At some point in life, many of us wake up with this feeling of, “Is this it? Is this all there is to life? There’s got to be more here.” You feel unsettled. Maybe even depressed or desperate. You might feel an emptiness or an aching, a longing for something unfathomable, or for a life fulfilled. If you’ve ever felt this way, then you’re probably a seeker, searching for more profound answers and a deeper truth.
Are you a seeker? Most of us, even if we know we are seekers, don’t fully understand what the word “seeker” means. It’s a hard term to grasp, but if you feel a longing for something deeper, then you’re probably a seeker.
Where should we seek?
One thing many seekers have in common is this feeling of: “If only I could fix myself, I wouldn’t feel this bad, this empty.” And so we set out on a path of self-improvement. A worthy endeavor to be sure. These days, most of us in the Western world begin searching for the solutions to our mental and emotional discomfort in psychology and self-help books. And a lot can be found there, for sure.
Self-improvement isn’t where all the answers lie though, because in the end, the whole mess belongs to God. Whether we like it or not, the vast majority of the answers we’re seeking are found in spirituality. Spirituality is not to be confused with religion. So many have terrible experiences with religion.
“Religious” people can often be judgmental and righteous. For example, if someone is calling themselves a “Christian” and they enjoy condemning and judging others, we might make the mistake of thinking Jesus himself is that way, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Many religions are pretty intolerant, which can be a huge big turn-off to someone who is compassionate and loving and just trying to find some answers. This “religion confusion” hurts so many people’s relationships with God and ascended masters like Buddha and Jesus. We don’t need religion to be spiritual, and in fact religion is often a hindrance to having a close relationship to God and a rich spiritual life.
Using spirituality to “fix” ourselves
Let’s get back to this idea that many of us feel empty or like there’s something wrong with us. Most of us start out trying to “fix” ourselves with an effort to numb these feelings with external stimuli like internet, movies, TV, shopping, alcohol, food, or sex…which all work wonderfully for a time, until one day they stop working. Or they cause us more problems than good. Or we realize that we’re still left with bad feelings beneath the Band-Aid and these awful emotions like emptiness and despair keep leaking out when we least expect it. And then we’re left feeling cut adrift.
So how do we escape the discomfort of being human?
A wonderful—if not simplistic—tip is to surrender to God and say, “I know I have short-comings and I’m full of negative emotions, or empty feelings. I’m struggling to fix them. I can’t do it myself. I surrender.” It helps us to cut down on some of the struggle to rest in God’s peace and love.
But as humans, we are also wired to strive and grow and try to fix what’s broken within us. And so I will share with you what worked for me over the past year.
Last year around this time, I was deeply unhappy, constantly on the run from my negative emotions and problems. I kept trying to fix myself half-heartedly and for short periods of time, but I just couldn’t sustain any solutions long enough to make a real difference. I kept slipping back into old patterns of numbing behavior and I didn’t see a way out.
Last fall, I realized I’d been riding around on the self-improvement bus for my entire adult life, but the darn thing was driving in a circle. I could get my life to work and I’d hold myself together for stretches as long as a year at a time, but I always landed back at square one.
When I finally got fed up with backsliding and wanted to see a real change, I took a step back. I figured out the thoughts and the actions that were holding me back from my joy, the things that were destroying my peace and my happiness.
Then I made this list of Spiritual To Do’s. And then I asked God to bless this mess, and to help me make the changes required to pull me up and out of the slump I was in.
Without further ado, here are the 5 Spiritual To Do’s that blew the doors off for me this past year, and completely changed my life.
1. Let go and release.
The first step is to look at the people and mental and physical habits that are no longer serving you in your efforts towards living a happy, peaceful, and fulfilled life.
Many of us have people in our lives that criticize us, judge us, don’t approve of us, or who seem like they’re always trying to make us feel bad. But perhaps it’s not so simple to just “let go and release.” For whatever reason, we’re stuck with them: a relative or a coworker, for example. We might spar in our heads with these people, or rehash old arguments. You’ll never be “rid” of some people for good, but at least you can kick them out of your head in the meantime by refusing to think about them when you don’t have to.
In the past year, I released old unhealthy habits and attachments for good. I now process feelings and emotions rather than trying to escape via unhealthy habits. This was something I struggled with my whole life, but some small piece of me was clinging to the “safety” my habits provided, and so I kept reliving the struggle.
Once you fully acknowledge there is no safety—no true comfort—to be found in unhealthy habits or ways of numbing emotions via sex, food, drugs, TV, or texting, it’s easier to let go so you can form healthier habits.
2. Be vulnerable.
For some people, it can be quite difficult to express our needs to our loved ones. Why is this? We might worry about annoying them. Maybe we think their needs are more important than ours. And let’s not forget about worst case scenarios: what if we discover our needs are incompatible? It’s true: expressing our true needs can end a relationship.
People spend a lot of time and energy avoiding the “worst case scenario” of the end of a relationship, so they hobble themselves, limping along in a deadened relationship wherein they’re unable to express the truth of who they are and what they need. That’s miserable. In the long run, it’s a much better idea to express needs, even if it’s uncomfortable in the short-term, so you can live an authentic life, and a life of freedom.
Sometimes the relationship will work out, and sometimes it won’t. This fear of the pain of a relationship ending can keep us trapped in chronic unhappiness in the wrong relationship. When we get the courage to express ourselves, we might lose the relationship (or we might not), but either way, living authentically is an ingredient essential to happiness.
3. Honor myself.
A year ago, I didn’t have much self-respect, self-esteem, self-love or self-forgiveness. Part of it was that I was putting up with constant criticism from loved ones, and after years and years of this, it finally took its toll.
In absorbing the criticism instead of standing up for myself, I’d begun to believe it and I had lost all respect for myself. (Because I hadn’t practiced #2: Be vulnerable. I couldn’t express my needs, because being vulnerable to these people felt dangerous. Sometimes being vulnerable means saying, “I need you to stop criticizing me.”)
In order to turn my life around, I had to start honoring myself. I had to look at myself like an intrinsically valuable human being who has a lot to offer the world. But as long as I under-performed and hid from the world—because I feared more criticism if I fully expressed who I was—I was going to remain in a downward spiral of losing respect for myself.
I had to learn how to love myself—warts and all—and decide that I didn’t deserve all this criticism, from myself or others. But I also had to look honestly at how I was living: with a back problem that kept me sedentary. I got my butt into physical therapy, something I had been avoiding because it’s expensive and it’s inconvenient. But in honoring myself, I realized I owed it to myself to go through the inconvenience and the expense so that I could become a vital, thriving, active member of society once again.
The whole scenario of taking care of my back is merely an indicator pointing to what lies beneath: I could ignore it because I was ignoring myself and devaluing my needs. Or I could change. I could start taking care of myself and standing up for myself and honoring myself because I finally understand that I deserve to be happy and healthy.
4. Tune into emotions.
Sometimes everything feels like too much. Too much criticism, or too much back pain, for example, and so we shut down and we try to avoid our emotions. This leads us to avoid our problems, because that’s all emotions really are: sign posts for problems. When we avoid emotions and thus problems, they both build instead of getting solved.
Once we create patience and tolerance for feelings, we can take an honest look at what our emotions are trying to tell us. That way we can fix the problems beneath the emotions. This sounds really difficult for some of us…emotions can feel intolerable, especially strong and painful emotions.
Plus, not every problem is solvable. We can’t bring a loved one back from the dead, for example. And we can’t bring a romantic partner back who doesn’t want to be with us. These situations can cause us immense pain and so we seek to numb the pain because we mistakenly think there’s no solution to it.
The solution is to feel the emotions for a finite length of time—but to always keep a bigger perspective in mind as to the cause of the pain. Negative emotions shouldn’t last forever. If once you think you’ve processed the situation, you find you’re still in pain, then your perspective isn’t broad enough yet.
Pain is almost always solved by realizing we are looking at a problem too myopically—and then stepping back further from it so you can get the bigger picture. Still in pain? You don’t have the right big picture yet. Keep looking.
5. Be still daily.
I had to learn to meditate—to get into a quiet state so I could listen. So many people find meditation uncomfortable because they can’t stand to be alone with their brain chatter. The key is to just watch the chatter from a distance rather than buying into it or believing it. This is often a big aha for people: you don’t need to believe everything you think.
Most of our thoughts come from our conditioning…thoughts that were thrust upon us as children, or decisions we may have made in a state of trauma. The key is to reach a state of consciousness where you can carefully examine each thought and decide from a rational place how true or false each thought is. It’s about gaining a higher perspective so you can feel calm and peaceful instead of reactive in the face of…well, pretty much anything. (I know that sounds impossible, but you wouldn’t believe the shit I’ve seen and overcome.)
It’s been a year since I began diligently practicing these 5 spiritual to do’s. I’m more joyful and physically healthy. No more back pain and I’m in the best physical shape of my life. And my intuition has exploded. My connection to the spirit realm has become so clear that I now perform psychic readings as part of my career path. I can feel the energy of people and spirits so well, and I have learned the art of energy healing, another addition to my professional repertoire.
I am meeting so many more likeminded people who are also on the path of spirituality and healing. I went from feeling like an isolated woo-woo freak, to coming into my own and finding my tribe of healers, intuitives, and other seekers on the path of opening up to these gifts.
I’m not without my struggles. To be honest, I feel tested by God on a daily basis, to make sure my intentions are pure and to make sure I’m fully committed to the path. But there’s no going back for me now. That door has been flung open and I can’t shut it, nor do I want to.
Life is no easier once you “wake up.” In some ways, it’s much harder. But that peace, that satisfaction—and much of the time, the happiness I was seeking before is with me. I feel much more these days like someone who can rest easy, comfortable in my own skin, knowing who I am and why I’m here.
Do I feel like I’m “done” evolving? A perfect human being? Haha, no. Far from it.
As seekers, we often keep a tally of things we don’t like about ourselves…behavior we feel is un-enlightened, unevolved, and sometimes downright embarrassing: things we feel we should be over by now.
So what can we do about it?
We can make a list of these shortcomings and we can give them up to God. We can say, “I tried to do this myself, but it’s not working and I need your help.” Help may come in unexpected forms. It might not be easy or what we think we “wanted.” But help will come if you ask for the outcome to be for the highest good of all concerned…
…you may soon find yourself on an upward spiral, flying towards sunnier days and heaps of happiness!
Katie Morton is the author of inspirational fiction books Secrets of People With Extraordinary Willpower and Secrets of Successful People. Katie gives a talk about Peace, Happiness, and Fulfillment on the second Tuesday of each month at Nourishing Journey, 8975 Guilford Rd. Suite 170, Columbia, MD 21046. This blog post summarizes the November 14, 2017 talk.
Please RSVP for the next talk, which will take place on January 9th at 6:30PM in Columbia, MD.