If you meditate, or do any kind of effective personal growth work, you may eventually run into some sticky territory.
Namely, you’ll have to face the darkness within you.
Personal development is not just about positivity and utopia. Eventually, if you’re doing the work, you will have to embrace the things you’ve been avoiding.
It is only by traveling through this “darkness” that you find peace and equanimity.
After publishing the above articles, I began receiving emails from people asking for further advice.
I received enough emails that I realized I had to write an article on the core things that worked for me during this time.
So here we go.
This video complements the article below. In other words, I share things in the video that are not shared in the article, and vice versa.
So, I recommend you watch the video, and then read the article.
And if you want more videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel, because I don’t post every video here on the blog.
1. Embrace and Face
Learn to sit with anxiety, fear, dread, and everything else.
Don’t run away. Instead, embrace what you’re feeling.
Do this, and you realize that no feeling, thought, or story can hurt you. The more you do this, the more peaceful you become, because you stop taking your stories so seriously.
Feel like it’s too much? Many of my clients agree with you. My advice is to sit with it for as long as you can. Even 10 seconds can be groundbreaking.
I say all this from experience. At first, I ran away from my deepest darkness. But eventually I realized that I had to welcome it. Once I did that, change began. Insights flowed.
There’s nothing wrong with distraction. Eat a pizza. Watch a movie. But do it too much and you’re running away from the door to your freedom.
When you embrace this, you gradually become invincible. You learn that you can handle your internal world, no matter what. If you run away, you reinforce the assumption that emotions and thoughts are more powerful than you are.
When your mind says that you can’t handle an emotion, don’t run away. Instead, ask yourself: “Is that true? Let’s do the opposite and see what happens.”
This is an experiment in discovering what is true, and what is not.
This is how you reclaim your temple.
And remember to be kind to yourself. Change doesn’t happen right away. You have years of patterns working against you. Tiny steps is the way. One second at a time is enough.
2. Cycles of Life
Life has seasons, just like nature.
There are times of expansion, and times of contraction.
When everything falls apart, you get to ask yourself what’s worth keeping.
You may feel like this period will never end, but it will. As all things, it will come, and it will go.
It doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the middle of the storm. This is not a time to start new ventures. It’s a time to recharge your batteries for the next cycle, the next chapter of your life.
Notice what resonates. Listen to your wisdom. What is needed in this moment?
Your mind may still live in the past, wanting to expand, but it will have to re-connect to reality. The below two tips will help with this.
3. Challenge Your Thoughts
What you think, and the way you perceive your world, is not the truth.
It’s one way of seeing the world.
Challenging your thoughts means exposing these internal narratives.
A few examples of unhelpful stories we tell ourselves:
- This is never going to stop
- I’m not good enough
- I can’t face my fears
- I need to make money to feel good
- I don’t know who I am
- Everything is meaningless
When you focus on a thought, you get to experience it.
Entertain it long enough and your thinking gets distorted. If you don’t feel good enough, you start thinking thoughts that justify this feeling. You may try to fix it. You may stop listening to your inner wisdom. You may act out of fear and anxiety.
A tool that I’ve found effective is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short. The book I used was Ten Days to Self-Esteem by David D. Burns M.D.. The title is a bit misleading, because this book is full of practical exercises to challenge the stories your mind weaves.
Another book that might be helpful is my Do What You Love: Essays on Uncovering Your Path in Life, because it focuses on the impact of our stories, fears, and thinking in general.
The most powerful tool, but perhaps most underutilized, is meditation.
Specifically, Vipassana meditation, which in Buddhist circles means insight into the true nature of reality.
The technique used is called noting, which is labeling what comes up. As you note your internal experience, you won’t get as caught up in the thoughts your mind generates.
For example, if you experience fear in your chest, you can note fear, or simply feel (short for feeling). This can be done mentally or out loud. If an image about being homeless emerges, you can note image or seeing. There is no right way of doing this, so use what works and resonates.
As you do this, you gain insight into how your experience is created. You see, you don’t just experience a feeling of meaninglessness. There may be images, thoughts, sensations, sounds, and many other perceptions working together.
And the more they mingle, the more intense the emotion becomes. But when you note and label, you see that you are not your thoughts. You can let it all pass you by like a garbage truck driving down the street.
There is a free crash course on Vipassana that I recommend. The course is by Unified Mindfulness and can be found here. (I have no affiliation with this company. It’s just a good course).
What I wanted to share in this article is that this is normal. This too shall pass.
You have an opportunity in facing your own demons.
Face them, and you will uncover a treasure of confidence, peace, and clarity.
At least, that’s what happened to me.
All the best,
P.S. If you feel overwhelmed, and especially if you have suicidal thoughts, please see a professional. They can help.