Equinox Reset – from burnout to balance

March 15, 2024

Years ago, I was on the cusp of burnout, trying to please everyone. I was a yes person. I didn’t want to upset anyone. I wanted to do as I was told to make people happy.

I reached that crisis point where something had to change, or else I would break.

Does this sound familiar? I know many people on the spiritual path struggle with the outfall of being a people-pleaser.

During this time, my inner compass led me to read books about spirituality. I didn’t know anyone who was interested in ‘this kind of thing’, so it was a solo exploration. One book in particular stands out in relation to the story I want to share today: ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma.

It’s the classic spiritual awakening tale in which a hot-shot lawyer has a major health scare brought on by his fast-paced consumer lifestyle, sells all his possessions, including his Ferrari, and upsticks to India to ‘find himself’. He went in pursuit of a fabled community of monks who lived high up in the Himalayas, and their whereabouts were unknown to anyone but the monks themselves.

Robin Sharma was hooked on a mission to find them. He trekked in the Himalayas for months, searching for them. Then, one day, finally, he came across one of the elusive monks and convinced him to take him to their village.

I recall two things about the monks' way of life. One was the sheer beauty of their homes, as they decorated the outside of each hut with arrangements of fresh flowers that took hours to compose. The other was the attention the monks paid to their bodies. Every morning, they would do an hour of strength work, using their body weight to push and pull themselves upwards, sideways and in every other way that was possible. They would skip a meal, but they would never skip this routine.

It seemed like a jolly good idea to me. I had strived to have a regular fitness regime through my adult years but always struggled to maintain one. There was always something more pressing to do, which was always work-related.

Soon after reading that book, I was made redundant from my job as a senior sustainability manager for an international construction company. It was a brutal exit, and I decided to use it as an opportunity to break away from working in corporations. Instead, I decided to set up a consulting business to advise from the outside and be in more control of my time.

Inner liberation

It worked well for me in many ways, and I enjoyed a new sense of freedom where I could attend spirituality courses that interested me. However, although I had severed the external boss telling me what to do, I realised that I had an internal boss who was far stricter and more persistent.

Over the next four years, I struggled with the same issues I had while working within the corporations. I was still seeking to please people, being a yes person and putting work above all else, including my health.

I found myself at breaking point again. At the moment when everything was coming to a crescendo, and it was unbearable, my spirit guides gave me a sign that it was finally time to close the door on that world. So, taking a deep breath and a giant leap of faith, I did. I shut down that business, that career, that way of life, that identity and walked away burning bridges as I went so there was no chance of ever going back without a lot of difficulty.

It was a scary moment but so freeing. I captured the moment in my blog, ‘When Birds Start Falling Out Of The Sky' here.

I was in a void, with a new life in front of me but no idea what it looked like. So, I journeyed to my spirit teacher to ask where I should put my focus.

We all have a spirit teacher who resides in the Upperworld. They aren’t like regular spirit guides, in that they won’t usually put their arm around you with empathy and walk alongside you through life. They are often stern, abrupt and short with their words but powerful with their advice. A single sentence can lead you on a new trajectory for the next few decades if you listen to them and follow their words.

This was my experience in that journey when I asked my spirit teacher what I should focus on. I was expecting him to tell me to study a particular line of esoteric earth spirituality that I was already interested in, like earth energies or the old indigenous ways of our land. The information I was given threw me, as my spirit teacher told me this:

‘Focus on your body, Nicola’.

Body focus

It was a curious line of study and one I wasn’t expecting. At the time, I had chronic back pain. It was so debilitating that I couldn’t sit in a chair or carry shopping bags. Every move I made was considered. I had hurt my back a few years before in a lifting incident. Coincidently, it was when I was trying to prove a point that something could be achieved through hard work that I was told couldn’t. To be specific, I damaged my back filling this skip with stone during a community building energy retrofit project.

My damaged back was painful, but when I closed the door on the corporate career, the level of pain ramped up to a whole new level. It was as if the anxiety and stress of working in that job came out all of a sudden through my weakest point, my back.

So, following the advice ‘focus on your body’, fixing my back seemed like a good place to start. Knowing I wouldn’t do it myself, I sought the help of a personal trainer and a physiotherapist.

It has been a long old journey, with oscillations of successes and relapses, but fast forward exactly ten years, and I am pain free. It has led me to train as a body therapist, transitioning to wearing barefoot shoes, and adopting a very low-carb diet.

I am still focusing on my body now. Twelve months ago, I was still struggling to nail two things: my diet and adopting a regular yoga and meditation practice. So, I used the Equinoxes to address these once and for all.

Equinox balance

The Equinoxes are two points in the wheel of the year when the solar cycle is in complete balance. At the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, the sun rises and sets exactly twelve hours apart. These are good moments to pause, reflect on what in our lives is keeping us out of balance, and make a commitment to address this.

Last Spring Equinox, I set the intention to give up sugar. It was something I had successfully achieved several years ago, but then relapsed. I used the Spring Equinox energies to address this.

This was the topic of our Mystery School shamanic journey circle that month, addressing vices with a particular focus on sugar. Jason gave up alcohol at the same time. And to my amazement, I did it! I have been sugar-free now for almost one year. This, combined with following a low-carb diet, has led me to lose three and a half stone, and my aches and pains have all disappeared.

I was struggling with one other aspect, though. When I sought advice from a nutritionist to help me with the low-carb diet and giving up sugar, she told me to adopt a daily practice of yoga and meditation. I tried and managed it for eleven days. Then, I found excuses to do things that I deemed more important. This weighed heavily on me through the summer.

So, at the Autumn Equinox I set the intention to do fifteen minutes of yoga every morning, no matter what, just for one week. I made the commitment that whatever internal chatter played out in my mind, I would override it. It was so hard! My plan was to go do my yoga practice first thing in the morning before anything else. How hard could that be? After all, it was only fifteen minutes.

What I noticed was that it was, in fact, incredibly hard to stick to because of a single mantra that was playing out in my mind constantly on a loop. This was: ‘You need to get to work, Nicola. You need to get to work’. Very occasionally this was interspersed with ‘I can’t be bothered’, but this was only when I was tired. It wasn’t that I couldn’t be bothered; it was that I had a driver in me that doing yoga and putting myself first were less important than starting work.

I pushed through that incessant internal chatter for three weeks, and then it finally quietened down. It has been six months now, and I am still doing my morning yoga. From this, I have discovered that breathwork works really well for me, so I do fifteen minutes of this now, too. Then, because I am stilling my mind first thing in the morning, I am identifying other things that are important to do and listening to that voice inside me as well. So, I have regular physio appointments and this time, unlike ten years ago, I am doing the exercises I am set each day. I have strengthened my body and fixed those problem areas that were holding me back from doing things I wanted to do, like my ankles. This has meant I can pick up trekking again, particularly climbing mountains, which I had to put down for many years because... wait for it... I didn’t focus on my body.

I have added a writing practice to my morning routine and am getting help from a writing mentor to write my next book. Again, this has been on the back burner since launching The Path to Forgotten Freedom: Healing Unresolved Ancestral Trauma. As it happens, the ancestral trauma that I have inherited and describe in my book is directly linked to my dominant internal work driver.

I have also begun ukulele lessons and vocal training so that I can belt out more than two songs when we are around the campfire on retreats. Creativity is finally taking a more prominent role in my life.

All this, from one piece of spiritual guidance: ‘focus on your body’ and a good dose of help from aligning my life with the wheel of the year.

Make this year ‘the year’

Which brings me on to this Spring Equinox, just a few days away. Perhaps you can work with these energies in a similar way?

How are you marking it? What balance do you need to address in your life? What ‘thing’ have you been aware of that you need to work on but keep on failing, or just don’t seem to get around to doing it?

My encouragement, which I want to share through this story, is to use this next turn in the wheel of the year to set your intention. Make this year the year that you nail that thing you are struggling with once and for all.

We are holding an online celebration to mark the Spring Equinox on Wednesday, March 20th. If any of this has chimed with you, then do think about coming along. Come and spend time reflecting on what you want to change in your life, and give this some space and attention to set your intention. 

Keeping in touch

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Here are some links to useful resources that are related to some of the points I mention in my blog:

  • The yoga and breath work app I use daily is Down Dog, here.
  • The best resource for learning about barefoot shoes is Anya's Reviews, here. I use the Joe Nimble walking books, here
  • The best resource I have found for a low-carb diet is Diet Doctor, here
  • My nutritionist, Sarah Flowers, works nationally and is a low carb diet specialist. Here is her website. She offers a free 15-minute consultation. 
  • We have a free course on working with the Wheel of the Year here, where you can learn about aligning your life with the natural cycles. 
  • We have a free course on seeking guidance from spirit guides through the technique of shamanic journeying here

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Natural Beauty in north Lancashire, England.

Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. Thanks for sharing. For me, as a polytheistic monastic who enjoys and has been encouraged by my Gods and spirits to do strength training although that kind of exercise is often excluded or even forbidden in some monastic traditions, it was enlivening to hear about the Himalayan monks who do their hour's strengthening exercises. I've also found being well in my body, with exercise and good nutrition is absolutely essential as the foundation for good mental health and a spiritual life. Becoming a good vessel for the inspiration of my Gods.

    1. Wow, I am amazed that in some traditions strength exercise is forbidden. Like you Sister Patience, I have found it invaluable for my health and well being. Thank you for your note here and sharing your experience 🙂

  2. Inspirational , Nicola. I just deleted loads cos it was all ‘me too’! But suffice to say my life is about to change dramatically as my employment and possibly the accommodation I get with it will disappear in the next 6-12 months so I better make some me me me plans! I need this shift! And you are an inspiration. Thank you

    1. Yes, a big transition for you Anny but my sense is that, although it must be daunting with an imminent change in both your job and home, it has come at a good time as you were finding work so stressful. I am excited at what lies on the other side for you. I am touched that you are finding inspiration from my musings 🙂 thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you Nicola your blogs are always so interesting and enlightening. I'm looking forward to the equinox very much and shall give some serious thought to my intentions. Love and blessings 💕

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