When Your Spirituality is Out of Balance


Table of contents

A tarot + astrology reading

September 25th marks the new moon in Libra. ♎

Libra flows in like a breath of fresh air. After intense introspection over the last month, she comes to remind us that we can't spend all our time looking inward.

She comes in to help us regain balance.

Actual footage of my Cancer ass trying to balance my inner world

Unlike the full moon in Pisces, where we explored harmony between our conscious and unconscious mind, this new moon in Libra we'll focus on finding balance between us and the outside world.

We'll practice expanding our care and compassionate heart to think of others, not just ourselves.

If this is something you're currently working on in your own path, you'll love this post for sure. But also, if you're reading this and thinking, "Sounds good, but right now I'm really focused on fixing my own problems..." then this reading is especially, especially for you. And I can almost promise that by the time you get to the end, your perspective will have broadened, even just a teeny bit.

This is a long, juicy post full of nourishment for your soul. So grab a cuppa and light up an incense stick to set the mood, if that's your thing. And don't feel like you need to read it all in one sitting. Take it slow and allow it to digest as you go. So let's go ahead and get started...

Libra image by Andrej Zeman

Libra: The Balance between Self and Others

I totally admit that I got into spirituality as a way to soothe my wounds. After battling anxiety, which led to depression, which led to suicide ideation, I just wanted to feel hope again.

And I'm definitely not alone. Many people who find their way into spiritual or therapeutic spaces have wounds that need healing. They're in pain and they want to regain the confidence and optimism they once had in life.

But one of the biggest places where people get stuck is in the risk of becoming too self-focused. This is a hallmark of an immature spirituality – believing that the journey is only about you. That the goal is only about making yourself feel better.

As Aletheia says in this article about modern spirituality:

Certainly, it’s normal and good to learn about ourselves. It’s important to desire to better our lives. But at a certain point, our spiritual paths need to move beyond just us and our interests, and instead to others, nature, the world, and the Divine. If we’re always focusing on ourselves, our spirituality can quickly become egocentric and shallow.

To help us establish balance, Ken Wilber, a transpersonal psychologist, recognized 3 necessary roles of spirituality, as written in the Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Transpersonal Psychology:

1. Ascending

The ego ascends by connecting with a higher energy; one that makes you feel bigger than your humanness. Whether you connect with God, ancestors or the Universe, seeing yourself as more than just skin and bones is vital for our psychological growth. It provides us with invaluable hope and support because we no longer believe we have to do everything on our own.

2. Descending

The ego descends by diving deep into the mind, getting to know the unconscious parts of ourselves. We descend whenever we do any work around learning our wounds, observing our dysfunctional patterns, and befriending our fears. A spirituality that lacks the descending aspect is criticized for too much focus on only good, happy feelings, avoiding the harder parts of life.

3. Expanding

When expanding, the ego stops thinking of itself as individual and recognizes its place as part of a greater whole. You don't exist on your own, and you won't always find healing on your own. Expanding involves getting out of your head and going out into your community.

It's the act of living, not just contemplating life.

A spirituality that lacks expansion is one-sided. It makes the practitioner feel good internally, but has no impact on the people around them.

We live in a society that knows more about self-development than our ancestors, and yet the world is still falling apart at our feet. There's a massive disconnect between all the focus we're putting on ourselves versus how we're actually showing up and treating each other. Expansion seeks to bridge that gap.

Activity for Libra season: If you've been growing and changing on the inside, but you haven't yet let the people around you see it, do some work around bringing that internal transformation out into the world. Let people get to see you in all your radiant brilliance. Let them see your strength, your vulnerability, your openness, your wisdom, your gifts.

1 + 1 + 1 = 1 spiritual journey

A spiritual practice should develop along all 3 dimensions in order to move towards maturity. We're pretty good at ascending and descending, but expanding usually gets left behind for most of us, myself definitely included.

But this isn't religion where a pastor preaches "Love your neighbor" as something to check off the list of being a good Christian. This isn't about following the rules of being a good person. Fuck the rules. This is about actually living your spirituality, instead of only pulling it off the shelf whenever you have a problem that needs fixing.

And to learn how to do that, let's pull up the tarot card related to Libra...

The Card: Justice

Justice from the Light Seer's Tarot by Chris Anne

It's impossible to talk about Justice without addressing systemic inequalities. Systemic issues underpin a lot of the pain in society, and yet they're largely neglected and the individual is expected to fix themselves.

Here's an example I see a lot in society: you can't 'therapize' or 'heal' yourself out of anxiety if it's caused by something systemic like an unemployment crisis. You can't just shake off the fear of the future when you look around and everything looks like it's going to shit.

Don't get me wrong, you can (and should!) develop healthy coping tools to help you stay grounded in the situation. But the fact remains that the institutions that claim to protect you have in fact failed you. And it's an unfair burden to expect the individual to shake themselves out of a systemic problem.

Here's another example of blaming ourselves for systemic failures: We often believe that if we could just be more spiritual or more self-aware, we would have the ability to transcend above our pain. Therefore, if we're still feeling pain, it's because we're just not good enough. We're not spiritual enough. We personalize these supposed failures, believing that we just need to be better. And yet, if the world was kinder and fairer, a lot of our hurts wouldn't even be there.

Our pain is not an individual failing. It's a systemic crisis.

We're all in pain, and that's why the spiritual dimension of expansion is so important. We need to hold each other, because the people on top aren't going to do it for us – at least not in our near future. We need to develop the capacity to be caring towards each other, which starts with building the muscle to be compassionate with ourselves.

It all comes back to balance. One doesn't exist without learning how to do the other.

You can't care for others if you're worn out and broken down. You need to learn how to take care of you first. And once you truly, truly love and care for yourself, some of that will naturally spill out into the way you interact with folks around you. You can't be a true source of light without brightening up those around you. You honestly can't.

Look at the sun, minding her own business up in the middle of nowhere. And yet to be in her presence is to instantly feel her warmth, without ever needing to ask for it.

Lojong Practice

Cards from the Inner Star Oracle by Jo Isabel Klima

A really good touchpoint for this work, if you're interested in going deeper, is Buddhist lojong training. At its core, lojong is about sharing both our joy and our pain.

When you feel joy, be generous with it. Spread it around. Be like the sun, warming everyone fortunate enough to land in your path.

And when you feel pain, remind yourself that others are feeling this pain. Find love not only for yourself, but for everyone else who's in a similar situation.

Let your pain lead you closer to humanity, not isolate you from it.

Let your pain soften you. Let it cultivate compassion and empathy in your heart that you can share with others.

After the Piscean deep-dive into our inner world, we're more intimately acquainted with our wounded parts. Libra invites us to take that new knowledge and expand it outwards into the world.

Can we see beyond people's ego and learn to spot their wounded parts as well? Can we make room for empathy, even as we disagree with each other? Can we learn to see the shared pain in the world and hold each other through it? And most importantly, can we do this for others even as we maintain our own boundaries, keeping ourselves safe?

This is how you embody Libra's energy as the bringer-of-balance. This is how you take care of yourself while also taking care of others.

The Myth of Separation

Dr. Edith Eve Eger is a Holocaust survivor and psychologist who wrote her first book at 90 years old(!) detailing her childhood experience in a concentration camp. In it, she says:

“In my first weeks at Auschwitz, I learnt the rules of survival. If you can steal a piece of bread from the guards, you are a hero. But if you steal from an inmate, you are disgraced. You die. Competition and domination get you nowhere. Cooperation is the name of the game. To survive is to transcend your own needs and commit yourself to someone or something outside yourself.”

To survive is to transcend your own needs and commit yourself to something or something outside yourself. I love that line so much, I had to repeat it. It goes against so much of how we've been taught to view life, and yet it speaks to something inside of us.

Maybe survival isn't found through withdrawing from everyone else and clawing your way out of pain.

Maybe it's found in hooking yourself into something so much bigger than you – something strong enough to carry you when you can no longer walk. Something strong enough to carry all of us when we can no longer walk.

Final Words

Think of a three-legged stool, each leg representing one of Ken Wilber's spiritual dimensions. If you're great at 2 out of 3, then one leg will be shorter than the other. And your stool will be wobbly as shit. You need to develop all parts together in order to be spiritually mature.

So this month, find an area where you're underdeveloped and actively put in some work to strengthen it.

Maybe you need to spend more time descending, diving into your feelings instead of running away from them.

Maybe you need spend some more time ascending, connecting to something greater than yourself, if you feel too bogged down in the mundane.

Or maybe you need to spend more time reminding yourself that humanity is one. That you are a wave on the ocean, inextricably connected to the rest of the waters.

This is probably the longest reading I've done (and I still had to cut out a ton of paragraphs to keep it from turning into a small book!) I hope I've given you enough to mull over until we meet in October for the full moon in Aries. Till then, I wish you peace and ease.

From my soul to yours,

Terri. 🌚