I have dedicated my life to being a disciple of my highest self, and I show up in service to others who strive to do the same. Through the practice of self-mastery, we honor our most precious gift, this one life. We empower ourselves to become conscious creators and leaders of our own lives and reconnect ourselves to the vast array of opportunities and possibilities that are available to us. We attune ourselves to an infinitely expansive reality that exists beyond the limits of our five senses.
Over the last few years, while learning to guide myself through intense entheogenic journeys, I developed a 5-step process that has helped me navigate not only those experiences but also challenging everyday moments. Through its simplicity, it can be whatever you need it to be, whether that is a tool to help you get through a period of stress or a supportive guide on your journey ever deeper down the rabbit hole.
Before I share the process, I’d like to step back a moment.
On Being Human
Stop the world, I want to get off.
Who would blame you if you’ve wondered lately if the world has gone mad or if perhaps you have? Everything feels a little more intense, a little more difficult, a little more uncertain. The personal and collective struggles that we are confronting these days are enough to test the sanity of even the most grounded and balanced among us.
On top of that, all of humanity is simultaneously being forced to reckon with multiple existential threats: mass-scale destruction of precious ecosystems; climate change and intensifying natural disasters; contaminants polluting and poisoning our soil, water, air, and food; a global pandemic that is sickening, killing, and dividing us; and on and on. It feels endless overwhelming.
Give yourself permission to be human.
Being human is hard. There is a lot that we have to contend with and it can easily feel like too much to bear. We then compound our suffering by not allowing ourselves to be human — to accept the fact that life is sometimes painful and messy and that whatever feelings arise because of that are normal and okay. We easily forget that it’s okay to not be okay.
If you find yourself feeling stressed and exhausted or overwhelmed, or you are simply struggling to be at peace, let yourself feel it. Your emotions will move through you more quickly and with greater ease if you simply witness them without judgment and allow them to flow freely.
There is a pervasive, harmful belief that if we aren’t happy all the time that something is wrong with us. We need to let go of that and give ourselves permission to be human. We are meant to feel everything, even the most agonizing of emotions. The deeper the sorrow and despair that we have known, the more profound the joy and bliss that we can also know.
Own your life.
You could choose to play the role of victim and blame your problems, feelings, and unrealized dreams on whoever or whatever you think is responsible. But if you did that, you would be abdicating responsibility for your life and giving away your power. Is that what you want?
When we carry a mindset of “life happens to me” instead of “life happens for me,” our thoughts, beliefs, and actions create the very reality that we bemoan. Our catabolic energy manifests a self-fulfilling prophecy of victimhood. It shows up in our daily lives when we allow our energy or mood to be fouled by the words, actions, or inactions of others or by things not going our way. We see this drama playing out on the global stage through the myriad ways in which we continually point fingers at one another, yet neglect to look inward.
“We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” —Anaïs Nin
Here is an important truth: You and you alone are responsible for how you see the world, for how you experience life, for how you show up, and for what you feel. No one else. There is no denying that a lot of bad things are happening all around us. It’s true that people throughout the world are hurting, and that hurt people hurt people. You yourself will be personally challenged throughout your life, sometimes in ways that may feel insurmountable and unbearable. Now, you can cower in the backseat and close your eyes, leaving the outcome to fate, or you can boldly get behind the wheel and accept that there is no one else in the vehicle with you.
We’re like a jar of water and dirt.
Imagine a clear, sealed jar filled with fresh water and some dirt. When the jar is disturbed the water clouds. If it’s shaken vigorously, the contents swirl into a chaotic, muddy frenzy that makes it difficult or impossible to see through. Then, if the jar is allowed to rest, the dirt settles over time and the water returns to its natural state of clarity.
When we are stressed, triggered, or unbalanced in any way, it’s akin to the jar and its contents being shaken. In that moment our awareness is temporarily impaired and we can not think clearly or see the bigger picture. We become near-sighted and tunnel-visioned in effect and our perspective is distorted.
Until we become unconsciously competent in our ability to return to calm, quiet stillness and clarity, it’s important that we intentionally and consistently practice guiding ourselves back to this grounded state. The 5-step process that I am about to share with you is one powerfully effective way to do this.
From Chaos to Clarity in 5 Steps: The Process
I’ll begin by explaining each step and will then explore the overall process through the lens of several use cases. Keep in mind that while the process is simple, it’s also layered and nuanced. I’ve refrained from writing excessively detailed explanations in order to allow room for interpretation and experimentation.
Each step consists of a word or phrase that acts as a self-directed command, intention, or reminder, depending on how you choose to apply it. Say the words to yourself in your mind, or speak them aloud to reinforce them. Embody them physically when appropriate and if it feels right. Let yourself be open and curious and make the process your own through practice and exploration.
Step 1: Stop.
Stop ruminating, worrying, reacting, acting impulsively, or whatever behavior or experience you want to halt. With the presence of mind created by the momentary disruption, you have an opportunity to choose differently.
Step 2: Slow down.
Slow down your breath, your thoughts, and your movement. By slowing down, you expand your awareness and regain perspective and clarity. Move only as quickly as allows you to maintain this state.
Step 3: Breathe.
As you remind yourself to slow down, mirror the intention in your breath. Slow, deep breathing helps your body initiate its natural relaxation and stress recovery mechanism.
Try this simple breath technique: Inhale slowly and fully for a five-count, hold your breath for five, exhale for five, and hold the exhale for five. Continue until you feel grounded. Close your eyes to deepen the effect. It takes 1 minute to perform three breath cycles.
Step 4: Be curious.
As your mind quiets down and your body relaxes, your consciousness begins to re-expand, enabling you to see and understand more. “Be curious” reminds you that so much exists beyond your field of awareness, and it invites you to curiously discover and explore those things through questions such as:
- What am I not seeing?
- What is the gift in this?
- What is the lesson in this?
- What are the opportunities here?”
- What’s most important right now?
Step 5: Remember.
While you’re feeling stuck, it’s easy to temporarily forget how you would normally think, feel, or respond when at your best. Reminding yourself of pertinent truths like the following can help you return to your center and keep you anchored there.
- There’s a lesson in this.
- I’m not seeing everything yet.
- My outer world reflects my inner world.
- I’m responsible for how I experience life and what I feel.
- I’m human. All of my feelings are natural, normal, and okay.
- What I’m experiencing is temporary, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
Putting It Into Practice
The following are common applications of the 5-step process with examples of thoughts you may employ to guide yourself through it. These are just a few of many possible ideas to inspire you. Curiously explore the steps with different situations, find what works for you, and make them your own. Remember that personal development and self-mastery don’t have to be so serious. It’s okay to have fun with this. In fact, I encourage it.
When you’re feeling triggered.
When you’re feeling triggered by what someone says or does, remember that you alone are responsible for your feelings and experience. This is an opportunity for self-discovery, healing, and growth. Practice consciously responding instead of unconsciously reacting.
- Stop. I’m feeling triggered and need a moment.
- Slow down. I feel a desire to react, but I’m going to respond instead.
- Breathe. Deep breaths. I’ve got this.
- Be curious. What’s being triggered? What do I need right now?
- Remember. Triggers show me where I still need healing.
When you’re feeling stressed.
You may feel like you’re constantly moving, chronically behind, and just trying to keep your head above water, leaving you stressed and exhausted. But stress is not inherently bad, despite how it’s commonly misportrayed. Inadequate rest and recovery is what harms our mental and physical health.
- Stop. I’m doing too much and need to completely stop, recharge, and reset.
- Slow down. This pace doesn’t work for me. I need to reassess my priorities.
- Breathe. Slooow down…
- Be curious. What am I feeling? What do I need right now?
- Remember. There’s a time to act and time to be. Balance stress with rest.
When you’re feeling anxious.
Anxiously spinning in your thoughts is not only draining but potentially debilitating. Even when the anxiety is mild, it can take a toll on you and those around you. Oftentimes it’s over something that does not actually exist outside of your own mind.
- Stop. I’m stuck in my head and it’s not serving me.
- Slow down. I need to let this go.
- Breathe. I’m okay and I’m safe.
- Be curious. What more supportive thoughts or beliefs can I choose instead?
- Remember. These feelings are temporary, and it’s okay that I’m feeling them.
When you’re being judgmental.
Judgment is a projection of your personal perspective onto something or someone. When you judge, you see a distorted, partial image, not the complete, true picture. Remember, there is always more to the story, more layers to peel back, and deeper truths to uncover. Replace judgment with curiosity to open your mind.
- Stop. I’m being judgmental. That’s not how I want to show up.
- Slow down. I need to take a step back and detach.
- Breathe. Each breath carries away some of my judgment.
- Be curious. What can I discover when I replace judgment with curiosity?
- Remember. Judging lowers my consciousness and curiosity expands it.
When you’re experiencing writing (or other creative) blocks.
As any writer will tell you, all of us, even the most successful ones, occasionally experience blocks. Sometimes the words just don’t come, and the harder you try the more stubbornly they resist. Reconnecting with stillness can entice your muse to return.
- Stop. I need to stop pushing and take a pause.
- Slow down. I’m slowing down and allowing rather than forcing.
- Breathe. Just relax. The words will come in their own time.
- Be curious. What is it that wants to be shared through me?
- Remember. Even the best writers have blocks. It’s normal and temporary.