Adrenaline rush? No thanks, I’m good. I don’t like rollercoasters, or skydiving, scuba diving at night, or driving super fast, or anything else that gives some an exhilarating flutter. But I am a self-proclaimed spiritual thrill seeker. My latest venture was a two week shamanic initiation in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I was psychically off kilter from the moment I got there. The quartz crystal charged mountains, the energy of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world that has been witness to over 200 million years worth of evolution, and the coming together of souls from all around the world seeking healing, understanding, and a higher purpose.
In those remarkably intense two weeks, I pulled away brittle layers of my being to uncover tender truths that had been waiting for who knows how many lifetimes to be seen, heard, and embodied. I danced like the wild goddess that I am, bonded with my shamanic brothers and sisters over warm cups of cacao, gazed at the full moon with my witchy coven, and rolled on the floor belly laughing my little heart out. After such an intensive, transformational immersion, the transition back into the ‘regular world’ has been…well, rough.
I call this transition time, spiritual jet lag. Spiritual jet lag is what sets in after you’ve been on a spiritual journey. Just like when we travel long distances and need time to get over physical jet lag, the same phenomenon occurs when our spirit has been journeying and it needs a bit of time to reacclimatize. Here are the things that I’m practicing for myself to ease myself through this spiritual jet lag:
- Sleep, sleep, sleep
After a spiritual journey, you’re all kinds of tired! For the first week to 10 days after I transition back, I not only need about 8-9 hours of sleep every night, but a long nap in the middle of the day too. The dream time is where so much of our experiences are consolidated; it’s where all the pieces have a chance to fall into place and lasting change sets in. Spiritual journeys are also incredibly physically taxing and you need all this rest to make sure that you don’t fall ill.
- Be a flexitarian
Normally I practice a vegan lifestyle because that’s what my physical body prefers, but I get very specific cravings during intense spiritual work and so I practice flexitarianism, which is simply eating what your body is telling you to eat. I trust my body to tell me what it needs so instead of getting stuck into a strict mindset of what I’m supposed to be eating and not, I let my body lead me where it needs to go. Since returning home, that’s meant that I’m still mostly vegan, but I’ve also had Top Ramen Oriental Flavor (yup, the $0.33 packets of cheap and amazingly delicious noodles!) and tuna steaks a couple of times. Oh, and ridiculous amounts of dark chocolate too!
- Hibernate if you need to
This has been one of the harder ones for me to navigate. Hibernating means not immediately jumping back into your social world, but easing yourself in as slowly as you need to. This can be really hard because your people want to hear about all that you just experienced and they’ve probably missed you. But this can be very overwhelming, especially because after you’ve gone through an intense spiritual initiation (or multiple initiations), it takes months to fully ‘make sense’ of what your experience was, and talking about it prematurely can prolong this process in an prickly way. My tribe knows that I need a couple of weeks right after a journey to collect myself before I’m ready to poke my head out a bit and their respect of that just reaffirms why I call them my tribe.
Working on yourself is a bloody grueling process and we need healthy doses of laughter and fun throughout! Laughter in and of itself is medicine and no matter what point in life, we can always use more of it. Watch a funny movie, play a silly game with someone, have a dress up (or dress down) party, spend time with a little kid in your life, or check out some giggle worthy accounts on Instagram (yoga memes and cat videos get me every time man!).
- Feed yourself with spirituality
If you’ve just been on a journey, your soul was being fed a heavy diet of deep spirituality. Once you transition to the usual, you could go into spiritual starvation mode if your life isn’t already set up to nourish you in that way. I always have a list of books, youtube videos, and podcasts to read, watch, and listen to. A beloved teacher of mine once said that we have to spiritually feed ourselves with soulfully nutritional things all day long because there’s so much soul junk food out there flying around, and knowing that early on gave me the chance to create a framework in life that would always keep me fed right.
- Get creative
Deep introspective work can also get your creative juices flowing again. As children, every single one of us were creative in the most delicious of ways. We did all kinds of things without worrying about what others had to say about it and whether or not we were even “good” at it. But as we got older, we became more constricted, cutting ourselves off from this creative well-spring. For me, as I grew older and entered deeper into the trenches of academia, I valued my intellect over every other part of me. Exploring my shamanic aspects has gotten me back in touch with my love of making things; painting, sculpting, crafting, foraging for materials, and using all of my senses to bring something new to life.
- Keep in touch with your spiritual journeyers
While everyone in your life wants to know about and understand what experiences you’ve had during your spiritual journey, your fellow spiritual journeyers are the ones that can hold the biggest understanding of it because they went through it with you. Keeping in touch with them as all of you transition back to the everyday eases any loneliness that might creep up and can also help you integrate your experience at an even deeper level.
- Hold off on big decisions
When your mind has been blown and your heart has been blasted open, you’ll probably feel super jazzed about changing EVERYTHING in your life as soon as you get back to it! Write down every single idea that comes to mind, but don’t act on any of it yet. Another teacher of mine said not to follow through on any big decisions for at least 6 months after a deep initiation. This isn’t to say that you would be making a bad decision, but you would be making a premature decision before you’ve had the chance to fully make sense of and absorb the journey you just went through. If after 6 months, you still feel the same conviction, then you know for sure that this is the right thing for you and not just an immediate reaction to the beautiful soul ride you were just on.
There is one caveat to this: if you’re in danger (in an abusive relationship, engaging in substance abuse, self-harming, etc.), then make those changes immediately, but get help with doing it.
- Pace yourself between initiations
Like I said, I’m a spiritual thrill seeker, so I know my tendency is to chase intense spiritual experiences with a tremendous amount of flare. I’ve had to learn the hard way that too much spiritual work back to back is remarkably counterproductive, because I wasn’t giving myself enough time between experiences to actually absorb all that I had learned. I was adding more and more to the picture without having put any of those pieces in their place. It led me to become overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed, all the things that I was trying to resolve by doing this work. Now I try to focus on one initiation at a time and give myself at least a few months in between before I take on the next one.
- Be a walker between the worlds
Linda Star Wolf, the creator of Shamanic Breathwork, lovingly reminds us that to be a healer or a shaman is to be a walker between the worlds. This means being able to do your spiritual work at the same time as holding space for others while they’re on their own journey. I’ve added to this the idea of being able to do your spiritual work at the same as doing all that’s required to be a human in this realm (making that money, taking care of yourself in all ways, enjoying life and others, planning for the future, etc.). There’s no good time to do your spiritual work; it’s messy and unpredictable and absolutely glorious. Striking that balance between spirit and human is where all the possibilities really live, and they are so very yummy!