My girlfriend says I drink too much. I feel so angry all the time, and I'm snapping at the people I love. I'm so stressed and overwhelmed, and I think I'm just doing it to myself, but I can't seem to stop. I stopped using drugs, but my life doesn't feel any better; I'm still sad all the time. I'm 35 and I can't believe I don't know how to handle this. I don't like anything in my life and I don't know how I got here. My anxiety is keeping me from being able to do my job. I can't seem to stay clean for longer than a year.
Clients come to counseling for a vast variety of reasons, but it generally boils down to "I'm not happy with this aspect of myself, and I can't seem to change it on my own." Part of the beginning of therapy is to identify the goals - the things we hope to change by engaging in this work. A lot of time we make that feel like taking a magnifying glass (or a giant-ass spotlight) to our flaws.
And then progress starts to happen, and maybe we meet our original goals - we stop drinking, we get our angry outbursts under control, we learn skills to cope with our anxiety. And, by some horrible whack-a-mole magic, we can see more problems!! When we are on a path of personal and spiritual growth, it's a "journey, not a destination" because there is no damn destination. There is no finish line to this deeper work! There will always be more room to grow. This is why it is crucial for those on this path to regularly check in on your progress, and your strengths. On a spiritual path or a path of personal growth, we have kind of signed up to look for our darkness. The world tells us to hide it away, shove it down, keep it out of sight, in the closet, repressed and unacknowledged. But for those of us who want a deeper experience of joy and love and light, we know that means we have to allow the darkness to pass through us on its way out. We heard this disclaimer, and we signed up anyway.
Once we're on the path, it can become easier to spot our issues. Like a crazed weed-pulling gardener, sometimes we don't know when to stop and rest. When we keep going after every weed we see without rest, we hurt ourselves. It is vital to our well-being that we stand up, step back, and survey the field. See the progress we've made in clearing the weeds. See and smell the flowers growing in our garden. Feel the sunshine on our faces and the mud between our toes. Taste the bounty of the harvest.
One of my favorite interfaith teachings (because Truth is Truth is Truth is Truth) is that we are already whole. There is already a light shining within us. We are already forgiven. We are already divine. However you want to phrase it - we are at our core good, and beautiful, and light, and love. And because of the world, and our culture, and the negativity-biased wiring of our brains, and the harmful choices of others, and our egos, and our own unwise choices, that goodness gets obstructed. And we think that we are dark, bad, sinful, wrong, depressed, ugly. We are none of those things. There may be some of those things within us, and that's the work! To remove the obstacles that block our light. To clear away the bullshit that hides our beauty from the world, and sometimes even from ourselves.
There is plenty that we all can do to be better, to shine brighter. But there is nothing that we have to do in order to be worthy. We are already ok. You are already light. You are already love. You are already beauty. You are already joy. You may have some work to do in clearing away the cobwebs so that you can see it, but You. Are. Already. Ok.
Tap into your light today. Sit quietly. Breathe deeply. When thoughts come, just let them pass without judgment. Your brain thinks, and that's ok. Ask to notice the light within you. Ask where it lives in your body. Try to visualize that light. Send your breath and your energy to that light, and watch it grow as you give it access to air. As you bear witness to your own light, see how it gets brighter and bigger. Continue this exercise until the light grows to fill the external boundaries of your body. And then beyond. Imagine this light shining out of you, so that you can feel it on your skin. Imagine that others can see this light, and that when they do, they more readily notice their own light within themselves.
If it is hard for you to visualize your own light, practice first visualizing the light of a beloved teacher, guru, or the God of your understanding. Use this light as your own until you can start to believe in the light within your own heart.