Surrender

Why You’re Spiritual Even If You Don't Know It

I used to think that religion was for idiots and spirituality was for hippies. I was a teenager who wanted to believe that the only things that were real, were the things I could see. Perhaps I was spurred on by the fact that my brief stint with Wicca in the 8th grade did not bear the fruits I desired. More likely, being “atheist” was considered cool and I worked desperately to cultivate an air of calculated indifference on these matters. (I failed quite spectacularly at that, by the way. I care too much.) But more than anything, I felt abandoned and wanted to remain depressed.

Like anyone who naturally favors extremes, it was only a matter of time before I exhausted that and came to believe that a power greater than myself may indeed exist. The only problem was that no religion aligned with what I intuitively felt, leading me to believe I was probably wrong and/or crazy. After all, how does one express that there's a little voice inside me that tells me what to do without sounding like a total nut job? I slowly learned to cultivate that intuitive voice. And while I may have drowned that voice in alcohol or silenced it in favor of listening to a boyfriend, it remained there. Ever present. Ever full of love.

So, it’s no surprise that when a client recently told me that he didn’t believe in the concept of “God,” I told him he didn’t need to. It was clear that he already did.

I get it. I hate labeling shit. I don’t want to call myself anything. Defining myself as a woman, Indian, or lip-balm addict is too limiting. It’s virtually impossible to encompass the gut feelings, the love, the knowing, and the faith into a word that describes more than a belief system, but an inherent knowing that the Universe has my back. God, Love, Universe, the All Mighty Magical Sky Guy – it’s all the same. 

Labels aside, spirituality is what keeps us going. Ever wonder what motivation comes from? The desire to honor your gifts and achieve your potential. That sounds pretty spiritual to me. Ever wonder why turning your back on yourself feels like getting hit by a truck? Because silencing your intuition is like hanging up on the Universe.

Admittedly, the paradox of faith is that the worst of times can bring out our best. A crisis can yield learning, transformation, and growth in unforeseen directions.

And yeah, those moments suck.

But a spiritual journey can’t be viewed moment to moment, it’s seen over time. It’s the ability to look back and say, “that problem was actually a gift,” or “I’m happy that relationship ended because otherwise I wouldn’t have met my husband.” 

Ultimately, when we view spirituality as something outside ourselves or as a social construct, we negate its presence within us. Because every time you listen to your gut, you’re engaging in a spiritual practice.

The Takeaway: 

Spiritual nourishment is just as important as kale & quinoa. Don’t question it or label it, just feel it and accept it. When you stop judging and start listening, that's when the magic happens.

How to Quiet Your Thoughts and Trust Your Gut

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I can’t stand the phrase, “trust your gut.” Not only does “gut” remind me of digestive issues and crime scenes from Law & Order, but as a chronic over-thinker it creates more questions than it answers. I mean, how the hell do I do that? Is it even safe? Won't I end up alone, unemployed, eating off-brand Halloween candy in my PJs every afternoon? 

And that crazy thought is exactly why I want to share:

  1. Why we don't listen to our instincts
  2. How to spot the difference between a thought and a gut feeling
  3. How to strengthen your intuition (no pushups required!)

Why we Silence our Gut

In a culture that teaches us to ignore our instincts and “think things through,” we often ignore our feelings as being trivial or something to push down into the basement where we keep painful memories, resentments, and old sporting equipment. Sometimes our desire to "make things work" or "play it safe" comes from past experiences or societal norms. But how do we know if those guiding thoughts are our gut or our fear talking?  

The truth is that instincts aren’t thoughts, they originate from something much deeper-they come from our feelings. But we are so conditioned to have thought-based reactions to feelings that we talk ourselves out of honoring our intuition before we can process it.

Why? Because feelings and emotions are scary. They are often considered to be liabilities, rather than a compass leading us to our truth, our future, or the nearest gas station.

A thought and a feeling are not the same thing.

Sounds obvious, but we often jump from one to another so quickly that it’s seemingly impossible to separate. For example, “I can’t believe she smacked me across the face with a can of RC cola!” is a thought. The anger you feel toward her is a feeling.

Ultimately, if you can’t describe it as a sensation, it’s a thought, not an instinct.

If you really want to trust your intuition, you need to silence all the “shoulds,” “it’s safer tos,” and “common sense” that you’ve created to play it safe. Because the truth is that those constructs are the manifestations of all your excuses to continue playing small. So how do you tap into that mysterious, omniscient, more-powerful-than-a-mind-blowing-orgasm, place? Strengthen the connection.

Here’s how:

  1. Think back to a happy time or a person who played a positive role in your life. What sensations do you feel? Happy? Grounded? Relaxed?
  2. Think back to a time that sucked. Or, a person that played a negative role in your life. Imagine the moment when you realized this wasn’t what you wanted. What sensations do you feel? Stomach sinking? Heart pounding? Itchy trigger finger?
  3. Let’s get present: Think of a new person or situation in your life you’re unsure of. What feelings arise? Don’t judge or rationalize them away before you feel them. Sit with it. Are they similar to the positive event (#1) or the negative event (#2)?

No matter the outcome, you’re strengthening your connection to yourself. And whether you take action on those feelings or not, you’re likely to find that over time, the situation will play out according to those instincts. Because we tend to focus on thoughts or think our feelings away, strengthening your ability to listen to your gut will allow you to tap into your truth. And, as the saying goes, “The truth will set you free.”

How do you tune into your intuition? Share your story in the Comments section below!

How To Stay Hopeful About the Future (even when you're convinced it will suck)

We all go through times where we’re hyper-focused on the negative rather than the positive. I was chatting with a friend recently who said that as soon as he doesn’t hear back from a potential client, his mind begins to cycle to all the possible outcomes. Needless to say, all these hypotheticals result in him going bankrupt, staying single, and sharing canned beans with his dog as he lives under a bridge. Of course, 24 hours pass, he hears back, and bridge crossers need not fear the toll-demanding troll.

But all this got me thinking about optimism and faith. How do we stay hopeful about the future when our minds spin faster than a hamster on a wheel? Here’s how to remain optimistic (even when you’re convinced everything sucks):

1. Imagine how you’d like your future to look.

Most of us have no idea what we want, but we have a nagging feeling that we don’t have it. But since it’s “too hard” to figure out what we actually want, we keep spinning our wheels. Does that make any sense at all? Not really, but we keep doing it anyway. Having a clear sense of what you want evokes excitement and motivates you to get shit done. Vision gives you a reason to push through discomfort and energize you with positive thoughts for tomorrow, regardless of what today looks like.

2. Move through fear.

The unknown is a lot like my parents’ basement. It’s dark, has a lot of crap, and has a faint smell of mold (I think we need to look into that!) I avoid their basement because I think something’s lurking down there. Is that rational? Not really. Do I bring my 10 lb dog with me to protect me anyway? Hell yeah! The point is that when we approach the unknown or future with our natural desire to feel safe and in control, we hold ourselves back. We can’t control the future, but we can control our mind-set. Letting go of past experiences is like a spiritual reset button. It might not change what happened, but it removes the event’s power from hurting you in the future. Until you make peace with your past, it will continue to shape your future.

3. Stop brainwashing yourself.

Our thoughts are powerful incantations that direct our worldview. Talking to yourself and others about what you can’t do becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re hyper-focused on fails, it’s virtually impossible to create a win, let alone be hopeful. So the next time you want to complain about how you’ll never get a raise, remember that you’re the one casting the spell.

4. Stay Present.

Quit future-tripping. When we feel overwhelmed, we assume that tomorrow will be more of today. We tend to live in the future when there’s something we’re avoiding in the moment. Stay present! Is there an action you can be taking to create your happy ending? (No, not that kind!)

5. Reach out.

When I see myself speeding into crazy town, I engage in some sort of pattern interrupt. That refers to anything that gets me out of my own head. For some it’s exercise, for others it’s simply calling a friend. My personal favorite way to remain hopeful is to be of service. It can be anything from helping a friend to volunteering to writing a thank you note. Helping others empowers you to focus on the good, engage with others in a positive way, and be an all-around awesome person.

 

Like Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” And since I take all my life advice from fictitious characters, I’m confident that everything will work out better than planned.

How do you remain hopeful? Share your tips in the Comments section below!