We live in exceptional times of spiritual bounty.
Without taking any spiritual vows or undergoing a single initiation, we have at our fingertips more spiritual tools, teachings and practices than have ever been available to any group of people, at any time in human history.
And yet, despite this abundance, it has never been more difficult to come by spiritual discernment, or to move beyond the shallow promises of spiritual consumerism pervading popular culture — and commit deeply to our own unique, living path of awakening.
Encouraged by the fashions of our time, we seek spiritual sales and quick fixes. We want to know that Secret that will put us on the fast track to Enlightenment, and indulge our ego’s every whim while at it.
We may even believe that if we only become spiritual enough, we will be magically granted an exception from the realities of the human condition, become less prone to loss, pain and disappointment of a regular human life.
Led on by an amusing miscalculation, we fully expect to be saved by awakening, erroneously believing that as we begin living more spiritual lives, we will bypass the struggles of living a human one.
Ironically, as our spiritual insight increases, the opposite happens. As we mature spiritually, the gap between the spiritual and the ordinary begins to disappear — we of course continue to experience challenges, but no longer berate this human limitation.
We stop trying to be special and start showing up as we are; we stop trying to manipulate reality to be as we want, and instead deepen our intimacy with life, as it is.
As we surrender our spiritual agenda and embrace our human brokenness, paradoxically self-judgment subsides; self-improvement gives way to acceptance, certainty to mystery.
Ultimately, no matter how many books we read, workshops we attend, or peak experiences we have under our belt, spiritual growth is not a life-hack, it is not the game of acquiring more and more spiritual gifts, insights or accolades.
Rather, it is a slow, intimate, vulnerable process of unraveling, letting go and surrender that breaks us wide open. This openness is where the magic happens.
So here are five spiritual life-hacks, or rather un-hacks, for our awakening souls. Ready?
1. “The highest form of wisdom is kindness.” ~ The Talmud
A great transformation occurs when we begin to cultivate an attitude of unwavering kindness. Kindness towards even the most inconvenient parts of our selves.
It is only through the eyes of kindness that we are able to see truly, that we are able to recognize the preciousness of all shades of life and cultivate real love for self and others. By choosing kindness, we honor the most direct, and highest form of wisdom: the wisdom of the heart.
Because the heart accepts everything as it is. It knows no judgment, demands no improvement — it holds everything dear. When we give in to this radical acceptance, life recovers its innate dignity.
Release the pressure of demanding that things change, and suddenly everything is set free to move naturally in the direction of wholeness.
But true kindness is not for the faint of heart. It is a spiritual rebellion that always begins with the Self.
Turn over those tables of self-cruelty. Silence the merchants of self-improvement. Take all icons of gods and men off the walls and hang a mirror. Whatever idol of a better you that you have placed on your altar, let it break now. Let yourself come into your own Holy of Holies exactly as you are. Fall into your own arms and never let go.
Incredibly, it is only when we fully enter our own hearts and give our kindness to ourselves that it can naturally begin to flow over to all others.
When you are feeling lost, overwhelmed, angry or frustrated, whether it is shame, blame, guilt or fear that are running havoc, simply acknowledge your experience, drop the self-judgment, and no matter your species of pain, be kind.
2. “Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were only walls.” ~ Joseph Campbell
There is only one commandment — commit to your Self. Make following the voice of your Soul your sole allegiance. This is the voice of the Living Deity. Until we enter into this final covenant, we are thrust around by the winds of karma, our true purpose drowned out by the noise of split intentions.
The one commitment, the deepest devotion, our ultimate spiritual marriage turns out to be with ourselves after all. This is what is meant by stepping into our Dharma, our service in the world. To awaken and serve, we must first take the ultimate leap of faith into our own arms.
A turning point in each life comes when we begin to reorient our lives towards our true North.
Often such a time is preceded by a dark night of the soul, when everything begins to fall apart, when our stories about ourselves can no longer stand, when our plans and hopes lie shattered on the floor and our arsenals of transformational tools and spiritual ideas no longer bring us refuge.
As all we knew falls apart, we begin to listen more deeply to the still small voice within. This is how true North begins to reveal itself. Because the still small voice speaks in the language of the soul’s longing. What you most long to do is a treasure map to your Soul.
That dream, held tightly in the most secret chamber of your heart, is an echo of life’s own yearning. Right now, make a commitment to follow your bliss, and make no mistake, the doors will open. You must walk through them.
3. “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” ~ Pema Chödrön
In a world obsessed with certainty, security and personality, we spend our lives trying to hold on to what we know, what we have and who we are.
And as it plays out in the arenas of the spiritual marketplace, it might appear that entire enterprise of spiritual growth is a project of arriving at a more ideal situation. However, as our path unfolds, everything we hope to receive through our efforts actually begins to crumble away.
Every time we think we have arrived at our destination, that we have finally found a permanent refuge, the ground below us moves again and we are thrown once more out of the nest that we have built through our most sincere spiritual efforts.
And although at first we see such falling out as signs of failure, ultimately we realize that this perpetual dislocation is in fact a sign of life’s embrace.
As consciousness dawns, like Jacob wrestling with the angel, we come to be perpetually dislocated, and thus perpetually blessed. As we surrender to the dance of awakening, we stop grasping for the safety of what we know and who we are, for the insights that seem so solid and profound for a time.
And as life stretches us, our relationship with discomfort changes.
To a person observing a seed, growth might look like a disaster, with all its breaking apart and turning inside out — signaling the death of the seed. Those who know growth intimately, however, see this as the brilliant wisdom of life.
Although utterly destroyed, it is only through such breaking open that the acorn might become the oak. Discomfort, pain and difficulty often accompany too our own spiritual germination. After all, we are being planted in our own ground of being and must break open in order to grow.
In the end, everything is moving us in the direction of wholeness. In the end, we already have within us the blueprint for awakening. Trust your Buddha nature — you are already what you seek.
4. “Be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn, In that case, you should always be a unicorn.” ~ Elle Lothlorien, Alice in Wonderland
Be a unicorn. Your circle is not meant to fit into anybody else’s square peg; your circle is a wholeness without a periphery. We are typically born into rigid worlds full of rigid rules, where from the earliest of ages we are expected to be anything but who we are.
Deviating from narrow expectations is rarely safe and we learn quickly to adapt to our environments, cultural norms and social demands, numbing the pain of self-betrayal until we can no longer tell the difference between who we are and who we should be to survive and succeed.
Rightfully, we become very invested in ourselves, and build our lives around improving and protecting our hard-earned identity. Let go of that small self. Release it into wonderland.
Instead, be a unicorn. Your own wildest, most unconditioned aliveness.
Who would you be if you didn’t need to survive in the real world? If you needed nobody’s approval or acceptance? If you did not need to fit in, to stand out, to adjust yourself in any way to the outside world? What would you be doing with your life, what would you be creating?
Now, we are not implying that life is an everlasting Burning Man Festival — although going to Burning Man at least once might serve as a great lesson in becoming a unicorn.
However, the ultimate goal of the spiritual journey is in fact to burn up the false self, to stop identifying with our story and to re-member our own original face. It is the face of freedom.
You are born of stars and shall return to them. You are too vast to fit into the narrow box of existing structures, norms and expectations. You are here to birth a New Earth. What wild vision is beckoning your heart?
Let your difference light up the world. It is in absolute integrity with your own soul that you can begin to offer your unique gifts to the world. And the world will respond in kind.
5. “Hard times require furious dancing.” ~ Alice Walker
Although it seems intuitive to assume that the very point of the spiritual process is to transcend the body into some higher mystical state, in reality the most vital part of the spiritual journey is in fact becoming fully incarnated into our human lives.
Embodiment is the name of the game, beloveds, and dance is the most direct way to embody our soul. Simply put, we awaken into our bodies, not out of them. Dance will awaken your shakti, invigorate your senses, summon your soul.
It is no wonder that from time immemorial it is in coming to dance together that people celebrated, worshiped and participated in sacred ritual.
Unfortunately, in our disenchanted modern world, aside from a runaway drunken dance club, we have few opportunities to come together in community and experience the freedom and healing connection of the tribe.
Fortunately, dance is coming back with a fury. Re-awakening the world over, tribes of dancing soul-shakers have arisen in communities of conscious movement all over the planet. Be it Ecstatic Dance, Contact Improv, or 5Rhythms; be it with a friend, a dance class or with your own children.
Whatever your shape or your style, find a way to connect with other souls and come together in dance. Dancing in a chosen tribe will steal you away from helplessness, release stagnant energy, unclench the pangs of isolation and open your heart to contact as it has longed to be opened for far too long.
Especially when times get hard, get up, give in and dance. Let life dance you, and let dance be a part of your life.
Vera de Chalambert is a mystic mama, a holy misfit, a healing muse — she is a spiritual facilitator and Harvard-educated scholar of comparative religion. Vera has studied with spiritual teachers, healers and visionaries the world over, and mined for her soul at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, and Jason Shulman’s School for Nondual Healing and Awakening. She is deeply influenced by Buddhist and Kabbalistic lineages, and is a lover of the world’s great wisdom traditions. She teaches and writes about mindfulness in the modern world and the Divine Feminine. You could visit Vera on her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.