, the perfect place came my way. It had nothing to do with my worrying efforts. An acquaintance, now friend, who is also a running coach happened to live next to people with an empty basement apartment.
3. Practice Gratitude.
Whether I have what I want yet or not, I can always practice gratitude. If I’m wanting a companion, I can be grateful of the quiet loveliness of the current moment snuggled up next to my dog. If I’m wanting to write and sell a book, I can be grateful for the time I have to write creatively, an activity I enjoy regardless if I get paid or not. If I’m wanting my body to heal after an injury, I can be grateful for what I can still do and for all the adventures I’ve already had.
See what happens. Be curious. Flow, don’t force. Yes, keep moving toward your dream, but you should always enjoy the process. You might get exactly what you wanted, something a little different, or not get it all. Because it might be something you just couldn’t have imagined. Regardless, you’re feeling good. You’re aligned with your values and are grateful for what you have. Life is already good. Manifesting just enhances it. And the more you align with your true self and your purpose, the more you open yourself up to receiving.
This is a topic I’ve wanting been wanting to discuss and bring more into my counseling practice for awhile now.
And so, it begins.
Truly, I believe Inner Work is one of the highest forms of spirituality, but for the sake of explanation, I’ll separate the two in the following paragraphs.
Spirituality is hard to define, because unlike religion, it’s really up to the individual to define it. In broad terms, spirituality is the belief of something greater than oneself, such at the Divine, or the deep connection shared between all living thing. It’s the Sun and the Moon, the Earth and the Sky, it’s Me and You (or, as Marin Buber would say, the relationship of “I and Thou”).
Mental health refers to your the well-being of your mind and includes psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It considers where you are on the spectrum of despair and joy and how well you’re managing daily life (I wanted to say “human existence”, but that already connects us right back to the spiritual.)
In past years, we’ve seen a lot of spiritual teachers speak simply of being happy, connecting to the Divine, and raising our vibrations. They talk about eliminating negative thoughts and switching right to positive affirmations.
Then, we have the mental health therapists, talking about the reality of depression and other mental illnesses, cognitions, being with uncomfortable emotions, and “feeling your feelings”*.
(Actually, I wish more therapist practiced “feeling-based” therapies…too many still focus only on the mind, forgetting the mind and body are connected.)
Now these two seemingly opposing world’s are reuniting. Most spiritual teachers I follow now speak about trauma work, such as Gabrielle Bernstein in her recent book Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace. Then we have psychologists like Lisa Miller, PhD, researching and writing books like The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and the Quest for a Inspired Life.
I’ve had a lot of friends first on the spiritual path of meditation, Yoga, etc., and then have to back track to mental health. At Naropa University, where I went to grad school, we were taught early on in meditation class the term “spiritual bypassing”. In other words “lets just clear our mind and pretend emotions like sadness, anger, and fear don’t really matter”. That path can only last for so long, although it may be years, until a person eventually hits that “breaking” moment when their soul demands attention for the deep wounds to be healed. (With that, a few spiritual practices early on make for great coping and regulation skills during therapy.)
Now let’s circle back to the idea that Inner Work is one of the highest forms of spirituality.
If we think of Parts work (or IFS), we know that the more we work with our wounded and protector parts (ex: Inner Critic, Ego, Addict, etc) and reintegrate them into the whole, the closer we are to our Higher Self, or what Richard Schwarts simply calls the “Self.” This is the part of us most aligned with our true nature, and for those who practice spirituality-our god/universe/divine-center. Similarly, the more we work with uncomfortable emotions and allow them to be seen and felt, the easier they shift and transform, like clouds in the sky. Built up clouds and emotions lead to storms. Clouds and emotions that have room to move allow for more sun, spirit, and joy to come through.
In short, if I don’t fear not being enough, I have the freedom to just be the full expression of me.
This is why, as a mental health therapist, I still enjoy listening to Abraham Hicks, Wayne Dyer, and Louise Hay*. We do want to raise our vibrations and think better thoughts. I just want to “modernize” things a bit.
First, I think we need to switch from using the word “negative” to “uncomfortable” when speaking about our emotions. I do understand the term negative when it comes to energy, but it’s important that we don’t label any of our emotions as “bad”. All emotions are sources of information and deserve to be seen and felt. That is how we validate ourselves.
From there, we can make “feeling good” a two-step process, with the first part being feeling our uncomfortable emotions. At the beginning, this includes the deep Inner Work of working through trauma and inner child wounds. We have to dig in here so we can truly allow the light to shine in and heal us. Expect a lot of storms and a lot of rainbows. While uncomfortable emotions may never go away, they do start to move through a lot faster once we’ve worked through the deep stuff and have had practice feeling our emotions.
This is also where happiness is a choice…we have to choose to do the work.
In the second step, while their still is choice involved, choice to “choose the better thought”, and to choose your actions on the path towards a meaningful and joyful life, I believe its more about simply allowing. Again, when we let go of the darkness, when we heal our pasts and learn how to move through emotions, the sun naturally wants to shine. Really, its about stepping into your Light.
To summarize, I would say that the mental health/spiritual journey is really the brave journey of going through the darkness, the darkness of our minds, so we have the freedom to be the highest versions of ourselves.
*In The Power is Within You, Louise Hay writes about how, after her cancer diagnosis, she had to go back and feel her resentment and deal with past trauma.