The Spiritual Hangover

After finishing The Alchemist, I decided to continue the trend of using spiritual fiction as a self-help tool.  In an effort to find something inspiring, I took to the internet and searched for books similar in nature. I was repeatedly directed toward The Celestine Prophecy, the 1993, self-published novel by James Redfield.

I was already familiar with this book because I remember my enigmatic, larger-than-life great-uncle reading it when I was a kid. He was so moved by it that he traveled to Peru for a kind of spiritual pilgrimage that included bungee jumping and ingesting lots of hallucinogens. He also believed in a prophecy that claimed California was going to fall off the continent and sink into the Pacific Ocean. This terrified me to no end because my father and stepmother had recently moved to San Francisco, and were living in the direct path of inevitable destruction.

My great-uncle always served as a cautionary tale for me regarding veering too far off the path of “rationality”. He was hilarious, adventurous and incredibly full of life. He wore a Budweiser suit, complete with top hat and cane to my dad and stepmother’s wedding. He would drink a bit much and sing Christmas carols in a booming and unsteady pitch during our holiday gatherings. He would tell stories that consumed his audience, and generally resulted in fits of laughter around the dinner table.

And then one day he killed himself. Seemingly out of nowhere, and of his own volition, this incredible life-force was gone. Because I was still young when this happened, my memory of my uncle is spotty. It consists of a series of still images, sound-bites and small snippets of conversations overheard as I eavesdropped on my parents, strung together to form the impression of a life.

But what I always remembered clearly was his love for The Celestine Prophecy, and his seemingly nutty ideas about spirituality and the nature of reality. And without fully recognizing it, I had connected his beliefs, and that book, with his ultimate descent into madness. So I’d never read it, or even entertained the idea of reading it, until a couple of days ago.

The Celestine Prophecy is a poorly written, cheese-ball narrative, with one dimensional characters and un-engaging plotlines. But I fully understand its appeal to my great-uncle and to the millions of people it has reached. With that, it has lent an important insight to me: that I need to start really dealing with the pain and loss of my past if I am going to discover who I really am.

So much of the self-help journey that I’ve documented here has been cheeky, or superficial. It has also focused almost solely on positivity, and moving forward in love and light. But through reading this book I am beginning to acknowledge those nasty limiting beliefs and painful experiences that I must confront and release if I am to make any real progress.

Last night I meditated on the subject of loss in the context of my life, and today I am fully exhausted. My body aches, my stomach feels wonky and I have been on the verge of tears all day. In other words, I am spiritually hungover. But while the physical reaction is interesting, what is more astonishing is the sense of peace and calm that I feel, simultaneously. It is as if I am feeling more pain, but suffering less, because I understand that it is transitory.

I realize now that, for me at least, this is going to be a brutal, but essential part of doing this work. I have been avoiding it for so long, because I wanted to believe I could just move on from everything-that it didn’t really affect me. I wanted to believe that I was entering into a new phase of my life, where the past meant nothing. And maybe that is still true. Maybe the past is insignificant, or doesn’t even exist, or is only what we make of it. Whatever the case may be, it feels very real to me… And I have the hangover to prove it.


2 thoughts on “The Spiritual Hangover

  1. Good on ya. Getting real is messy, and messy is good. “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything to avoid it, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Jung. Which is similar to the Buddhist practice of inviting your pain/emotions to tea and sitting and welcoming them. Thank you for sharing. This was my favorite piece yet. 🙂


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