By Brianna Wiest

I will be the first one to crack a joke about being ‘spiritual.’ I get why people mock it, I really do – and I never want to be so removed from the collective consciousness that I don’t understand how people perceive it as lofty and kooky (though I believe they are ultimately being shortsighted.)

With all of that said – it saved my life.

I am naturally a very nervous, scared, socially anxious, depressed, insecure and closed off person. Or at least, that’s how I was (am sometimes? Just not as extreme). I was suicidal. I was barely functioning for large portions of my life. I was so consumed by these intense, uncontrollable emotions that I had constructed my life within very tight parameters, and I couldn’t step outside of them. I’ll spare most details for now, but I was suffering.

Then I learned something, and what I learned was that what I was experiencing was a projection of myself, and it was a means to show me how I needed to grow and that everything is about growth. That is how I regained control of my life, in a heathy and positive and kind way.

What it did was made me stop blaming my circumstances. I stopped thinking complaining loudly enough would change them. I stopped waiting for someone to save me, because I learned that nobody ever would, or could.

I took control.

I gained self-awareness, which is impossible to do until you realize that what you are experiencing is a product of yourself, and I grew my emotional intelligence, which is impossible unless you see your emotions as byproducts of your experience, not the sole components of it.

It taught me that when people are judging me, it’s because I bring out something they don’t want to see – and when I’m judging them, it’s for the same reason. It taught me that I love in other people what I love in myself and I hate in them what I cannot see in myself, and through that I learned that creating self-love was literally the only way to also accept other people and healing my shit was literally the only way to stop hating them.

I learned to open my heart to love, real love, from friends and strangers and yeah, romance, because I learned to see the soul in everyone.

I learned to disengage with things that were negative and unhealthy, because feeding them is what keeps them present. I learned that the things I disliked and yet could not disengage with were signals that there was something else left to learn.

I learned objectivity. That good and bad are subjective and that nobody intends to ‘commit violence’ but do commit violence because everybody feels justified and that everything is transitory and that if you’re really lucky, you’ll have your heart smashed until it opens.

So, yeah, I practice meditation and yoga and I burn sage and cedar but those are details, accessories, to what I do, which is that I practice radical love. Even when I’m not good at it.

The truth is that I pour what I’ve learned and what I’m learning into what I’m writing, and have been for years. This is a fraction of a prelude to the whole story, but it’s the part I somehow haven’t said.

It was this weekend, writing in a tent in the middle of nowhere, that this simple, stupid little thing clicked: focusing on my heart and my spirit as opposed to my body and my brain saved my life. It helped me use the latter as tools to facilitate the former.

I have always been a little shy and embarrassed about being a “spiritual person” because I think people make fun of it but I saved myself – literally – through love, and it will probably be the most noble thing I’ll ever do.

Image: Chris Sardegna

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