Spiritual Growing Pains (AKA Dealing With Your Shit)

If you’ve been on a spiritual path for very long, you know that there’s always baggage. There’s childhood trauma, past relationship pain, self-sabotage, the imposter syndrome, trust issues, betrayals, depression, anxiety, fears, and times you genuinely just fucked up. Despite your best efforts, despite the hours and hours of therapy, despite the meditations and forgiveness practices, despite all the pieces of paper aflame in your burning bowl, you still have shit to deal with.

Sometimes the issues that arise are related to something else going on in your life. There is a trigger that brings all the past pain you thought you had resolved bubbling back up to the surface. You may discover that what you thought was a well-healed scar is actually still a festering wound in need of some serious first aid.

At other times, problems may seem to arise at random (though in my experience, very few are truly random.) You may discover that you are unintentionally blocking something you want to manifest by holding onto a pattern that was in your past, but not what you want in your future. You may discover that healing does not, in fact, have a destination – like many things in the spiritual life, it is a journey, and you may never reach a perfect state of being “healed.”

And that’s okay. Accepting who you are and where you are at in your healing is the first step to moving forward. You have to know how bad the wound is in order to treat it. You may get a cut and think it’s no big deal. However, if you don’t properly wash out the cut, even when the skin has healed back over, there can be infection lurking under the surface.

We are all imperfect, fallible human beings. We can’t fight that, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try the best we can to deal with our issues with grace and compassion – for ourselves and all involved.

Take Care of Yourself

In the mundane world, the best first aid for spiritual growing pains is to take care of yourself. Practice self-compassion. Eat healthy food. Get enough sleep. Spend time with people that love you. Focus on something you are good at, and do that thing. Exercise. Take your vitamins and prescription medications. Go outside. Do something productive. Lay on the couch for a day, if you need to. Listen to your body. It knows what it needs.

Throw Away the “Shoulds”

When I was going through my most recent spiritual growing pains, a close friend told me to “throw away the shoulds.” I should be feeling this. I should have said that. I shouldn’t do this. Take all of that internal chatter and throw it out the window. Right now.

Because “should” doesn’t really matter. You feel that way you feel. No amount of thinking “I shouldn’t feel this way” is really going to change that. It just puts you in denial, and further from actually dealing with your problems.

We also tend to invalidate our own experiences with “shoulds.” We often use rationalizations to downplay our feelings and reactions. That happened so many years ago – I should be over it by now. My friend didn’t actually mean to hurt me – I shouldn’t be so upset. If a shark bit off your leg, you wouldn’t think “I shouldn’t feel pain because the shark didn’t actually mean to hurt me – it was just trying to survive.”

With shoulds, you are effectively doing the same thing with your feelings. My mother thought she was raising a strong, independent daughter when she told me not to cry in front of anyone. She thought she was doing what was best for me. Does it still hurt that I couldn’t share my emotions with her when I was growing up? Of course! Her intentions, however good, don’t negate my feelings.

Feel Your Feelings. All of Them.

Part of taking care of yourself also involves expressing the emotions you are feeling. Give yourself permission to feel them all, and feel them fully – just make sure you have a safe space to do this in. (Therapy is great for this.) Cry. Let out your body-wracking sobs laced with pain and hurt. Yell (somewhere the neighbors won’t call the police on you, and don’t yell at anyone, even the person who hurt you.) Throw a tantrum like a 2-year-old when you are alone in your room. Let it all out. Feel where the emotion is in your body and concentrate on it, going totally into the feeling.

Find some way to healthily express that emotion. Find a song that encapsulates that feeling and sing or dance to it. Paint. Write. Talk with a friend (just make sure you don’t inadvertently take that emotion out on said friend.) Run until your legs give out. Cuss like a sailor at your microwave. Find a punching bag. Take a martial arts class. Express the emotion through your body. Let it flow through you and out of you.

Processing

Once you’ve felt the depths of your emotions and expressed it in some way, you need to process what happened and why you are feeling what you are feeling. Therapy is also great for this, and you have a trained professional to help you. Talking things out with a wise friend is wonderful. Writing can be an excellent self-reflection tool.

Start with the facts – just what objectively happened and nothing more. Then layer on your interpretations of these facts. What motives did you assume the other person had? Why were you in this situation in the first place? How did you feel about what was happening? Learn to separate the facts from your experience. None of this means that your experience wasn’t real. On the contrary – it was very real for you, and that means it deserves respect. Being able to separate the facts from your experience just allows you to be a bit more objective so that you can learn whatever lessons the experience has to teach you.

Healing

The process of healing has already begun. Don’t be surprised if it takes some detours, loops back around to different steps again and again, or doesn’t go in a traditional straight line upward trend. The healing process is as unique as each person and each experience.

I know I’ve already touted the benefits of therapy in this post and others, but if you notice that your emotions are exceptionally intense or last for an extended period of time, PLEASE seek professional help. Therapists are specifically trained to help you through this process. Some therapists are better at it than others, and if you aren’t getting the help you need, look for a new therapist. That said, before you go looking around, make sure you are doing your part of the work, too.

Healing takes place over time at different levels. The particular issue I’m working through at the moment was from events that happened almost ten years ago. I’ve gone through several different levels of “I’m over it” and “No, really, I’m definitely over it now!” throughout the years. I was not over it. I am not over it. Not completely, anyway. As annoying as that is, I can still see the growth I’ve made since it first happened, and that gives me hope.

Spiritual First Aid

None of this process has to be done in a spiritual vacuum! I encourage you to actively make your spirituality a part of your healing process. Pray to your Goddesses and Gods. Light candles. Make offerings. Do magick. Perform energy work. Use crystals. Balance your chakras. Burn that shit away. Grow plants. Make charms. Cook delicious food with magickal herbs. Meditate. Sit in sacred space. Take a salt bath. Go for a hike. Plunge in the ocean. Sing songs of worship. Enjoy sacred movement. Make the Divine a part of your daily life.

And, above all, know that you are not alone.

Heart Healing Meditation Stones

A lot of the New-Age world is abuzz with talk of the power of crystals and their vibrations. Until a few years ago, I was extremely skeptical. My formal science training screamed “There aren’t any research studies!” but somewhere, deep down, it made sense that rocks, crystals, or anything made of the Earth could have its own energies. I’ve never doubted the sacredness or spiritual energy of trees. Why would stones be any different? But they weren’t alive like trees were, and I’d read so many uses for some types of stones that it all started to sound like hippie nonsense. That was, until I found a stone that worked.

I had accumulated a few stones over the years (I am a Pagan, how could I not?), but none of them really “spoke” to me. I was convinced I needed to expand my repertoire, so I attended a crystal workshop at my local Pagan Pride Day Festival a couple of years ago. Again, I didn’t really connect with any of the stones, but I was inspired by the workshop to pick up a selenite wand to use to cleanse my altar items. I sort of felt something from it, but the effect was not big enough to make me into a crystal convert. I was still skeptical.

One of my favorite Pagan bloggers, Tess Whitehurst, mentioned something in one of her articles about holding a black tourmaline in one hand to help get rid of anxiety for better sleep. At the time of reading the article, I was in the throes of full-on dealing with my obsessive compulsive disorder and general anxiety, and at that point, I was open to anything that could help. So, dubious though I was, I went and bought a black tourmaline from my local New Age shop. I properly cleansed it (which meant the OCD “actually wash it with dish soap” as well as energetically cleansing it), and that night, I tried it. I held it in my right hand, fully expecting nothing to happen and for me to now be the owner of a just another shiny black rock. While I was in the middle of thinking these doubting thoughts, the ever-present knot in my chest loosened. I felt my anxiety drain away. I shook my head, incredulous, but I felt much better. My worries were quieter (and when you have OCD, you have a lot of worries) and physically, I felt renewed. I was in awe.

I tried it again the next night, and the same thing happened, and it’s happened every time since then. My journey with Aphrodite started soon after, so rose quartz was a natural second stone to add. I could feel the energy of these, especially from the bigger stones. I added rose quartz with the black tourmaline to my meditation stone collection. But I needed something else.

I have experienced a lot of pain, betrayal, and heartbreak over the years (not just with my boyfriend moving out, but in relationships before that as well), and my heart chakra felt very closed off and sluggish. I did some research and decided to acquire some malachite, a bright green stone associated with healing and the heart chakra. With that, I discovered my perfect trio.

I use all three of these stones to meditate. I typically meditate lying down (I know some people don’t consider it a best practice, but it works for me better than sitting, so I go for it). I will place the black tourmaline in my right hand (my dominant, projecting hand), so that it can absorb all of the anxiety or negative energy that I may be generating. I place the malachite in my left (receptive) hand, so that I can take in all of its healing energies. Finally, I place a large rose quartz palmstone right on my sternum/heart chakra, so its gentle, soothing energies can radiate through my whole body. It feels wonderful for any meditation, as well as for trying to drift off to sleep.

Give it a try! I hope it works for you. If not, I’m sure there is an arrangement of crystals out there that will make you feel fantastic. Do a little research, and don’t give up if you don’t find it on your first try. It may also take a while for you to get used to the energies of the crystals. At first, selenite didn’t have a big effect on me, but now I consider it essential and carry one around with me everywhere. On my last Pagan Shopping Trip, I was drawn to a fluorite crystal. It’s got some great energy, and though I don’t know exactly what I’m going to use it for yet, I’m excited to find out.

Adventures of a Struggling New Empath

When I underwent my initiation for Aphrodite, I knew that some things in my life would change (perhaps quite drastically), while others would remain more-or-less the same. The first week after my initiation was fairly uneventful. There was the excitement (and nervousness) of sharing the story with my other pagan friends (and muggle friends, too), since I hadn’t told anyone about it beforehand. Aphrodite was still there, though she had been pretty constantly with me for a while. The silence space in my everyday life seemed fuller, which I know doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s the only way I can think of to describe it. The real weirdness started happening about two or three weeks after my initiation, and I was not anticipating it at all.

First, some background: When it comes to energy, I’ve always been more of a projector rather than a receiver. I’m pretty loud and expressive, and I feel emotions in a very big way. As I discovered when I started doing emotion journaling for DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), I either feel things as a 10 or not at all. If I’m happy, I’m elated. If I’m sad, I’m in anguish. If I’m angry, I am livid. Using some of the emotion regulation skills in DBT, I was able to modulate this to a certain extent, so that every time I felt sad I wasn’t immediately a crying puddle, and that if I was annoyed, I didn’t yell at my boyfriend. This proved very useful in the mundane world and made my life a whole lot easier. (Yay DBT!)

Even after DBT, as a general rule, I put out a lot more energy than I take in. If you spend any amount of time in the new age or Pagan blogosphere, you will probably come across articles about how to effectively cope with being an empath. Throughout my years of being Pagan, I could relate to these somewhat. I’ve always been very perceptive, and I’ve generally been able to read a room and know what my friends are feeling, though that has come more from body language and tone of voice than any feelings of energy. (Or at least that’s what I thought, anyway.) Once I found a Pagan community, and started hearing my friends’ stories about how they perceive energy, I concluded that I was perhaps more empathic than the average muggle, but not very empathic compared to a lot of the Pagans I knew. And I was okay with that, for the most part. I did miss being able to contribute to the conversation about what energies everyone was feeling, so about a year ago, I asked one of my super empathic friends for some pointers on sensing energy. She gave me some, and I tried them out, but nothing seemed quite right for me at the time.

I started being able to sense my own energy much more clearly after I started practicing Tantra (which was about a year and a half ago). I could identify in my own body some of what my friends were talking about and what I had read about, but I still couldn’t sense the same in other people. I had mostly given up on trying to feel those things from others about six months prior to my initiation. I knew had magickal strengths elsewhere, and that was fine by me.

Fast forward to the last couple weeks of January 2019: I was at work when the first instance of the weirdness happened. A client came up to talk to me and I immediately was inundated with an overwhelming feeling of “get him the fuck away from me as fast as possible,” accompanied by an energetic barrage of ick that can best be described as “getting slimed.” I couldn’t avoid talking to him, so I did everything I could to disengage him as quickly as possible and put some physical distance between us. I didn’t know what was happening, and in the moment, I forgot completely about grounding and shielding, Witchcraft 101 stuff. All I knew was that I needed him to be as far away as possible, and that I suddenly felt very, very psychically dirty. It felt like I had energetic slime dripping off of me – not of a particular emotion, but just a general horrible, awful feeling.

My coworkers and I dealt with the situation, and I finally had the wherewithal to remember that I’m a witch, and I keep selenite in my purse. I got it out and put it in my pocket, did some discreet deep breathing, and was able to ground and center mostly back to normal, though I really, really wanted to take a shower. (And I did, when I got home that day.)

The second instance of weirdness happened the following week, when a client came in visibly upset. I could feel the waves of sadness, anguish, and fear rolling off of her, even though I did not directly interact with her. The feelings immediately brought me back to some moments in my past where I felt the same. A little more experienced now, I got out the selenite immediately, held it in my hand for a few moments, and then stuck it in my pocket. I got back to equilibrium a bit faster this time, though the experience still rattled me.

I started keeping selenite in my pocket daily, and after a couple of weeks it was genuinely “used up.” I had charged crystals before with particular intentions, but had never felt from the crystal that it needed cleansing before. I usually cleanse my crystals as a matter of course, typically by running them under water, but selenite is a salt and will dissolve in contact with water. The next go-to for cleansing would be bright sunlight, but we had several weeks of overcast days back-to-back. I had to navigate without the selenite for about a week before the sun finally came back out, and I could definitely feel the difference.

After the second instance of weirdness, I consulted my empathic friends to get their tips and pointers. I asked “Do you guys deal with this all the time?” and they laughed at me (good-naturedly). I wondered if this would become my new normal, and honestly I wasn’t terribly excited about it. It was exhausting, and even though I knew the skills to cope, it wasn’t fun. I could see how empath skills could help me in my work with Aphrodite, so I was still accepting of it, and vowed to adapt as best I could.

Since then, I’ve gotten better at shielding. I used to just shield once a day, but now I need to multiple times a day. I also have to shield differently depending on the situation. My usual shield was a bubble of golden white light, and while that still works for a bedtime shield and around my friends, out in the rest of the world, I need something stronger. Fire works well, and I call upon Aphrodite for help with that. At first I tried a fire shield sourced from my own power, but that was too personally draining, and as a result, ineffective after just a few hours. A friend also gave me a Protection blend of essential oils that works quite well. I can surreptitiously anoint myself throughout the workday, though even just having the vial in my pocket is pretty effective.

For crystal help, I learned the importance of cleansing my selenite and keeping it close to my person, not just in my purse nearby. I discovered that black tourmaline, which I had been using to absorb negative feelings and anxiety, only works well for my feelings, not for those of others. I still love black tourmaline, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the right stone for this job. My friend suggested hematite, and I picked up a hematite ring to keep on my key fob for work and that has done wonders.

Other types of cleansing help, too, though they aren’t as immediately helpful for the work environment. Palo santo, sage, and other incense can purify anything left over in my energy field once I get home. Taking a shower also helps immensely, and I typically diffuse some essential oil to go with it (recently eucalyptus because my nose has been stuffed up, but lavender is also nice, as is cedar).

Whether my empath powers are toning down, or I am just dealing with it better, I haven’t had any more occasions of being “slimed” recently. I have been able to pick up on more subtle energies with my friends (whom I typically don’t strongly shield around), but so far not much else from other people, which has been a relief.

I know a lot of new empaths have a very hard time adjusting, and while my experience was difficult, there were a lot of things that made it easier for me. First and foremost, I knew what was happening. I had read countless articles and talked with friends about this subject, so I was aware of the nature of empaths and knew more or less how to respond, even if it wasn’t as reflexively as I would have liked. I also had friends I could talk to about my experiences and get their insight and help.

The other very helpful thing I’ve had on my empath journey is that I know very clearly what feelings are or are not mine. A boatload of therapy and personal introspection has helped with that, along with knowing exactly how my feelings feel to me. I can clearly separate my feelings from others’ feelings, which I know can be very confusing for many new empaths.

As for where my own empath journey is headed… We’ll see! Things seem to have toned down, so I don’t think it will be an intense “all the time” thing, but it will be something helpful to draw on in certain situations. It has certainly helped to hone my witch reflexes and recognize the importance of some magickal practices that I had done somewhat consistently, but now must do daily and with a purpose.

In the meantime, I am still learning, and I know I have a ways to go!