I get to work with a lot of people, across a wide expanse of society.
From very young children to seniors and addicts to adulterers, this practice gifts me with the opportunity to come to know and understand a gigantic scope of human experience, and I love it.
To be gifted with the opportunity to connect with individuals in such a way is a huge blessing.
The interesting thing about working within such a range, however, is that no matter how different people may be, there are always incredible similarities that show up across demographic, economic, and geographic ranges. You can be a teenager in London or a retiree in Vancouver and you're still feeling some deep, archetypal and familiar human feels: you still want to be loved, to love, and to be offered the supportive system necessary for you to bring forth that magic that resides within. How you deal with this might be profoundly different, but what you're feeling is much the same.
And along with similar needs as human beings, we also all share very similar blockages, with these often taking shape as particular mythologies that prevent our spiritual and personal growth through erroneous yet bought-into beliefs.
This is an exploration of such beliefs.
This comes not just from my experience either personally or professionally, but from a blending of psychological understanding, ancient methodologies and other highly useful understandings of the human spirit. Often we can only move further in our path to wholeness if we look closely at the ways in which we are unconsciously holding ourselves back through questionable beliefs, summoning the courage to look at ourselves and the way we sell ourselves out honestly.
1. It should be easy, and fast.
This is the most widely accepted and probably the most damaging of the five beliefs I encounter repeatedly, and one of the hardest by far to shake.
We have been conditioned as a culture to believe that something--or someone--has the capacity to swoop in and make magic happen in our lives without any great effort on our behalf. We believe that 'if it's meant to be it will just flow' or 'what should be will come easy', applying these platitudes to relationships, our health, our self awareness and pretty much the entirety of our life experience.
Only in the realm of athletics (and perhaps other competitions) do people recognize the truth of the necessity of dedication and hard work, of grueling commitment despite coming up against physical limitations and mental resistance, and we make lovely motivational posters to encourage people along their path to becoming a professional athlete or stage-worthy competitor.
But when it comes to our own personal growth, we don't applaud this concept. We don't make signs to place around our homes that say 'The road to enlightenment is shitty, long, grueling and often uncomfortable on a mind-blowing level' or "Personal growth hurts". We make signs that tell us to dance in the rain and love like we've never been hurt before. Nice idea, but fairly lacking in truth.
Because the truth is, it shouldn't be easy. The movement from an unconscious mode of existence to one where we are willing and able to live consciously and create consciously in our lives should be difficult because it is through this process that we gain the insight we're looking for. We don't get to just skip to the end where it's sunny and compassionate because we would have learned nothing. The process is the golden stuff, and, in all circumstances, the harder the process and the more profound the pain, the greater the possibility for growth.
As Carl Jung said, "there is no coming to consciousness without pain". This is the pain of seeing our stuck places, those areas where we have deluded ourselves into thinking we were totally aware of ourselves and/or of other people, or where we have 'succeeded' in bolstering our fragile sense of self by creating some aspect of our ego that must now be dismantled so that we can uncover the tender, wounded self underneath and make that person our real self. This is painful. Vulnerability is painful. Truth is painful.
The spiritual path is, ultimately, painful.
The caveat is that the pain we experience is that of the death of the false self, and on the other side of this work, it is not painful. It is powerful and beautiful and holy-shit-kinda awesome, but that doesn't come just because we decide to be optimistic or eat vegan: it takes work, and that work is not easy.
2. If we're not kind and benevolent and happy and healthy all the time, something is wrong with us.
I'm reading The Conscious Parent from Shefali Tsabary right now, and she makes a very lovely point in the second chapter that I remind both my clients and myself of, inclined to perfectionism as I tend to be:
There is no end to the process of coming to consciousness, and of spiritual growth.
This means that if you are a human being on this planet, living and breathing and interacting with the world, your shit is going to get stirred up, and you are going to get sad, happy, pessimistic and triggered in countless ways during your time here. A 'spiritual person' does not live in a state of removal, sitting above the world with their buddha smile and buddha belly and having no problem with things that are going on around them. I think, quite honestly, that if this were the case and there were nothing left for you to learn here you would just spontaneously combust, and head off to other dimension where you could test out the limits of your transcendent fifth dimensional being-ness in ways not available on this planet.
This is where we come to learn, and learning means that we have to make mistakes. Sure, we make more conscious mistakes and try to increasingly limit our unconscious reactions and habits, but the point is not to not have ups and downs, or to experience the full range of human existence.
We will all (no matter how healthy) get sick, and we will all die one day. This is not a failing.
We will all (no matter how aware) get irritated and angry many days. This is not a failing.
We will all (no matter how expansive in knowledge) not know how to respond to things or understand over and over again. This is not a failing.
The only failing that we can engage in is judging our own experience for being less than what we believe a 'spiritual' person would be, and that happens only when we place trust in a myth that says that 'spiritual' people are up there, and all the rest of us are down here in the muck. The muck, once again, is where all the juice is, all the wisdom, and if we're so caught up in resisting our experience we will never gain the full beauty of it.
3. You'll get to perfect one day.
Guess what? YOU ARE ALREADY THERE, it just doesn't look like you think it should.
Enlightenment is the realization of the truth of everything, and that, in essence, is a transformative realization of the futility of resisting anything as it is, or wanting things to be different than they are.
Meaning, everything is as it should be. Perfect. This includes you.
And yet, everything is always growing and evolving, and asking for conscious direction so that it may follow in the footsteps of the universe and continually expand to greater and greater expressions of being.
So the paradox is: you will never be perfect, but you already are. (meditate on that one, ya?)
4. Nothing should ever end.
It's one thing to make ourselves miserable in our regular existences thinking that our relationships, jobs, and lives should last forever (thanks be to the great torturous myth writers of fairy-tale and Disney fame), but this tendency to want 'forever' bleeds over into our spiritual practice as well. I encounter people all over who seem to think, fairly unconsciously, that if they become totally aware and grow like mad into the person they are supposed to be that THEN they will be gifted with ever-lasting life and the most perfect, lifetime-transcending relationship. That this, in fact, is the whole point of doing the work.
Impermanence motivates us to look at how we create our misery, yes, but it can also be the motivating force for why we seek freedom so much so that we carry it with us as a target to aim for. Coming to terms with the fact that everything ends is the point, the practice. Assuming that a self actualized person is somehow awarded with the ability to go beyond such a basic rule of this plane is nothing short of torture, and motivates us in a backwards way so that we will always be slightly or significantly disappointed.
Our minds want linear, predictable and consistent experiences. Our minds want control, and the assurance that something will last forever so that we don't have to be scared of the end.
Our spirits, however, know there is no end, and there was no beginning either, and that we are big enough and more than strong enough to encounter and allow any transitions that happen along our path.
5. Enlightenment is a permanent position.
Again, a very linear idea that often comes along with the spiritual path, we often think that at some point when enlightenment happens we will have everything sorted out and we get to then just bask in the all-knowing and release.
Sure, for a minute.
And then for maybe another minute the next time, or longer than that. And then the next time for a bit. And so on.
The concept in yogic practice of reaching 'Samadhi', or all-knowing peace (aka enlightenment), never suggests that we get to be there and stay there, nor that that would be an ideal experience for anyone. The practice doesn't guarantee a final resting spot or perfect ease of self, but with each experience of enlightenment we become more familiar and connected to that reality, and less to our common state of being.
An 'enlightened' person, therefore, is not free of unenlightened behaviors, but has had one or several moments of mind-blowing ecstasy and understanding (without the help of psychedelic substances) that allows them to recognize the realities of our existence here. However, you can't live there, unless you live in a monastery or nunnery--and even that is questionable--because life may be known to be perfect and balanced, but it's still messed up and we don't get to ignore the mess. Enlightenment doesn't mean we get to 'opt out' and be done, and in many ways it's just the beginning: the place from which we begin to live from where we don't seek to 'fix' things anymore, but to align ourselves as best as we can with the process and movement that is and always has been carrying us.
so In short, spiritual and personal growth is hard, frustrating, confusing, limitless and never-ending.
Great post, right? You're welcome.
...I am available for sessions both in person and online, here to help you be pissed off and scared, empowered and aware all at the same time. And if anyone wants to trade some effective marketing tools for sessions I imagine that might be good for me..