How the path of soul can heal spiritual burnout

Spirituality is about living life in co-creation with your Soul, but for many people, the world of spirituality becomes very far from that, creating an obsession that leads to burnout.  For many of us, too, recent lockdowns have been a time of reflection, of self-development, and of expansion into a new world – one that has had us slow down and see the true connectedness of our human nature, despite feeling so far apart for so many in isolation - and so, you’d think it would have led to a collective spiritual awakening.  Yet, for many, as we begin to emerge from lockdown, there are feelings of burnout.  There can be lots of reasons for this – it’s been a strange time – but for some, there’s a sense that they have had to somehow ‘hold everything together’ during this time, with a pressure to emerge from lockdown rejuvenated and refreshed, and as ‘better’, more spiritual human beings.  For many people, lockdown was a time of heavily loaded schedules – either with stuff that wasn’t soulful at all which led to spiritual burnout in that they weren’t able to be focused on their Soul’s magic (e.g. key workers), or on the other end of the scale, some loaded themselves with so many different spirituality workshops and webinars, and an immense number of self-help books that they spent their whole lives seeking spiritual bliss!

Strangely enough, even doing spiritual and self-help work can be depleting if it’s not undertaken consciously, with love, and in a way that aligns with soul.  We are all spiritual beings, with unique soul gifts, and to explore that is a beautiful process, but it is one that is not always as easy as it is made out, and so it’s important to approach it as gently as our Soul requires.  In this article, I’m going to explore why this is, as well as how, if not explored consciously, in alignment with Soul and the body, spirituality can actually have us in a state of burnout, rather than feeling lighter, more connected, more magical and more peaceful. I’ll also explore what rituals and essential oils can support us back into an aligned soul path towards a life of magic.

Why do we ‘spiritually burnout’?

The first thing is that often, rather than doing the work to deepen our spiritual practice, it can be tempting to approach spirituality from a more shadowy, fearful approach – for example we might operate unconsciously on a spiritual path from the fear of us not being spiritual ‘enough,’ or of not having had enough of a spiritual ‘shift’ as others, or fear of not being far enough along the spiritual path than we are.  This forcing ourselves, in very unconscious and unloving ways, to be more ‘spiritually developed’ can be very deactivating rather than activating of our natural deeper connection (which never leaves, by the way), leaving us feeling depleted rather than full.

Often, this unconscious perfectionism can leave us in a relationship of two polarities – either we get fed up of our spiritual path and abandon it completely, rejecting our innate nature of connection (which is quite easy to do in this year’s world where there’s been a lot of negativity), or we can work even harder and faster at self-development, without a particular focus, and this can lead us into burnout.  Burnout is where we can feel withdrawn, hopeless, and disconnected and doubtful about the spiritual path – and likely, ourselves.  So, if, as we emerge from lockdown back into the world you’re feeling burned out after either a lot of inner-work or not enough Soul, this could be why.  Let’s dive into how this has happened…

How do we spiritually burnout?

There are three main ways that we can begin to feel burned-out with the spiritual path, and I’ve walked this path, so this comes from personal experience.  And, of course, it’s important to presence here that trying to put spirituality into a box of words really is tricky, because it’s so individual and will be interpreted uniquely, so this is my experience – I hope it offers some service.

Trying to transcend out of your body

Firstly, there’s a huge misunderstanding along the spiritual path that we have to ‘transcend’ our human experience.  Many spiritual leaders like Mooji often teach that we are not our bodies and we are only spirit – for example, one of Mooji’s quotes says “once you know that you are not flesh and blood, that you are the eternal spirit, then nothing will trouble you.”  This paradigm or way of understanding spirituality in isolation can be quite suppressing of our human experience, which is quite a common theme on the spiritual path.  Yet, if we try and transcend our body and ego, our bodies are left without any importance and we begin to ignore their messages – ironically, then we will not hear the important signals to slow down, and we will become burned out.  Our human is important – it’s our vessel in this life.  So, this is not an invitation to transcend more, but to descend back into the body – because this is the space for our Soul to dance and life is co-created from body and spirit.  Of course, if we don’t do that, then we can burn-out further, because we are not consciously listening.  

In COVID times, of course, it can be quite appealing to transcend the body because in doing so, there’s also a really strong desire to avoid our reality – a lot of people have trodden a spiritual path to evade their experience, avoiding the grief and trauma of this last year.  This transcendence is often a huge reason for spiritual burnout – the suppression of our human experience and our unique truth; an ignoring of the body.  If your journey has taken you down this path, it’s time to welcome back your body and feel it all to release and heal.

Forcing your spirituality 

Secondly, is the opposite extreme of spirituality - we can burn out if we are operating entirely from our human.  If we only listen to our human stories and ideas of what we think we should do, we will likely push ourselves down a spiritual path that isn’t aligned with Soul (again, probably still ignoring our bodies).  If, for example, we are forcing ourselves to read the next top 10 most popular self-help books or go to meditation every morning at 5am for 3 hours, and it’s not actually aligned for us and led by our heart and Soul, this will also cause us to burn out.  Again, listening to the body - and the heart - is really important in this decision – the question is: is the spiritual development work ‘aligned’ for our soul – does it feel it is lighting us up?  Or, have we been doing what we ‘think’ is necessary to be more spiritual?  This forcing of ourselves into a spiritual path because we want to be as enlightened as our next-door neighbour is another sure route to spiritual burnout.  And again, another example of this is someone who maybe avoids the path of spirituality all together – by not listening to our hearts and souls, we can burn out very easily in today’s crazy modern world.

Operating unconsciously

A third reason for spiritual burnout is the lack of intention in your spiritual practice.  Often, in spiritual paths and the path of self-development, we walk the path unconsciously.  For example, we might unconsciously do lots of yoga with the idea of exercising, but without focusing on the real spiritual undertones and lessons that the practice offers – e.g. deeper enquiry into ourselves – for example, learning how we hold difficult poses on the mat can develop our capacity for insight into how we might deal with difficult situations off the mat.   If we don’t come into spiritual practice with a clear intention and openness to learning more about the unconscious beliefs that drive us, we aren’t really going deeply enough into the work to break through the unconscious patterns we hold in life.  For example, we might have an underlying belief of unworthiness, and this might show up in how we interact with life – but if we are meditating every day without an intention, it’s not going to change.  We need to do the work, intentionally, to illuminate the patterns we hold into consciousness, so that we can free the energy trapped in these unconscious patterns.  Doing the work without that level of depth will also lead to spiritual burnout because you’ll constantly be fighting against the belief pattern that holds you back in the darkness (which, of course, will feel energy zapping!).

Rituals to reactivate your spiritual journey

Of course, we can change all of this, with a few gorgeous rituals, supported with essential oils, so here are some suggestions for practices below.  I’d advise doing them in the order here and taking your time with them - perhaps repeating each stage a few times before moving on.

Rituals to release spiritual burnout symptoms

The first step for all of it is to treat the burn-out symptoms.  If you’re feeling fatigued, the best thing to do is stop whatever spiritual work you are in and slow down.  It’s time to really begin to listen to your Soul (which is always accessed through the body), rather than what other spiritual teachers tell you to do, or what your best friend is doing.  Discovering your own Soul path is the key to creating your own magic.   Essential oils can be really helpful in this process, as they offer some powerful rituals and ceremonies to reconnect you to what’s important, as well as having the physical properties to support your fatigue and burn-out.

Here is a good burn-out ritual:

Diffusion Reflection: Pop 2 drops of Frankincense, 3 drops Cypress and 3 drops Patchouli into water in an electrical diffuser or candle burner and sit for 10 minutes to simply reflect on your own spiritual journey so far.  From the symptoms listed above, which stand out to you as part of your own journey and relationship with walking a spiritual path?  Has it been guided by the body and Soul, or has it been one of transcending the body, forcing spirituality and operating unconsciously?  Repeat the diffusion daily for a week, without the reflection – just allow yourself to simply (and intentionally) “be,” without doing anything.

Rituals to welcome the soul back to the body

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to really welcome the Soul back to the body and reconnect with yourself and the sensations that are your guidance factor.  If you’ve been transcending your experience or ignoring your body’s signs (which if you are feeling burnt-out, I suspect you have), then this is a sure sign you need to dive back into the well of your body.  This practice is a welcoming home ceremony.

Soul-Welcoming Massage: After your first diffusion reflection, welcome your body home with a massage – pop 3 drops Rose, 2 drops Geranium and 1 drop Vetivert into 15ml Grapeseed oil and mix well.  Massage the oil over your body in a direction towards the heart, focusing really well on each individual part of the body as you gently slap each part and repeat out loud: “this is my <body part>, I welcome my Soul back.”  As you do this, you’ll begin to invite your Soul back into the body – and this is a powerful practice as you begin to notice sensation again.  It’s important you do this intentionally, with the conscious awareness of releasing your spiritual burn-out by being back in your body.  Listen to the messages that arrive as you reawaken to the sensations you’ve been ignoring – and don’t push past your edge, this is important.  Repeat daily.

Rituals to support soul leadership

If you’ve been shutting the spiritual path out because it feels a burden to you, it’s important to begin to open back up, but on your terms.  The reason you’ve been so burdened by it is because you’ve likely forced yourself into a box, rather than opening your heart to what is for you.  So, this ritual is really all about intuition and allowing your body to lead, rather than your mind – and this is an invitation in life, as well as with spiritual burnout; who we are in our spirituality is how we show up in life, too.

Intuitive Exploration with Essential Oils: The body is so clever and really does know what it needs.  Often, though, our human will come in and override its decisions, and force our body’s wisdom out the window – this is usually the main reason for burnout.  So, this exercise is to allow yourself to explore essential oils freely, by sniffing the bottles of up to 10 essential oils (or as many as you’ve got, spread over a few different categories – e.g. floral, citrus, herbal, minty, resinous, earth, woody, spicy) and noting which ones you like and dislike – and speaking out where you feel this in your body.  You might have a real dislike for Lavender, for example, and this might be felt in your chest – speak this out.  You might have a real sense of joy for Yuzu, and you might feel this in your belly – speak it out.  Reclaim your honouring of your intuition and begin to let yourself be guided by your own knowing.   Once you have three oils you really love, use 2 drops of each mixed in 15ml of Bath Oil or Shower Gel and add this to your warm bath water, and relax!  

Rituals to awaken conscious Intention

Finally, it’s important to create a ceremony to make your spirituality conscious and intentional again.  Rather than blindly following a path mapped out by anyone else, create a ceremony for New Moon, and make it your own. I’d also invite you to take this practice out in nature, along with the following potion:

Intention Spritz: Using your intuition, again select 3 oils that are for you and create a spritz blend, adding 10 drops of each into a spray bottle filled with 100ml water or hydrolat.  

If you’re feeling burned out, you require to be bathed by the wild.  On the New Moon, head out in the darkness of the night and have a wild wander in nature, under the light of the moon – taking your spritz with you.  As you walk, held by Mother Earth, allow yourself to be guided by your belly and reflect on the following:

  1. What are the beliefs that are creating my life as it is? What beliefs are holding me back from living a Soul-led, spiritual life?  What are the beliefs that lead me to burn-out?
  2. What are my Soul’s heart-led longings and what do I intend to create instead?

Whatever surfaces in the second question, use this to commit to yourself under the New Moon, letting the moon hear your intention and spritzing yourself with your potion.  Leave your potion out overnight to be bathed by the moon, and then use this ritual spray every morning as you speak out what heart-led Soul longings you’ve committed to as your new affirmation.   This helps you become more intentional with your spiritual practice.

Of course, these are just my suggestions for returning you to an alive and light feeling with your spiritual path – the deeper invitation here is to illuminate what is the best path for you – one that is aligned with your Soul, feels alive in your body and helps you consciously create a life that feels lighter.  Make it an intuitive path, aligned with your individual human uniqueness and you can’t go wrong – you’ll go from spiritual burnout to spiritual bliss in no time!

Nicole Barton
Consultant Aromatherapist

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