WARNING: embarking on the spiritual path will cause feelings of loneliness and isolation.
One thing no one warns us about as we embark on the path of self-discovery is this: The journey often involves leaving people behind. People we are close to. People that we love.
Your family doesn’t understand why you’re not eating the processed foods that you once devoured, and why mindlessly watching sports or being on your phone after a holiday meal no longer feels like ‘quality time’. Meanwhile, your friends don’t understand why the ‘new you’ prefers kale and kombucha to a beer and burger. They wonder why you swear off the energy-suck of technology for days on end, and why everything that comes out of your mouth suddenly sounds so embarrassingly raw, earnest or preachy. The things that used to be fun (mosh pits, clubbing, Burning Man, getting mind-numbingly wasted) give way to yoga, sitting in silence and radical sobriety. Granted, some of this simply comes with age and maturity, but the ‘seekers’ tend to get there faster (and, in my case, with much more self-righteousness).
As we get closer to discovering our ‘truth’ and our connection to the divine, we initially become untethered from the physical world and feel like we’re floating in the ether. Alone. Eventually, we come to understand that we are never alone, but that esoteric knowledge doesn’t always buffer the loneliness we feel in the physical world reality, nor does it make up for the fact that keeping company with our once favorite companions now feels empty and unfullfiling.
Personally, I’ve found the problem with any kind of accelerated growth is that everything feels either deeply meaningful or supremely meaningless. When on this trip, we start to see things from a totally different elevation, thus small talk and menial chit chat seems more banal than ever. We also see clearly the bombastic actions of small yet powerful men (yes Trump, I’m talking about you) as nothing more than the egoistic play of greedy, overgrown children. Suffering, put into a spiritual context, takes on new meaning as well… And anyone who doesn’t understand our new vantage point seems to be living on a different planet. Or maybe we’re the ones who have shifted into an alternate dimension, since everyone is now accusing us of being the ones who are ‘out there’.
We also get a bit of the preacher complex and feel it’s our duty to spread the gospel. We begin extolling the virtues of meditation (or, in my case, plant medicine) to anyone who’ll listen. The problem is, everyone we truly care about is oblivious and completely indifferent to the seismic shift happening within us. Eventually, we give up and spend most of our time with the like-minded folks who we know are onboard with our way of thinking. But preaching to the choir soon creates its own sense of frustration and isolation, so we simply retreat into ourselves; which, according to all the spiritual texts, is where we should’ve been looking for connection all along.
Once we learn to connect to ourselves, the process deepens us and teaches us to see everyone’s ‘essence’ instead of judging them for not being ‘on our level’. (Yes, I know how douchey and hippier-than-thou this sounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true) This is when coming back into physical world reality is much less painful, though we’re still unable to reconnect with the people that we’ve since outgrown.
When missing the closeness I once shared with now distant friends, I remember this adage:
‘People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime’
And here is the good news: the people who were meant to walk beside us throughout this lifetime will catch up. Eventually. And in their own good time. (hint: you don’t need to push them, though a gentle nudge once in a while is ok). Heck, some people will even surpass us, depending on their own growth trajectory and/or karma. And those friends that came into our lives for a reason or a season, well, they can still be honored, loved and appreciated… from afar.
And the second bit of good news is this: we will come back down to Earth. Or, rather, we will learn how to multi-task and keep one foot planted on terra firma as we continue to commune with the divine in the ethereal realms. Living in the physical world will become more of a ‘moving mediation’ and our sense of humor will return— often enhanced— now that we’ve come to understand the cosmic joke on a whole other level.
The only bit of bad news is that there is no going back. So, if this experience resonates with something that you’ve been through or are going through now, it’s time to pull up your big girl/boy pants and travel as far into the ether as you need to, knowing that you will return to find your equilibrium – and your people… Eventually.