One of our Wellspring participants talked recently about this invisible suitcase we all have shackled to our leg. He said it was filled with all our life’s junk, the hurt, the troubles, the grudges, and the sadness. He said when we are in a good place, we remember to pick it up and carry it around. When we’re not, we forget to pick it up. We then drag it around causing us to trip, and walk encumbered and exhausted.
We all chuckled at this analogy with some embarrassment and self-knowing. But as I thought about this more, I realized that individuals on a spiritual quest often come face to face with their psychological traumas or vise versa. Unresolved issues can become glaring to us during meditation and spiritual practice. Wounded relationships, disappointments, workplace integrity challenges all become more visible when we pay close attention to our whole lives.
At times like this, spiritual practice may not be enough to allow us to successfully integrate the difficulties of our lives into our living. And we have to be careful that our spiritual practice does not become a place to hide from changes we need to make in our lives. At times it is necessary to work with a healer, to resolve our troubles and to move on.
Likewise, people who work with healers and therapists may find that they too reach a roadblock where needs grow toward a spiritual path. This is a time for spiritual direction.
Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher and noted psychologist suggests our consciousness grows in spirals. He offers a great essay on how old wounds affect our spiritual path. Karen Armstrong, one of our Wellspring resources, writes eloquently about her journey in The Spiral Staircase: My Path out of Darkness. We learn and grow and revisit our struggles repeatedly throughout life. It’s not that we make no progress; it’s just that each stage has many dimensions to explore. Sometimes you need a different partner for different dimensions.
If you find yourself stuck on either side, feeling that your personal issues are interfering with your spiritual practice or that your healing work is stalled, it may be time to look in a different direction. There are many types of healing practices available from Qi Gong to therapeutic bodywork like the Rosen Method, to traditional psychotherapy, to the Japanese healing practice of Reiki. It is important to check the training and credentials of your chosen practitioners.
When looking for spiritual direction, check with the ministers at your church. If you’re not affiliated with a congregation, check out the Spiritual Directors International or the Unitarian Universalist Spiritual Directors’ Network. And remember ask questions and look for the right fit.
So if your suitcase of issues is getting heavy, or you are forgetting to pick it up and tripping more often, maybe it’s time to embrace the spiral and chose a different direction.