QUESTION FROM READER: "Why do some items take once, others a few times and some go on forever despite working on it constantly? Frustrating when you hit it from every direction and every practice you know and it still comes back. The Spiral answer of going deeper each time gets old and is there an end or is it bottomless? Some issues seem the end comes quickly and others are a bottomless pit. It would be nice to have a discussion around it."
VL: It's been a year and a half of sitting with this question. I'm not sure we have an answer that can be satisfactory so here is an offering that may have some usefulness in shifting perspective.
SPIRIT: What do you consider a long time? Is that a long time for your personality or your soul? Could your healing be over a life time or many life times? Why the rush?
We can imagine getting the same answer each time does get old, might we suggest looking at location instead? Are you the same person each time the problem arises? Are you in the same location - geographically, in space, in your life? Would it be possible to ask yourself to review the problem from your current location now as if you had a fresh set of eyes (and tools) to review it from?
While from your vantage point somethings end quickly, have you gone back and asked your past selves if this is true? Maybe that ending was a continuation from another time and you just witnessed the tail end? And lastly maybe the problem isn't asking to be "hit" from every direction, but whispered to, that it is ok it has shown up, even if it is a downtrodden, weary traveler from a foreign land that is looking for a new way forward. For example, it needs a new wardrobe, fresh food, beauty, and the empathy that life is difficult, but they have found a place to land for the moment. And yes the houseguest may show up again and again. Not because you have failed, instead because you teach it something new, you offer it care and love, you welcome it when others would be destroyed by it.
Healing in your culture has been made to look a certain way. It has been taught that there is an endpoint and a cure for everything, instead of a more gentle approach. What would it have been like if you had been raised with teachers that shared with you their own healing journey that spanned lifetimes? What would it have been like if your community didn't push you to heal as manipulation to be a certain way? What if your culture understood time and space for healing is much longer than human time? What if you could complain about your suffering without a continual invitation to fixing, but instead be met with a deep compassion for the suffering as all humans will suffer?
This is our long way of saying zoom out which is not the same as deepen. It can lead to depth but in a different way and texture. Zoom out to see the interlocking spiraling wheels of your lives. Zoom out to give more spaciousness and time for you, your soul, and your suffering. Zoom out not to "hit it" with every practice but to just observe it. Observe it with beginner's eyes as though you are meeting yourself for the first time. How would you treat you the stranger? Certainly there is more to say on this topic. But we feel we have said enough for the moment.
VL: First, how funny they picked ZOOM as the answer...cue the groans. Second, I want to clarify, the weary houseguest they are speaking of is not trashing your house or harming you. That is a clear line that it is them and their issue and not you. (See Toko-pa's blog post, Everything is a Mirror, Until It's Not for a brilliant teaching on this).
We are not healing in isolation. Society does have a hand in our healing. We have family, friends, work, and other institutions that impact our wellbeing. And much of our world isn't set up for us to heal, what we are set up for is curing; quick, fast, and definitive. Curing certainly has a place in life, but it isn't the only endpoint for healing. Healing which may lead to curing, often takes more time, space, and boundaries and those energies aren't our cultural strong suit. Healing is swimming against this cultural current. Maybe it isn't you, but society that isn't getting the memo it needs.
Healing takes WAY more time than we as a culture think it should. I wonder what it would be like to acknowledge this societal layer as a part of your healing journey? What if you said in some form "This piece of healing that I'm needing isn't me needing to change or fix me, but it's some outward structure that I don't have any control over?" Or "this piece of healing/resolve that I am needing goes against a societal structure (family structure) and I have limited impact on that structure. How can I increase my capacity to be in this challenging space?" I believe these are relevant questions to ask, even if our pain and suffering is physical. We have a back pain or neck pain or foot pain. There's still structures that are in place that impacts our well being, that requirement us to sit at a desk or work, or to shower and get ourselves to a workplace and then when we get there we can only be half of ourselves. That all takes effort and brain capacity. And I don't think we recognize that enough in our world.
In closing to your question, gentle reader, I want to offer gentleness to you. I want to offer compassion to you. I want to offer grace to you. I firmly believe you have all these things. I hear the weariness in your question. I feel your urgency to get on with the goodness and joy of life. And I believe so much and have witnessed it, that we don't need to accomplish healing (or health) to have these things. Suffering and pain is an overrated teacher, this is what my teacher has said to me again and again and I agree. Maybe the learning is the joy between the suffering and that this joy is as tenuous and tender as the places that suffer and are in pain. Life is learning without a test to past or a next level to attain. Life is one big laboratory not a lecture hall. We come here because this is what our souls long for. We are the hungry ghosts for knowledge that is bigger than our personalties and these bodies can hold. Yes this plane is a bottomless pit of learning, may we find our way to enjoy it as the endless buffet our Spirit companions do.
In humble service and with an inadequate answer, I bow to your question and your willingness to speak from your heart.
QUESTION FROM READER: I have been on a spiritual hiatus, so to speak, for a few years and find it hard to motivate myself to get into practice again.
VL: I have so much to say on this topic - but I think Spirit says it better. I will say that there are many times in my life that I have been on what looks and feels like a spiritual hiatus and that couldn't be further from the truth. My practice just shifted to be more internal and woven throughout my daily life. My practice went into the doctor's office with me, the MRI machine, the operating room when I had surgery, while driving, showering, sitting at my computer, etc. Others have carried it into a loved one's hospital room, chemo therapy, and to the DMV.
My practice became praying throughout my day, and whispering to the wind with no answers. My practice became 5 more secs and one more breath. My practice is losing hope and faith again and again and then finding it.
The purpose of ritual and ceremony at the beginning of the journey is to learn and grow. And then somewhere the ritual becomes more internal, you become the ritual. I still do rituals and ceremonies now, but they look very different in my private life. They are simpler and more subtle, but more potent in my experience. I do miss my former spiritual practice at times, but I also know it's not what I need at the moment.
And like all practitioners, I have gone through periods where the silence of Spirit is deafening. My frustration at being able to hear for other's and not myself was maddening. But I learned that sensing for others was sensing for myself. And that sucky in-between of working and waiting as things take shape happens to everyone that is devoted to The Mystery. We are cyclical beings, and our spiritual lives are as well.
SPIRIT: Oh dear, this is a common process in spiritual life. Can you think of it as though your process has changed to be more internal and quiet which needs a different type of motivation? Throughout spiritual life practice changes based on needs and capacity and that is ok. Might it be useful to explore what is spiritual practice for you now? Is it more simple and elegant - walking with the trees, drinking a cup of warm liquid, tending the flowers, reading, creating, working, resting when your body needs to? These are all spiritual practices simply because you are a spirit doing them.
If your question is about longing for a deeper connection and the greed that your practice has gone dormant, might we suggest speaking to spirit while you do your earthly things? Whispering hello to the trees, speaking to the soul of your animals (if you have them), saying hello to the birds, speaking to the Spirits that surround you - even if you can't sense them at the moment. Ask them, beg them to come and be with you. That you long for them. And if it troubles you deeply, seek help. There is no shame in being able to sense for others but not yourself in this moment. Seek assistance to hear your own unique spiritual medicine for the moment. Find assistance that won't overwhelm you and will be gentle in their understanding that a tea light is as potent as a bonfire. And look within, your practice is still there, wintering, and when the snow has melted it will return.
VL: The basics never fail me. They continue to teach me and be a source of strength and renewal when I need it. The foundation of any ritual are the elements. Fire, water, air, earth, mineral, and the natural world including the animals. I speak to these elements with the belief they are listening and without the expectation of an answer. I believe it pleases them to be seen and heard, like it pleases me. And therefore I have done a good deed. On hiatus, when no tool or ritual seems to be right, return to the foundation of magic, along with the element of time and let it reawaken you.
Thank you for your beautiful statement that held so many questions and possibilities within.