8 Rules for an Enlightened Breakup

When it very recently became clear that my husband and I love each other, but also saw it was time to get divorced, we realized that we had a choice. We could to do it consciously, on our own terms, or we could live the conventional whirlwind of grief, despair and devastation.

Divorce and other breakups may never be “easy,” but you can eliminate a lot of the difficulty by setting rules of engagement and healthy boundaries. When each partner is operating from a place of loving, honoring and caring for the self, the possibility exists for both partners to enter the sacred space of separation—just as sacred as the marriage ritual itself. Divorce is a death, yes—but like all other deaths it is a rebirth as well. Be sure to bless each other on your separate paths, and thank each other for the necessary steps in your evolution that the many lessons of the marriage offered you. We are all students of life, and what an honor to have gotten to share the journey with a kindred spirit.

May these rules bless you along your separate paths, and protect you from unnecessary sorrow:

1. Check your mental operating system. Working from fear and worry quickly manifests a nightmare. Scan your circumstances with a gratitude filter, so you can learn and assimilate life lessons with greater ease. Come from a place of love and deep respect and the perfect storm that was the nightmare quickly dissipates.

2. Self-care is your backbone. Sleep when you feel overwhelmed and you will always wake up more capable and powerful. Calmly state your boundaries and request what you need to feel safe. Asking for support from friends is also a great act of self-care and love. Allowing yourself to receive love and support reconnects the place within you that knows how to let go and trust the flow.

3. What you focus on grows. Our neural pathways fork like trees, and if we allow ourselves to follow the wrong one, we can quickly feel scared, stuck or down a rabbit hole, at the terminal end of the wrong neural tree. Gratitude is a powerful tool to quickly jump tracks in the brain, switching neural pathways quickly to help you manifest a better vision, with less struggle. Start a running list of everything you’re grateful for. Add to it every day. While you’re doing little tasks like packing, ponder the word gratitude and its many nuances of meaning.

4. Stress is an altered state of consciousness. Just as it would be unwise to take a large dose of stimulant drugs when you are feeling upset, large doses of stress hormones actually produce the same effect inside our nervous system. If you experience insomnia, racing thoughts, tremors or any of the outward signs of stress overload, stop everything you’re doing and go take care of yourself. Check your vocal register as well—crying and talking in a high-pitched crying voice will keep you locked in hysteria. Bringing your voice back down into your chest or belly will ground you, and allow your self-expression to be better heard, better received. Breathe.

5. Exercise is your best friend. Vigorous exercise, whether power yoga, cardio workouts or weight training flush out stress hormones, effectively detoxing your system of neurotransmitters that bring about the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol are your friends when running from immediate threat in nature. Those same hormones are your biggest trap when trying to manage chronic stress.

6. S-t-r-e-t-c-h it out. Whether you crave yoga or just take a few minutes to stretch on the floor, stretching mechanically undoes the “tightly wound” syndrome in your body that keeps fight-or-flight pathways engaged. You don’t have to be a master yogi to benefit from stretching. Be gentle in your stretches and honor your limits. The beauty of a stretch comes in surrender, breathing deeply and witnessing the gradual release.

7. Strengthen Tribal Bonds. When going through divorce, our tribal instinct brings about primal fears of death, abandonment, and other traumatic states. Especially if you have past trauma issues, feeling isolated from your tribe can trigger desperation. Reconnecting with your other tribes, like church or spiritual groups, circle of old friends, people who share similar interests, you’ll remind yourself that all of humanity is your tribe.

8. Live in Namaste. As my favorite yoga teacher translates it, “I see the light in you that sees the light in me.” Whatever your favorite translation, it is a powerful practice to ground yourself with this awareness before discussing difficult issues like dividing up worldly possessions.

Divorce doesn’t have to be all darkness and death. Your own enlightenment will be a beam of light that will inspire your “ex” to do the same. Crises like death and divorce are hidden blessings for our personal growth, they prove we are so much stronger than we thought. Be good to yourself, now more than ever. Turn the word Namaste inward and you’ll find peace.

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