Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

5 Things You Need to Know for a More Enlightened Life

Life Lessons

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.

5 important life lessons to help you make positive personal changes + grow personally + spiritually | Life lessons to live by | Deep life lessons #lifelessons #personalgrowth #positivechange

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.

Read more:  How to Free Yourself from Unhealthy Personality Patterns

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.
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):

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





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  1. Sorry, I got distracted from the wisdom of your post by your gorgeous handwriting and the design of your pages. And that turquoise ink is my favorite color.

    Okay, now what were you saying? Oh right, life lessons.

    Of the lessons listed, the one about aging spoke most sweetly to my spirit. Making peace with my mortality (which you have written beautifully about before) allows me to live fully in the present, to be grateful for every day. As a friend of mine said on his 70th birthday when I remarked that it was a special birthday (meaning a decade milestone), “at this age every birthday is special.”

    My own most important lesson from this year so far has been more aligned with your first lesson–I realized that while I can remain somewhat detached from challenges, I was very attached to a joyful aspect in my life that suddenly was taken away. I realized that what I had been so attached to was really a story I was telling myself about the situation when in fact it wasn’t really like that at all. Had I not been so immersed in the story, I would have seen more clearly what was really going on and would have been better able to respond in a more helpful way. So I was “depending” on something external and at the same time was attached to the story I was telling myself about it. Darn. Just when I thought I had this all figured out. Ha!

    • Hello Galen!

      I always enjoyed penmanship as a child, so I have decent writing. I’m not much of an artistic. Some bullet journals have such beautiful designs on their pages.

      I’m so inspiring by how this sense of your mortality has made life very special for you. Attachment can be so subtle, and the workings of our mind so intriguing. I’m glad you found clarity at last. This is exactly why I think I will be learning until my last out breath (and beyond).

      I always love hearing from you.

  2. Love your life lessons- That ageing one is so important, so many people listen to their drs and others who think life stops at 60 or even younger for some. You are on;ly as young/old as you think and feel and we can do so much to stay young. love your Bullet journal. xxx

  3. I agree with Galen. I love your writing and your color choices in your journal. Wonderful that you have a way to process life and set the tone for the day, Sandra.

    My life lesson this past year is to pace myself and enjoy the moment. I’ve been noticing lately how the years can seem to go by so quickly, the older we get. I too have friends that are dealing with an illness, which is so hard. The lesson for me is to enjoy the moment, to savor the life that I have and to practice gratitude on a daily basis.

    • It seems like time is flying by to me too, Cathy. I love your life lesson from the past year. What a beautiful way to deeply enjoy this life. My bullet journal helps me practice gratitude daily. I’m glad you like it!

  4. I absolutely love your writing style with this post Sandra…so conversational…it felt as though you were talking to me. And the content as always is beautiful.

    I’m so happy to know that you’ve come through some of your recent life lessons with such aplomb!

    Life brings with it so any valuable lessons…a total reflection in the outer world of our inner world where we create, and the steps you share for using these lessons for more joy and growth is super cool.

    I am not this body, I am not this mind made me smile since it’s part of the meditation I do every day. Love it. 🙂

    • I’m so touched by your kind words, Elle. Thank you! It hasn’t been an easy year, but I’m feeling good at the moment. It’s all about lessons, isn’t it! With some joy thrown in too, as you suggest. 🙂 I love we’re in sync with this reminder that we are not our body! Much love to you.

  5. I’ve learned many of the same lessons over the past year. Journaling, in a variety of forms, has been powerful for me to process my emotions. I tend to bury my emotions (unknowingly) in my body which results in aches, pains and other issues. When I focus on them and understand and process the underlying emotional issues through meditation and journaling, they usually “magically” disappear.

    I’ll be turning 50 next week which is big for me. I remember reading Maya Angelou in my 30’s and 40’s thinking, “I can’t wait until I’m 50 and I finally start to understand myself and life at a deeper level so I can be happier in my core.” She’s been an inspiration for me. I’ve often wondered why we all have to follow our own paths and take so darn long to find our inner happiness.

    I’m finally learning to be content with the amazing life I have. For most of my life, I’ve strived for more, more, more at work and with achievements. At 50, I’m reminding myself of what will be the most important thing when I’m on my deathbed: the people closest to me. And that’s what I’m focusing on.

    • Dearest Paige,

      I’m so thrilled to hear how you’re processing your emotions so beautifully through journaling and that meditation has been powerful for you too. It’s a miracle that your aches and pains disappear. I’m so inspired and want to follow in your footsteps.

      Happy pre-birthday, Paige! It is kind of amazing that it takes so many decades to get to where we are and we still have emotional patterns to process! But I feel more open to this than ever before.

      You’re really getting your priorities straight. It’s encouraging to hear that contentment has arrives for you.

  6. Happy Birthday! I enjoyed reading your post.

    I especially love what you wrote here: Routine can stabilize a chaotic life and calm a chronic illness. But routine can also stultify your life.

    How true!

    Never take anything for granted. Also I very much believe that the Universe will sometimes nudge us out of our comfort zone to venture anew. It’s what I do with my clients these days too. I challenge them to shift into expansion and go on new experiences, while working through the resistances.

    I also enjoyed the message that you have for us: 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.

    Thank you!

  7. I like this one so much! That first life lesson “you can’t depend on anything external” is a doozie – and so tough and painful to learn – but once you do, life gets easier. My young adult son is learning this one now, it’s painful to watch.

    Happy Birthday to you and Paige. It’s especially a good time to break out of your routine. (any time is really!)

    I like the Bullet Journal idea. I’m going to have to try that one.

  8. These are such important and loving life lessons Sandra. I said a BIG “me too!!” when I read … “I got caught in spiritual by-passing for a good part of my adult life, without knowing it.”…well duh right 🙂
    Now though I know myself and know my patterns to work through them rather than by pass them.
    xoxo, Z~
    p.s Happy Belated Birthday love.

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