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How to detach, not escape, from the global chaos and pain

By Michal Spiegelman

One of my students feared it would be impossible for her to join the virtual Reiki program. She wasn’t sure if she could create a space—internally and externally—to attend the full-day class. Between her full-time job, young children learning from home, and a few unexpected crises, there was only a small chance that she could make it happen. “I’m a chaos coordinator,” she said when she signed on. Determined to make herself a priority by taking a day for herself, she had let her husband handle the kids, locked herself in their bedroom, and begged for quiet in the house. I checked in with her a few times throughout the class. It seemed like they had all behaved and given her space. As the day went on, it was incredible to witness her find her center and reconnect with herself. 

Her words, “I’m a chaos coordinator,” stayed with me after the class.

Aren’t we all chaos coordinators right now?

Clearly, people are stressed. We each have our personal chaos to manage on top of a collective sense of chaos in the world. If you are in the U.S., regardless of your political views, being part of such a divided nation creates a sense of chaos. The climate crisis and the pandemic add to it. Moms are tired of navigating the chaos at home. Teachers are exhausted from teaching (or at least trying to teach) virtually. Health care professionals and essential workers are exhausted physically and emotionally. Chaos is all around us. 

Are you escaping to unhealthy behaviors?

The chaotic world we live in triggers old trauma and pain for many people. Growing up, we learned to build armor around us so we didn’t have to feel the pain. We learned to escape the chaos. Turning to drugs, alcohol, food, and work are only a few of the unhealthy ways people cope. We look for something that brings us relief. Many of us end up turning to spirituality.  

Is spirituality becoming another unhealthy escape?

Years ago when I found Reiki, I was taken by the beauty and power of this spiritual practice and wholly embraced it. Learning to give Reiki was the start of deepening my spirituality. Reiki is still my primary spiritual practice today, and I share my love of the practice when I teach others to treat themselves with Reiki.

When I was new to Reiki, I expected the practice always to make me feel at peace. Most of the time it did, but I would become frustrated when it didn’t.

As I developed more as a spiritual practitioner and teacher, I learned the importance of owning and feeling my feelings, including what I once considered as “negative” emotions. So I am no longer disappointed when Reiki helps my emotions to surface. I have learned to thank my feelings—all of them, including sadness, anger, fear, and worry. Here is what I know for sure:

Spirituality does not always feel “positive.”

You might be surprised, but spirituality can become an unhealthy escape. You can fake positivity. You can even fake kindness without being aware that you are suppressing your real emotions. You push through. You power up. Your feelings are buried inside, and you think that being spiritual means being positive. No, it does not.

Living a spiritual life means finding the treasure that darkness brings to our lives. Living a spiritual life means putting down the armor and becoming vulnerable and open to connection. When you are genuinely open, you connect with a wide range of emotions: joy and love but also sadness, grief, anger, and fear.

Spirituality does not always feel “positive.”

If you have taken a class with me, you have probably heard me say that true healing sucks.

Disconnecting and escaping the pain is not a spiritual action.

Feeling the pain and embracing chaos is a spiritual action.

Are you detaching or escaping?

So if we don’t use spirituality as an escape, what do we do instead?

We stay open, sensitive, loving, and caring. We don’t numb and disconnect from the pain.

We embrace the pain.

We welcome chaos.

We hug it. We give it compassion.

Practicing spirituality helps us to connect with a power that is bigger than us. That’s how we get perspective. That’s how we receive higher guidance. And the emotional detachment happens by itself.

The other day I was upset and disappointed with myself. I messed up and responded in an unprofessional way to a question one of my students asked in class. The next day, my student called me on my unkind behavior. I thanked her and apologized. And then I took the following question to my Reiki practice: What is this incident here to teach me? I received guidance, and I recognized both the lesson and the opportunity. Part of the process was feeling disappointed in myself, and I was totally okay with that. I accepted responsibility, owned my feelings, felt them, and made sure I didn’t let them take over. This process was successful once I stepped back, detached emotionally, and got perspective.

Can you think of a time when you could lean into spirituality while feeling the pain and being okay with it?

Detaching emotionally while allowing yourself to still feel and not escape the feelings is the best thing you can do when there is chaos around you. My favorite metaphor for helping to detach is to become a lighthouse. I talk more about our role as lighthouses in one of my previous blogs you might want to read, “How to be a Lighthouse in the Midst of the Storm.” Shine on, beacon!

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2 Comments

  1. Kelsey

    Michal,
    Thank you for providing this information. I never considered this perspective. I know that sometimes, I become very much in need of peace (& quiet, also), so I’m going to try this out. 😊

    Reply
    • Michal Spiegelman

      Thank you for being open to considering a new perspective, Kelsey. Living a spiritual life means finding the treasure that darkness brings to our lives. Living a spiritual life means putting down the armor and becoming vulnerable and open to connection. When you are genuinely open, you connect with a wide range of emotions: joy and love but also sadness, grief, anger, and fear.

      Reply

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