Dude. Let’s be real. It’s hard enough holding onto a spiritual practice when your life is running smoothly – when you know where you are going to be at all times, when your bedtime is, where your bed is and where all your stuff is at.
It’s nigh impossible holding onto a spiritual practice in the face of chaos.
For the last five months, my spiritual schedule has been of the chaotic woah variety. I moved back in with my mum for a bit after my recent big relationship breakup (mums are the best), and while I save up to get a flat and bring my income back to a pre-breakup level (… yeah, travelling followed by a breakup followed by 2 months of heartbroken stupor is not great on your bank account), and now I live part time at my mum’s house, part-time in friend’s spare bedrooms, and the rest of the time on the train travelling to and from work gigs.
I have little to no consistency in my days: some days I will be on a bus 6 hours, others I will be at my friend’s house working out of cafes, some days I will be at home, some days I will be sleeping on my cousins sofa.
It’s disorienting moving around so much. It’s hard to feel settled enough to turn inwards to get down to my practice, and since my privacy is about 50 shades of variable these days, it’s hard to replicate my at home practice on the road.
It turns out I am someone who really needs a home base to feel comfortable, and not having one is…. weird. It makes keeping a spiritual practice challenging to say the least.
Here are my tips on making a spiritual work in the face of chaos.
Don’t punish yourself.
If you are finding it difficult to keep up a spiritual practice in the face of chaos and you are getting down on yourself about it, STOP! Spiritual Practice Numero Uno is to be kind and compassionate towards YOURSELF. Everything starts with you: you can’t go on to achieve Jesus-levels of compassion and wisdom in the world if you are telling yourself that you are a dick for not fitting in your meditation practice today.
Being kind and understanding towards yourself IS a spiritual practice. So if you are doing that, you are already working hard at your spiritual training.
It’s really, really difficult keeping any form of consistency going when your life is so inconsistent. So chill out on yourself.
Also, be aware of who you are comparing yourself to. Are you comparing yourself to the imaginary ideal, who puts spiritual practice first and still does two hours of ritual and meditation every day despite being homeless and being a CEO and also going through a divorce? Are you?
Well, no-one is like that. It’s a useless thing to compare to and you know it! So stop it. Call bullshit on your ego whenever it tries to pull this comparison crap on you. What a dick.
Celebrate, don’t berate!
2. Use Musical Triggers for Meditation.
Your iPhone is your greatest ally here. I use music to help me get out of whatever chaotic situation I am in and sink into my spiritual practice. For example, my (mostly) daily meditation practice wouldn’t happen if I didn’t have my Meditation Song (Returning by Jennifer Berezan) easily available on my smartphone.
I use this song whenever I am doing my meditation practice.
In fact, I have used it so much, it has become a trigger in itself to get into that meditation state of mind. So damn handy when I want to do some meditation practice on my mate’s sofa, or on a coach to London, or in a cafe pre worktime.
Try using the same song every time you meditate – it will help you get into that meditative state quicker, and help you jump out of your crazy reality easier.
Triggers baby. Use them.
3. Surround yourself with mundane reminders of who you are.
I learnt this from my mates a few years ago. In the car, they would always play goddess CD’s. Always. Just doing this would make them feel more connected to their faith, remind them of how much they loved Goddess, and keep them thinking of Goddess the whole day through.
Music is powerful. So if you are in the car a lot, or get to listen to music while you are at work, fire up some spiritual sounds and keep your spiritual practice on your mind.
Have something to wear that connects you to your faith, like a necklace or a witchy t-shirt. Keep your fave spiritual text on your Kindle or iPhone to read in spare moments. Subscribe to a fabulous goddessy podcast. Put an inspirational pic as your desktop background on your PC. Pop a crystal and a candle on your desk.
Use simple everyday background stuff to connect yourself to that spiritual part of yourself. Any thread that keeps you in contact with your mystical side helps, even if it’s just a pretty picture or a song in the background.
4. Support Yourself.
I only realised recently that I’ve been treating my weird transient lifestyle like it’s something that I need to punish myself for or be ashamed of. A huge part of me feels shame that I’m kind of stuck in this weird limbo home life for the next few months, and as a result I haven’t done anything to make it easier on myself.
I am still resisting this lifestyle, even though I am living it – I am pushing against it, judging it, talking trash to myself like “If I was a successful adult none of this would happen” or playing the victim and milking the woe; “My love life just imploded and I should be stressed and miserable, so let’s make sure that I have optimum ability to be stressed and miserable”.
Bullshit. I call bullshit, brain!
We gotta stop resisting how our life is. That’s the cause of so much suffering.
If I accept that this is my life, and decide to see the bright sides of my situation, things change: I can buy myself a proper overnight bag, rather than carting tired old tote bags around. I load up my iPhone with loads of guided meditations, and put tonnes of books on my kindle so I can enjoy my long journeys. I stop pushing myself so hard to maintain regular working hours when the truth is, it’s just not possible. I stop feeling guilty about putting myself at the mercy of my friends, and instead find ways to appreciate them even more. I see that all this couch surfing gives me the best opportunity to spend time with my favourite people in the world. I make going out and having a social life my top most priority, no matter what the cost, so that I don’t slide into punishing workaholism or feel alone and miserable.
What support do you need in your current chaotic situation? How can you giver yourself that support? What actions can you take to symbolically approve of your chaos? (Mine is buying a nice overnight bag).
5. Find a time and place once a week where you can dive into your spirituality.
I find it hard sinking in to my spiritual practice when I am at my mates houses. I like to have my altars, all my oils, my safe little nest around me to really dive in. But, I am always back home in my bedroom once a week at least. So that day, I can do spiritual goodness.
Even if it’s just a little bit of practice. I know that once a week, I am at my altar and I can light the candles, do my anointing ritual, and honour the Goddess (as that’s a big part of my personal spiritual practice). Once a week is fine.
Lower your standards, man. Stop punishing yourself and pushing for Buddha-level commitment. Chill. Once a week is amazing.
6. Travel Friendly Rituals
I’m relying on anointing a lot these days. A quick prayer, a good ol’ sniff of the anointing oil, and then anointing my forehead, throat, heart, hands, then feet and other places depending on how naked I am. It’s a simple little ritual that connects me in with the energy I am working with.
I also have a little travel candle I like to burn when I am doing stuff at other people’s houses, a crystal to hold, and whenever I am actually in my own house i give my singing bowl a big ol’ ding . The point of having real-world things to do in spiritual practice is that it both anchors it into your reality and anchors it into your mind in the present. I feel the more chaotic my life gets, the more I need to rely on props and things to get my mind into the right place, because there is so much going on my brain needs that extra boost to chill the frick out and get into the spiritual frame of mind.
7. What’s your why?
Why are you doing spiritual practice?
Now, it’s a bit of a duh question, but if you don’t have a clear reason, you are not going to want to go through the bother of trying to fit it into your mental day. Some part of your brain is not going to be on board, and it’s gonna say stuff like “We haven’t got time for this!” or “This is not important!” or “This is stupid!”
You need a super clear Why. Something that will get your crazy freaking-out brain on board. A proper I am committed to spiritual practice because…. answer.
My why is because spiritual practice stops me being living in my head and being miserable, and brings me back into feeling like I can champion the world again. If I do my spiritual practice, chances are I will have a pretty good day.
My chaotic schedule and my work-brain understand this reason: there is a clear correlation between Spiritual Practice and my everyday performance, so it makes sense to make time for it.
There are other less useful answers to this question that might be true, but are too intangible to make an effect on my practical brain: because I want to be connected to the divine every day, because spirituality is the most important part of my life, because I am devoted to the goddess etc.
But the real reason, the actual effect that doing spiritual practice has on my daily life, is that it gets me out of my head and lets me be happy and confident.
If I don’t do it, I just build up compound stress and misery and fogginess. And that’s the way it is.
8. Make it easier.
It’s really great to be able to rely on other people when shit gets rough. I think it’s the same in spiritual practice.
I have a playlist of prayers, mantras and guided meditations on my iPhone that I can pull out when I have an irritating time of nothing (on a train, waiting around for a class to start, that sort of thing) and participate in. Someone else is guiding me, so I don’t have to think too hard, it’s great.
9. Find an easy, 1 minute thing to do, and just do that. Like, a LOT.
My favourite practice at the moment is the Inner Flame meditation: a few times an hour, I’ll close my eyes for thirty seconds or so and focus on an inner flame at my hearth chakra. I take a few big proper breaths (chronic shallow breather here) and maybe imagine the light of the flame suffusing through my aura. Then, back to work, back in the game.
The point being, it’s a tiny thing to align myself with my soul, with the spiritual part of me, when all the rest of the time I am mad hustle hustle hustle.
Sticking my head out the window every day is a good one: remembering to connect with the energy of the earth by smelling what the earth smells like that day. It only takes a minute.
I also love grounding incessantly, when I remember. Grounding is when you root your energy in the earth, get connected, and be filled up with the vibes of the earth. It makes the biggest difference to my day…. when I remember to do it!
So those are my nine pieces of advice for keeping up a spiritual practice when everything else around you is chaos. Keep calm, don’t be a dick to yourself, and make it as easy as possible for you to do juuuuuuust a little bit every day or every week.
Be cool to yourself. And be cool to eachother.
If you have a fancy idea of how to keep up a spiritual practice in the face of crazy life-ness or insane schedules, or if you are a chaos veteran and would like to share the things that kept you spiritually sane on your journey, share in the comments below and help a sister out!