Living in Alignment
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what my values are and whether I live a true reflection of them. Over the past year I’ve been inching closer to that alignment, but I’m not quite there yet. These last few weeks especially have amplified the ways in which that process remains unfinished. I’m striving to act in accordance with my beliefs, but it requires addressing and working through some of the shit I’ve held onto - my inner disturbances.
Pinpointing these disturbances can be a challenge of its own. They might be easily recognizable, like the aftereffects of a traumatic break-up or the loss of a family member, but we may also carry harm that we’re unaware of. It hides outside the conscious mind - the result of unhealthy parent relationships, societal pressure, or undetected racism.
We speak and act on impulse, entirely oblivious to where it stems from. We’re triggered and not sure why. We’re uncomfortable - so perhaps we lash out, blame others, leave nasty comments, cry, or just shut down. In an attempt to fix it, maybe you started seeing a therapist but weren’t able to open up. Maybe you’ve been trying to journal and reflect but still feel lost. Maybe you’ve never felt 100% sure of yourself and gave up believing in the possibility. All three of these examples have occurred at different times in my past.
I tried talk therapy for two years while my mom was fighting cancer and continued for a few months after she passed. I understand that it helps a lot of people - but I was not one of them. It wasn’t “working” for me. I never felt like I was actively solving anything. My therapist was someone that could validate my feelings and help navigate situations, which was valuable of course, but after years of burying my inner disturbances I didn’t just need to talk about it for an hour, I needed to fully reconstruct my sense of self. She encouraged me to get more in touch with my spiritual side, but I had no idea how to do that. All of the suggestions felt forced and unnatural. Maybe I just didn’t have a spiritual side.
After I stopped seeing her, I wasn't sure where to turn. The only mental health remedies I saw on my timeline were traditional therapy and meditation. I downloaded the HeadSpace app and gave meditation a try. While it was nice, I found adding it to my routine to be extremely challenging. I was averaging one meditation session once every month or two, which obviously wasn’t enough to benefit from.
I remembered that my mom had been seeing a craniosacral therapist while she was sick. She referred to these meetings as her “relax appointment”. I had never heard of the term craniosacral, but she always seemed happy and peaceful when I picked her up afterward. I was at a loss in my own search for peace, so I decided to request a session.
Craniosacral is a gentle, hands-on approach meant to release tensions deep in the body, relieve pain and dysfunction, and improve whole-body health. I’m not exaggerating when I say that she barely touched me, and I felt an overwhelming release of emotion. I sensed my mom there in the room with me... it was the most spiritual experience I’d ever had, noticeably more rewarding than any traditional therapy or meditation session had been. I lost control of myself, which is something I previously struggled to surrender. This marked a turning point for me in what I knew to be possible with alternative healing methods.
With a new curiosity, a few months later I began to research more about plant medicines. Living in Colombia has facilitated an easy introduction to these plants, with ceremonies regularly happening nearby. The details of those experiences will be saved for a future post, but using plant medicine, especially psilocybin for the purpose of healing, has given me more clarity on my values than I could’ve ever imagined.
The point I’d like to get across is that due to our individual nature, the pursuit of clarity is complicated. Some disturbances can be buried so deep that you don’t even realize they’re blocking you, and you can’t access them on your own. Traditional therapy will not be the best option for everyone, so if you’ve tried it and thought hey, this isn’t doing much for me other than burning a hole in my wallet - I am with you. You don’t have to force it. Therapy is not a one size fits all solution.
The truth is, no single thing can heal, and I’ll never be able to tell someone else how their healing journey should be. I know what might work for me, but even sometimes that’s a mystery.
What I do know is that If we want to become better members of our community, and evolve into empathetic creatures capable of critical thinking, healthy relationships, and living in alignment with our values, we first need to begin to heal. We have to do the inner work, no matter what form that might take. This is coming up a lot lately as people begin their quest of anti-racism and Black educators encourage us to DO THE WORK. But what does that really mean? Sure we’re listening and learning, but how are we integrating these lessons into our daily life?
Integration is arguably the most important part of any learning experience. The same goes for psychedelics - people often report experiencing life-changing phenomena during a medicinal trip but if they don’t actively take what they’ve learned and practice integrating it everyday, those feelings won’t stick. This is why integration therapy exists. Knowledge without practice is meaningless. Gaining clarity won’t automatically correct our actions without conscious effort.
Integration is the slow, steady, and often challenging process of aligning with our values and our knowing. It means not only reaching a new point of understanding, but honouring it by following through with action; whether that be with a therapist, a spiritual coach, a shaman, or on your own.
An important first step in expanding the mind is to recognize that we ALL have something to heal from. Not everyone wants to, and I’m not here to force anyone, but if you’re like me and you understand that your mind is really all you have and you’re interested in an upgrade, the first step is to recognize that there’s work to be done. I’m talking about body image issues, relationship triggers, white fragility, all of it. We all have parts of our mind, conscious or not, that are not serving us.
Healing work is what paves the way for a deeper connection to our values. The collective freedom from distractions that we experienced during quarantine allowed for reflection and healing, even if you weren’t aware of it. Some of us were finally able to sit with our emotions and see the bigger picture. We’re finally saying: enough is enough.
We are all capable of releasing the shit that no longer serves us, even if we need to arrive at that in different ways. The trial and error will be worth it, I promise.