I like to track my life lessons from birthday to birthday, the time it takes the sun to go through the entire zodiac and return to the position of my natal sun, astrologically speaking, rather than by the calendar year.
Astrologically, things tend to shift around your birthday each year, when you may become aware of new directions, opportunities, or challenges. In fact, you may notice the change up to three months in advance of your birthday, or even as late as three months after your birthday, depending on whether you’ve processed the themes, issues, and life lessons from the previous year.
I make sure to set aside time around my birthday, which I celebrated earlier this week, to review my previous year, gather my most important life lessons, and set wishes for the coming year. Here are some of the most important things I learned during my last year-long whirl around the sun.
Life Lesson 1: You Can’t Depend On Anything External
Almost all of us seek security. We want our partners, our family, and our spiritual guides to be reliable. We want our job, our home, and our finances to be secure. We want a happy ending to arrive now and remain for the rest of our lives.
But until we reach a higher level of realization, things tend to come together, fall apart, come together again, fall apart again. Ironically, we’re usually shocked, at least for a time, when they fall apart, even though it happens to us again and again.
So many aspects of my life exploded this past year. And yes, initially I felt shocked too. I resisted. I cried. I screamed. But I also found my strength, my clarity, and my power, far sooner than in the past. In the midst of the emotional chaos, I did my best to align with what’s true for me, in ways that would have been difficult before.
While I appreciate the externals of my life – a kind husband, a sweet home, relative good health given a chronic illness, adorable kitties and the like – I’m reminded that externals can and often do change in a flash.
Sometimes radical environmental events like Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Harvey, or the Mexico earthquake pull the rug out from under your feet. Other times, personal events conspire against you: a job termination, a car accident, or a personal betrayal, for example.
Appreciate the externals, but don’t depend on them for your stability. Don’t naively think the good times will last forever. Instead learn to trust and rely upon your inner voice and highest self. Learn from your life lessons. Cultivate your confidence, strength of character, and connection to your true self every single day, even when the sky is blue, the flowers are blooming, and the bliss seems like it will never end. Because things will inevitably change again.
Whatever happens externally, your inner strength and wisdom will pull you through.
Life Lesson 2: You Have to Do Your Emotional Homework
Your emotional patterns and negative cognitions run your life and make you act in ways that don’t bring you happiness, unless you take charge. You also won’t progress on the spiritual path as long as you’re stuck in hurts and resentments and respond negatively to the smallest provocation.
Some people use meditation and seemingly higher states of consciousness to avoid dealing with painful feelings, childhood wounds, and developmental gaps, a tendency known as spiritual by-passing. Spiritual by-passing might feel good for a while, even a long while. But eventually it will harm you more than help you, by keeping you stuck on a feel-good treadmill, ensuring you go nowhere on your spiritual path.
I got caught in spiritual by-passing for a good part of my adult life, without knowing it. Working on my emotional patterns during the last few years has made me stronger, emotionally and spiritually. The past year has shown me I need to go deeper into emotionally healing if I want to progress on my spiritual path.
Some things that help me with emotional healing: Somatic Experiencing, Neuro-Affective Relational Model, mindfulness and awareness, body awareness, journaling (try these 52 self-discovery questions), as well as the Buddhist teachings.
Life Lesson 3: Break Out of Your Routine
My nervous system burned out due to unresolved life-long trauma. I retreated at the end of 2009 on this beautiful Big Island. I created an oasis to protect myself from further injuries and hopefully heal from the ones I had incurred.
I needed to do that for a while, but I reached a point where self-protection and self-isolation became an unhealthy habit.
This past year, I gradually broke out of my safe routine. I went to the mainland to receive spiritual teachings, participated in a Women Within group for psycho-spiritual development, and went to a day-long conference on developmental trauma. These activities enriched me and provided a different type of healing. I discovered I can do more than I thought I could.
Routine can stabilize a chaotic life and calm a chronic illness. But routine can also stultify your life.
If that’s the case for you, it might be time to shake things up. If you’re not ready to make a radical change to your routine, consider small ways you can embrace new and different. You might find the little changes refreshing and healing, like I have.
Life Lesson 4: The Most Important Message of Aging
I’m grateful to know mature women who say life just gets better as they age. A big part of me that feels that way too because I try to make the most out of my life lessons.
At the same time, I witnessed many friends and family decline due to aging or terminal illness this year. As we age, bodies fall apart in ways that can never be healed, only accepted.
Instead of closing my eyes to it, I want the process of aging to remind than I’m not this body, I’m not this mind. I am spirit and will never die. I want it to prompt me to focus less on this transitory material world and more on the spiritual qualities that matter most, both now and after I die. I want it to inspire me to kindness, grace, and tolerance, aware we’re all the same in our vulnerabilities. I want it to impel me to use my time well, as I watch it slip through the hourglass at what feels like a rapidly increasing speed.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still take the most important message of aging to heart and get your priorities straight.
Life Lesson 5: It Take Times to Process Your Emotions and Experiences
Wouldn’t it be nice to love fully, forgive easily, and relax into whatever occurs in life?
We want to love, but we hurt others instead. We want to forgive, but we stubbornly hold onto resentments. We want to relax, but anxiety encroaches into our days.
You can’t force yourself to be different right away. It takes time, attention, and courage to heal our deeply embedded patterns. But if you create the right conditions, you’ll see steady growth. It may be slow, but it will build up and you’ll probably take a few leaps, now and then, too.
A few months ago, Esmé Wang shared her style of Productivity Journaling, which goes way beyond tasks, accomplishments, and efficiency. Her method helps you set the emotional and spiritual tone for the day. I immediately adapted her approach and have employed it daily since July. I use a page a day in my Bullet Journal.
After a brief reflection, I write down:
- An expression of gratitude
- A prayer addressed to the “divine mystery” to request help for myself and/or others, “Divine Mystery, please help me….”
- An intention for the day
- The guidance received from my daily 3-card tarot reading
- A word or a phrase to guide my day like “find your center” or “soften” or “know your own worth”
- My to-do list
- My habit trackers, which currently includes my mood, my vitamins, my water intake and my weight.
I look forward to the 15 – 20 minutes I spend each morning setting up my day in an intentional way. Most importantly, this form of “productivity journal” helps me to grow emotionally and spiritually. You can learn more and download a free ebook on productivity journaling when you sign up to Esme’s mailing list.
I also capture my life lessons in a monthly review, so it’s easy to gather the main ones at the end of my birthday year.
These are my favorite bullet journal supplies (includes a few affiliate links):
- Blank Journal: Lemome Dotted A5 (heavier paper, fewer pages) or Lechturm 1917 Dotted (elegant, more pages)
- Black, archival, non-bleed, minimal ghosting pen for writing: Sharpie Pen, Fine Point
- Color highlights and underlining: Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Pastel and Tombow Twintone Market Set, Pastel
Life Lessons Never Stop
We’re all looking for an oasis where we can peacefully rest. We need respite, for sure. Enjoy the peaceful moments when they come, and never apologize for taking care of yourself.
But the universe won’t permanently leave you alone. It wants you to “get it,” so the life lessons will keep coming until you do. I expect to be learning from life until I draw my last breath, and after that as well.
What was your most important life lesson from the last year? I would love to hear.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra