In my perfect spiritual life I rise at dawn and do sun salutations silhouetted against a dreamy sunrise sky. I breakfast on super-food smoothie bowls scattered with delicate edible flowers. I arrange crystals in a pastel rainbow as I gaze wistfully into the distance. I meditate on a Conran sofa wearing head to toe Lululemon.
Except I don’t. But you probably already guessed that.
When a perfect storm of stressful life events (career burnout, a reluctant relocation, a death in the family) sent my life into anxious free fall a few years ago, all I could think about was escape. I wanted to run away. I wanted to get away from it all. I wanted to book a one-way ticket somewhere sun-drenched and embark on an Eat Pray Love-style quest for inner peace.
I wanted to teleport to paradise. As I scrolled through my phone in a mindless search for answers it felt like my Instagram feed was already there, torturing me one zenned-out spiritual dream post at a time. A dream that appeared to effortless, aesthetically pleasing, and totally unencumbered by work, deadlines, childcare, or mountains of laundry festering on the bathroom floor.
We all know Instagram isn’t real life, right? And we also know that it's hard to remind yourself of that when your mind is halfway through a comparison spiral. My spiral was on a high-speed path to nowhere when I stumbled upon an old tarot deck (one I’d used in my teens but hadn’t touched for years) in a dust-covered moving box and made a life-changing decision.
I was never going to be one of those perfect Instagram yogis. And my chaotic, busy life was a long way from calm. But perhaps there was a way I could edge my existence closer to the spiritual ideal I envied so much? Perhaps there was a way I could find inner peace without jetting off on a year-long sabbatical or spending money I didn’t have on fancy retreats? Perhaps I could find a way to feel better, live better, and change my outlook despite the pressures of life in our always-on world?
Finding those cards felt like the right kind of light-bulb moment reminder that there’s magic in the world if you look for it – so I decided to take the hint. I hatched a plan to embark on a year-long mystical adventure (exploring a different spiritual practice each month), in a bid to make my life feel magical again right where I already was.
That plan eventually became a book: A Year of Mystical Thinking: Make Life Feel Magical Again. And you know what? It worked.
I squeezed yoga sessions into hectic work days and learnt how to harness the power of the moon. I found ways to turn everyday routines into magical rituals until even boiling the kettle began to feel like a spiritual practice. I swapped stress for spirit guides and overwhelm for oracle cards. I spent a lot of time lying in the bath. I meditated on second-hand Ikea wearing past-its-best Topshop.
I posted no perfect yoga poses on Instagram. I stopped being cynical about crystals and had a reiki treatment in a garden shed. I bumped into Howard Donald at a sound bath and joined a hex on Donald Trump.
I slowed down, I tuned in, and I actually liked what I found there. I discovered new comfort in old wisdom and turned my life around. I put myself back together and I made life feel magical again – one low-key, imperfect mystical adventure at a time.
And because I did it, I know you can too. Even if you don’t have much time on your hands; or cash at your disposal; or any desire to set foot on a yoga mat. Here are my top tips for embracing a more spiritual life (without all the Insta-BS):
Attune to the moon
One of the easiest ways to make life feel magical again is to get in tune with the moon – an easy night-sky reminder that life works in cycles and we can’t always be shiny and bright. Use the power of the dark new moon for setting intentions and the glow of the full moon for manifestation and/or letting go of anything that’s no longer working for you.
Try a sound bath
If your experience of meditation is best described as ‘been there, done that, got distracted’ we’re starting on the same page here! But have you ever tried a crystal sound bath? Think dreamy aural soundscapes, instant relaxation, and the easiest fast-track to a meditative state I've ever experienced.
Make a vision board
Working towards a dream is easier with a visual reminder on hand and all you need to make one is a stack of old mags and a Pritt Stick. Devote an hour to creating a collage that represents your hopes for the future and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day for inspiration.
Celebrate the seasons
Forget hot girl summer and Christmas stress, the best seasonal celebrations are low-key, high vibe, and seriously chilled out. Celebrate the changing seasons with mulled cider on the autumn equinox, flickering candles on the winter solstice, flower crowns on the spring equinox or glasses clinked at sunrise on the summer solstice. No festive FOMO required.
Find magic in the mundane
Turn things you do every day into meaningful rituals by upping the magic factor a notch or two. Stir intentions for the day into your morning coffee, use visualisation to turn a piece of jewellery into a lucky talisman, or throw bad vibes out with the bath water in a stress-relieving ritual bath.
Play your cards right
Tarot cards might look complicated but with a bit of practice (and a lot of intuition) anyone can learn to read them. Getting to grips with oracle cards – tarot’s easy, breezy little sister – is even easier. Buy a deck you connect with and become your own reader by pulling a card every morning for guidance.
Bag yourself a rainbow of different candles (ordinary dinner candles or even cake candles work perfectly) and try connecting with some colour magic. Burn black candles for protection, white for serenity, red for passion, orange for creativity, yellow for happiness, green for money, blue for truth, pink for love, and silver for feminine power.
Keep it real
There’s no right or wrong way to live a spiritual life (even those perfect Instagram accounts have real, flawed, ordinary humans behind the scenes!) and what resonates with one person might not with another. Use your own intuition, find your own power, and connect with practices that feel right for you.
Look outside yourself too
Seeking inner peace can involve rather a lot of navel-gazing (I should know, I did a whole year of it!) and as important as it is to look within, making sure you keep checking in with the wider world matters too. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about ethics, sustainability or cultural appropriation when choosing mystical products or services. And never underestimate the power of making a difference, especially if you’re already operating from a place of privilege.