Too often, I meet people on their spiritual path who are fed up with their lack of progress, lack of knowledge, lack of you-name-it... Often, these are the same people whose every inch of last spring’s vision board has already come true, who have grown leaps and bounds in the past year, and who have a long list of achievements already under their belt.
Despite the “bigger picture” of their overwhelming success, these folks tend to fall into a pit of despair in reaction to their recent missteps or scattered goals. They devote more time to suffering over their mistakes than creating, learning, healing, and growing. They open the door to self-criticism and, in doing so, slam the door shut on universal guidance. And, on top of it all, you can bet that these rock stars are painfully aware of their self-sabotaging behavior… and are adding that, too, to their growing catalog of “weaknesses.”
The painful truth is that to the outside observer, these people are already 90% of the way “there.” They’ve already done the heavy lifting: surviving childhood (and middle school… and high school…), eschewing cultural norms, facing addiction, leaving non-serving situations and lives-too-small, working to make peace with their past, asking the scary questions, and getting quiet enough to hear the answer.
So... What’s the Problem?
Of course, there’s more that we want to accomplish, more that we want to experience and know. We’re seekers! We continuously peer through doors we were unaware of or simply afraid to open mere days ago. Each new doorway reveals opportunities, challenges, and dimensions yet unknown.
So, where exactly does the problem begin? When we lose our sense of mindfulness along the way. In this culture of analysis, comparison, and striving, we all are likely to fall victim to “Are We There Yet?” syndrome. We all want to be better than we were yesterday, and we want to experience that rewarding feeling every single day.
Plodding ahead, we grow impatient with the interminable road trip with no discernible end in sight. Meanwhile, we end up listening to Ego— the sticky-fingered child in our backseat rattling for attention, anxious for completion, arrival, and for the work to be done and the fun to start.
Where is “There” Anyway?
Recently, a student of mine who is cautiously tiptoeing onto her path shared that she was afraid to open up to her spiritual gifts because she doesn’t know what they are yet. Yes, she admits she has an inkling… and, well, to be honest, it’s more like a knowing… yet, she craves that tangibility. She wants it defined so she can see what she’s getting into and so she can decide ahead of time if it’s worth it… if she’s worthy.
We want to know how it ends. Heck, sometimes we just want it to end— to throw up our hands (outside of sun salutations for once) and numb out, go back to the way things were, and embrace the notion that ignorance is bliss.
And that’s when we begin to appreciate how very long ago we passed “the way things were.”
In these moments of self-talk in which we threaten, “I WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND AND THERE WILL BE NO VACATION,” we realize turning back would be a much longer haul. In fact, it’s not really an option. Yes, we know the steps to get back there, to unwind all of our progress; we can probably identify 20 self-destructive ways to do so in one breath, and we could probably make 15 of them happen in the time it takes to fry an egg.
We could easily set fire to this mind garden, this practice, this life. And yet… We’ve come so far already. Why quit now?
Reframing the Road Trip
We don’t quit now because there’s simply not that much time left, both on this journey and in this lifetime. Rather than stopping the drive altogether—frightened by just how far our perceived destination may be away—what if we simply changed our objective? What if the goal was to just enjoy the ride?
Take this as a simple reminder to zoom out and appreciate the sizeable distance you’ve already traveled. Let’s take a look at the how we can do just that…
Chill on the social media. Teddy Roosevelt famously noted that “comparison is the thief of joy.” And he didn’t even have Facebook! Stop gawking at your acquaintance’s highlight reel. It’s no wonder we all think we suck sometimes. I’m not advocating a cold turkey cut off; for some of us, social media is a critical element of our small business’s survival. I simply beseech you to engage consciously. Check in with yourself every five minutes of scrolling and set a timer for accountability. “Do I want to be doing this? Does this feel good?” If so, no judgement. If not, knock it off. Go do something that sets your soul on fire… Or take a nap. You’ve earned it.
If you’re going to insist on beating yourself up, allot time for it. Choose five prescheduled minutes a day when you can really let yourself have it. Give your Ego a chew toy, something to do, a meeting to prepare for. Feel free to smile knowingly as you watch it feverishly compile notes in that time period. Be confident that you need not sink to Ego’s level and entertain these thoughts. Let Ego toil, dredging up those well-tread fears on the back burner while you cook up the life you want. And when those five minutes arrive, witness these thoughts for what they are: Ego’s machinations and contrivances, defining you no more than the street lights streaking your face as you drive on through the night.
Remember Your Why. Why are you on this journey? What is your life’s purpose? Who do you want to be? How do you want to feel? Work with intention. State it as already done. Do you want to be strong? Enlightened? Courageous? Inhale, “I am strong, I am enlightened, I am courageous.” And exhale everything inside that says you aren’t, you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t. Inhale “I am _____,” exhale haters to the left. Practice this for five minutes immediately after your five-minute airing of grievances to cancel out that negativity and draw your destination closer to you. The Law of Attraction is on your side.
Fuel Up. Keep fueling your vehicle. You wouldn’t stuff your gas tank full of Twizzlers and pizza any more than you would try to run it 70 miles past empty. Yet, for some reason, we do this to our bodies! When we feel our life is spiraling out, we slip into compulsively controlling our food intake. Some of us try to eat nothing, some of us can’t keep from eating everything, and some of us yo-yo in between. Or maybe it’s not food; maybe it’s sleep. Whatever your brand of control, know that it’s normal and know you’ll be better served by fueling yourself the way you know you should. In times of stress, know what works for you and set yourself up for success. Schedule and honor regular meal times, keep vegetables in the house, and be nice to yourself.
Find the Blessings. Reviewing your journey and feeling like you’ve been dealt a particularly bumpy road? Like you’ve encountered more than your fair share of traffic jams and wrecks? First, stop comparing yourself to anyone else. Second, journal on the gifts of these experiences. What strengths have you forged? What do you know now because of what you’ve been through? Who are you now qualified to help because of what you’ve triumphed over?
We think we know where we’re going. We can point on a map and say, “There. If I do all the things, I’ll be There.” We even think we know what time we’ll get there. Yet, when we stay on the straight and narrow, we trade adventure and possibility for a sense of security… and still, there’s no guarantees. Practicing brahmacharya (“right use of energy,” as prescribed by the yoga sutras), we can ask, “Will this choice lead me to my destination?” and trust ourselves to know and make the right decision. Placing this faith in ourselves can quell the backseat driver. You don’t always need to know what the exact destination is to know what moves you forward in the general direction of your endpoint.
Still Want to Skip to the End?
They sat in that moment.
“…Yet, then I wouldn’t have met all the characters along the way who’ve made me who I am today,” his father finished.
However long it has taken is how long it needed to take. This is not an endorsement to let yourself “slack off” because I know you won’t do that. This is an invitation to let yourself off the hook. This is an invitation to let yourself breathe in the joy of having arrived at the present moment, intact, unbroken, wiser for the journey, uniquely prepared for the next leg. This is an invitation to thank yourself for holding this vision of the understanding, connection, and life you want. This vision has gotten you this far already. It only needs you to believe in it to get the rest of the way there.
Can You Relate?
If so, I encourage you to share a recent accomplishment in the comments. We may not be “there” yet. However, we’re HERE NOW! So, let’s enjoy it, shall we?