Spiritual Malaise

Spiritual Malaise

I define spiritual malaise as a very personal type of burnout that robs us of the energy we need to pursue the lifestyle we desire. It’s not a grounded feeling or phenomenon, but rather a deep sense of uneasiness and frustration with daily life characterized by a lack of self-connection and engagement. It’s more ambiguous than depression and less fretful than anxiety. It does not declare itself or spread rapidly, it sits, like smog, degrading the oxygen around it. In one sense it’s the malaise of the modern age. With so many daily distractions, from cell phones to job competition, to family and relationship demands, we barely have enough time to consider the things that make life worthwhile.

Adding to this malaise is the current governmental and geopolitical climate. At a time when anxiety is high and politics are at an all-time low, it’s hard not to feel the grass that was once greener has turned brown with pessimism. If you listen to the pundits you can get a sense of what we’re faced with daily; ecological destruction is at our doorstep, we’re ten years behind having any chance of combatting global warming, tweets are the undoing of American democracy, Russian hacks will certainly “rig” the next election and if you’re not anxious enough just wait until they test your drinking water. No wonder anxiety disorders are on the rise. To ward off the forces of destruction we go to yoga, take a mindfulness class, download headspace, get back to nature and squeeze as much gluten as we can out of our diet to stay ahead of the shit storm that awaits us. Yet we cannot get away from what ails us. We can’t yoga it out of us, we can’t sit quietly until it dissipates and we can’t find spiritual renewal in a book (though it never hurts to try). These pursuits are most beneficial when we use them to clear our mind, set our intention and form a better connection with ourselves. If only seen as activities that provide moments of temporary relief in our hectic day then our attempts to counteract the negative forces around us can actually be a spiritual escape as much as a solution.

This all sounds so dour, doesn’t it? That’s why a spiritual perspective is important. We have to believe that what we’re doing in our life is meaningful, no matter the external forces. We are our own barometer of what is good and bad for us. We don’t have to make a difference in the world to make a difference in our own lives. In fact, some say that a personal difference can make a larger difference by being additive to the whole. That’s why the antidote to spiritual malaise isn’t necessarily bold action; it’s a more subtle consideration of the things that we are avoiding. It’s a subtle solution to a subtle problem with a big payoff. We must look the things that we feel are beyond the scope of our power squarely in the eye and say that it’s unacceptable. We can’t be lazy about it because spiritual malaise feeds on inactivity and resignation. The less we do the less we want to do. Even a small gesture of honesty and action can combat spiritual malaise.

We all know what we’re avoiding. For instance, if your relationship is suffering then go to therapy rather than fighting until you reach exhaustion. If you’re unhappy at work then go on job interviews. It will open up other possibilities for you even if the timing to change jobs isn’t just right. If you’re bored then do something that you’ve been putting off. If you’re angry about the political system then volunteer for your favorite candidate, either locally or globally. In other words, do something. Not something someone else tells you to do but something that comes from your own inner voice. That’s where your vital connection to Self resides. That’s your spiritual connection. Spiritual malaise comes from not listening to your inner voice. Take a moment to identify “the things” you need to do and take action, one small step at a time. At the end of the day the solution is not complex, it simply lies within.

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13 Comments
  1. Fran Pearce says:

    This touched the core of where it hurts for me. Timely, thoughtful, and helpful.

  2. Susan Sions says:

    Thank you so very much for your spot on advice.

  3. Bill Tenuto says:

    Enlightenment.

  4. I knew u in San Diego. You are very insightful. I enjoy your writing. It makes me think.

  5. Larry says:

    Thanks, Bill. Hope you’re well…

  6. Carol Elias says:

    Great timing. Thank you for your endeavors.

  7. Jenay Fairchild says:

    Hi Larry, Inspirational and Motivating!

    Your Photos are Beautiful!!!

    Thank you

  8. Reuben Sorensen says:

    Yes we can get carried away from being able to align ourselves with our inner Self by various outer distractions which pull us in a different direction, and the energy that can overcome this toxicity and spiritual malaise comes from within us, but when we follow our inner voice(s) we need to recognize that there is more than just one. And that they are often pulling in different directions themselves. It’s only when we are able to harmonize these various autonomous voices, somewhat like a conductor of an orchestra, that the changes we want to make can happen. A conductor knows the sounds that all the various instruments want to make and doesn’t play the music on just one of them, but recognizes the difference between the 1st violin and the second, the horns, the percussion, etc. and sees where they all fit. But who IS the conductor? It’s the organizing principle in the psyche. We need to contact it so we can balance and take care of our energy –our spirit. Just my take on your spot on article.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks for adding your informed voice to my post. I appreciate your comment and your focus on centrality and subtleties of the conductor.

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