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Have you ever heard the expression “The darkest hour is just before dawn?”

How about “A prolonged period of cranky, disgruntled, rabidly-toxic cynism precedes grace.” Have you heard that one?

Probably not.

It’s true, though. Take it from me. The recently cranky-and-disgruntled one.

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Here’s what happened.

A few weeks ago, I had to take a test. This was not just any test. This was an oral examination to evaluate my readiness to be a Practitioner at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa. You know what they test in this exam? They test your consciousness.

How’s that for intimidating?! That’s like saying, We’re going to shine a search light on the inner recesses of your soul. You got any gunk in there, any petty thoughts or dark ideas, we’re gonna see them, buddy. We’re going to suss them out.

photo: Fiona Wen Hui C on flikr

That’s not actually how the exam goes. The Center is an amazingly loving and supportive environment, and the exam is designed to lovingly and supportively assess one’s readiness for the task of Practitioner.

Part of me knew that. The grown-up, spiritually-aligned part. Another part wasn’t so sure. Another part was just-a-wee-bit nervous. I was trying to stay on the chillaxed, mellow, no-worries side, but the testy, anything-but-mellow, all-worried side kept creeping in.

I was fretting. I wasn’t sleeping well. I developed a sty on my eye. Is there anything more attractive than a tired, fretting person with a sty on her eye?

I don’t think there is.

It all came to a head the day before the test. I was in a mood all day. And by mood, I mean mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood.

Everything sucked. Especially me. I was the suckiest of the sucky. My appearance sucked. My attitude sucked. Every idea I’d ever had sucked. It was as though a dimmer switch had been activated on every aspect of my life. Crap crap crap. Everything was crap.

photo: Bart Everson on flikr

Even as it was happening, I knew it wasn’t true. My life wasn’t really crap. I was just scared. Scared of taking the exam. Scared of being a Practitioner. My mood was a tactic to escape the task ahead of me, an attempt to prove I didn’t have the proper attitude to past the test. Though I also knew that allowing and loving the resistant parts of me is a vital part of being a Practitioner.

Regardless, I was a cranky-pants. 

For those of you who are thinking, But Z, why didn’t you just pray? I know you believe in the power of prayer. I read your blog post about it. Why didn’t you do an affirmative prayer to get yourself out of your mood? 

photo: Vinoth Chandar on flikr

To those people, I say this: Because I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. Sometimes it’s not possible to snap out of it. At least, it feels like it’s not possible. You’re stuck in the muck. You want to wallow in it. You want to pout. You want to rant and cry and soak in your own toxicity.

Or something like that.

I did meditate, though. I’m a seasoned meditator. I’ve been doing it twice a day for years, and my Cranky Day was no exception.

Right before I began my meditation, I had an idea. A tiny idea that crept in my head like a whisper.

photo: Stuti Sakhalkar on flikr

Ask for Help.

It’s always when I need it most that I forget. Forget that I can turn to Spirit to get me out of anything – any problem, any challenge, any pesky, grouchy mood.

So that’s what I did. It wasn’t a structured, intricate prayer – I wasn’t capable of that. Not in that moment. This was a simple request. A turning over of my mood to Spirit.

That’s all I did.

About two-thirds of the way through my meditation, I heard another voice. Or maybe the same one. And this is what it said:

Use me.  

I knew what it meant, the minute I heard it.  

It meant that being a Practitioner is about letting Spirit work through me, as me. All my fears and worries can come along too, they’re a part of being human. But I also get to turn my life over to Spirit, to let the Divine work Its magic in my life.

Because it’s not all about me. It’s about surrendering to the Energy and Power that’s bigger than me and letting It run the show.

I immediately felt better. A remnant of my mood remained, but it was transformed.

I took my test the next day. And I passed.

photo: Yuval Haimovits on flikr

So the next time I say, A prolonged period of cranky, disgruntled, rabidly-toxic cynism precedes grace, you’ll know what I mean. And you’ll know I’m still asking for Help. Always.

What do you do when you’re in a rut? How do you ask for Help?

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