excerpt from my forthcoming book on overcoming anxiety!
We’ve all done it. With the best of intentions, we set out on the spiritual path, ready to have our awakening, and determined to find the calm, centered, peaceful place within that is beyond our anxiety.
Often, we do find that place – for a while. But it’s the natural cycle of things to come and go. When that calm, courageous place we delightfully discovered begins to slip away, we might make some spiritual mistakes.
They can be errors in our approach, perspective, or how we’re applying our beliefs. These spiritual mis-takes – for they’re just a slip-up, a miss of the target we’re aiming for – aren’t a big deal. We all get a little off track sometimes.
The problem is that we tend to make them a big deal. They can become deal-breakers, sending us down the spiral not only of more anxiety, but self-recrimination and anxiety about our anxiety.
There are 5 common mis-takes on the spiritual path that can get under our skin and actually perpetuate that anxiety – not what we wanted! And the number one on the list is Perfectionism.
I know you weren’t at all surprised to see this as my number one spiritual mis-take. Because chances are good that you’re a perfectionist (or like me, a recovering perfectionist!).
Don’t think so? Think you’re past that? Well, what happened the last time you sat for meditation and it was crummy? All kinds of distracting, anxious, upsetting, annoying thoughts going on. Did you say, yippee? Or did you get more and more frustrated? Maybe you tried harder to push those thoughts away. This is not supposed to happen! I am supposed to be getting calm, relaxed, and serene. I’m supposed to look and feel like a Buddha in lotus pose, eyelids half-closed, body upright and aligned but oh-so-relaxed, hands perfectly in a mudra, and completely still, looking as if I could float on a lotus leaf. Or at least I’m supposed to feel that way.
Um, no. Well, you certainly can have that experience. But if you’re attached to it – attached to outcome, expecting, feeling that it should, must, have-to, needs to be that way, then you’re holding on to some degree of perfection.
Spirituality is Messy
The honest to goodness truth is that spirituality is a messy journey. You’ll have to get used to getting dirty, digging down deep, bumpy trails, picking up the trash, and sometimes sitting in it, because it just happens to be there.
The spiritual path is not about avoidance – avoidance of anything less than ideal – but about fully embracing who you are and whatever is. Yes, it involves taking appropriate action to continue on the path, but still, the path is what it is.
Your mind isn’t always going to be still. Neither will your body. In fact, they rarely will be. That’s OK. And you will have anxiety arise from time to time, even after you’ve been practicing meditation, breathwork, or yoga for years. But as you continue on, you’ll develop the skill and courage to know how to journey through it rather than try to make it go away.