Monday, June 16, 2014

Avoiding Parts of Your Spiritual Work

ocean, sea, spiritual consciousness, spiritual awakening, photography
Many of you will become very adept at certain tools and addressing certain issues within you. This is a wonderful thing. Having accepted that certain issues needed to be addressed, you found the spiritual tools to help you open, accept, embrace, and release these issues. Each time you've let go, you've found more of yourself in return, and there may even be a sense of accomplishment that is trying to grow up here--but don't pay too much attention to that.

However, we are dynamic individuals with multiple aspects. As such, we heal and expand in many ways and on multiple levels on the spiritual path. Where one tool was the elixir of life and the salve for our wounds on one level, it may be completely useless on the next. The little ego that is still hanging around like that relative that needs to go home runs in and says, "How come my meditation isn't working anymore? How come my yoga practice doesn't feel as good now?" It is easy to start to doubt yourself and think that something has gone wrong.

It may actually be the reverse.

Some things have gone very right, and you have completed certain levels of spiritual shifts within yourself. You have moved (potentially) into a new space. Where the mind needed ideas to help it let go and release old traumatic memories, the heart does not work in ideas. Nor does the body, and the tools that are needed here will take you into new places--places you may not want to go or have been avoiding. This avoidance will only redouble the pain.

Noticing Your Self-Avoidance

Ultimately the person you are trying to avoid is you. This is impossible. You knew it the minute you read the first sentence of this paragraph. Yet self-avoidance is an epidemic issue in much of the world today. Why do you think people are doing so many drugs, drinking so much, working out so much, working so long, and so forth? These are all means of self-avoidance. What people feel inside isn't feeling good, and they hope a substance, an achievement, or a relationship will make them feel better. Usually, there's a short period of respite, but then the unhappiness and pain re-emerges, potentially worse than before.

This type of avoidance happens all the time on the spiritual path. For those of you who only got into yoga to get the fun, post-yoga endorphin high feeling, you still haven't done yoga yet. It doesn't matter if you're a teacher with whatever number of hours of training, you still haven't done one yoga pose. Not one. The yoga was a means of self-avoidance, which is ironic since yoga is about getting to know yourself. For the individuals who've done this, coming back to a place of vulnerability will be key to resurrecting your yoga practice. Most spiritual tools require us to use them appropriately. Otherwise, they just become a new game of self-avoidance.

But in noticing that you are too busy trying to get a feeling or make the world feel safer to you, you are beginning to notice your self-avoidance. This is the start of being able to right the ship.

Staring Into Your Inner Darkness

Especially for those of you who have already stared into the dark parts of your soul, it may be quite humbling to suddenly be doing this again and find whole other layers of darkness that have hidden from your eyes. While I've written about the Dark Night of Soul on this blog, it isn't necessarily the worst or most intense experience to have. Because in that experience, the ego is actively resisting everything. Everything may be falling apart, but you are still running around trying to hold it together, are getting completely lost in a victim mentality, or are playing some other ego game. But you still haven't given up the game. To see more of the inner darkness, you have to consciously and actively choose to give up the games you know about before you see deeper. Then the darker and more hidden games you've been playing that you don't know about start to emerge. This is extremely humbling. It's why many of us realize as we go that we haven't made one darned decision for ourselves in our whole lives. Not even one.

Renewed Fear and Uncertainty

Where once before you felt strong in your spiritual practice, you now feel weak again. You feel like you are back to square one. You feel like you know nothing, and probably the latest parts of the unconscious ego that are now being revealed are urging you to quit this whole spiritual hooey. This happens. A lot.

If you happen to be reading this post today at one of those junctures, I can only encourage you to continue to go inwards. Do not be frightened off by this latest guard dog, but be mindful that the spiritual tools that you may now need may be completely different. The spiritual teacher who has helped you develop your mindfulness practice may be of no use to you in regards to the raw emotional power that is welling up inside of you and needs to be addressed. All these repressed emotions are about to come out, and soon you will have to discover a new or somewhat alterred spiritual practice to build the space for it. You may spend a lot of time crying in nature. You may need a community of people just to hug you. Or you may need to be completely on your own so that you don't get caught up in the emotions of others while you figure out your emotions. It can go a lot of different ways, but this is why your inner knowing is your golden thread guiding you through. This connection to your divinity and to God is always the most important tool at any stage. At no point is it not a helpful salve, but the intellectual answers you may have once sought from it will be of a little use to a heart or body spiritual shift. Intuitive emotional awareness is a whole other animal. And you should be mindful that things are all moving in their own timing. So do your best, as always, and make space for that unfolding.

Adjusting to New Unfoldings

Especially with emotional shifts, relationships in your life really get illuminated in new ways. A lot of relationships shifted in and out of my life as I came into deeper and deeper connection with my own heart. In the beauty of hindsight, I could see where many people were connecting with me, and as I've mentioned in "Embracing Spiritual Growth Through Your Karmic Relationships," most of our relationships are karmic. By this, I mean that the relationships in your life reflect different ways you need to grow and different lessons you need to learn. As you learn, those relationships naturally need to either evolve with you or complete so that you can continue on your journey. There are few things that are more painful than trying to make yourself small after expanding into a new level of consciousness just to keep people in your life. Those people who truly love you do not want you to play small anyway, and yes, you will be surprised by how few people truly love you as you are.

Thus, the unfoldings here are quite different than simply coming to a new mental understanding about relationships or about the truth of life. The truth of life is always most potent when we understand it in the here and now. As you integrate into your Truth and your Love, you understand these things more and more in the everyday here and now. Spirituality becomes less and less a set of ideas and beliefs. It truly becomes what is, but to do so means to continue to unravel the lies and illusions that are wrapped around you. You can't avoid even one inch of yourself and your spiritual work. It all must be seen and embraced.

5 Signs of Spiritual Work Avoidance

Just for fun here are a few signs that you are avoiding stuff on your spiritual path. Some of you may not have stalled; you may have come to a restful plateau. But that's a completely different feeling. In that space, nothing is particularly coming up. There is openness and rest. There may be expansion and growth, which will continue on until you hit the next set of walls. But when you've stalled, the sensations are different.

  1. You feel stuck. In this scenario, you think you don't know what you need to do (but you do). It's always good to pause and take some time away from your regular life to get perspective. Spiritual friends, community, healers, and teachers can help give you that third-party perspective and show you what you are avoiding. It may seem really obvious after you see it.
  2. You think you're done with the spiritual path. The unconscious ego is always looking for an out. Feeling complete and thinking you're done are two completely different things. The ego may also be giving itself superlatives (grandmaster of whatever--sure there are grandmasters out there, but a lot of the time, they don't give themselves those titles) and talking about how great it's spiritual tools and/or life is. The ego is always looking to claim something, which in turn hides other things.
  3. You keep actively avoiding something. There's something in your life that needs your attention. But it feels messy and uncertain, so you keep hiding out on your meditation cushion or with your chanting community. Meditation is just practice and a way to notice what is going on inside. You still have to step back outside and meet the next level of life's lessons for you.
  4. You feel like you're going in circles again. See if you can trace back the origin of this feeling. The great thing about karma is it is a circle. After awhile, you will be able to notice the loops and how you are setting them up.
  5. You are still doing things that don't feel as supportive for you because they seem safe. Safety is always the language of the ego. It will get you into more trouble than you can possibly imagine. Ironically, the stakes seem to get raised as we go, and if you stop part way on the spiritual path, you can feel really stuck in an apathetic and awful inner space where nothing feels right. You are now caught between two worlds, and you will stay in this limbo until you make a choice to commit to one.

Taking Conscious Action in the World

I've primarily been talking about the emotional space and the new layers that people often avoid there. But people do the same kind of avoidance once again around taking conscious action. Conscious action is very different than the old way that the ego has been used to acting. I spend a lot of time in sessions encouraging people to stop doing things and turn inwards. Many of my students really do want a checklist of actions that can take, but the mind has not been addressed. They do not know what they are doing. After you've addressed the mind and the heart (it isn't necessarily linear, but it can be), then it becomes time to take conscious action.

Now, you may or may not have experience with this, but it can be extraordinary how much resistance erupts to avoid doing things that matter most to someone. Where the same individual was champing at the bit to do something, now the prospect of doing something that matters to them and which comes from this deeper consciousness inside can be virtually debilitating. But once you've arrived at this point, there is nothing else but action to take. Sitting and meditating won't build the healing center you want to create. Crying out your mother and father issues won't start the renewable energy business you want. Out-of-body experiences won't help you to ask out that special someone. It's time for conscious action--the most important type of action we can ever take.

The Cycles May Renew

And yet, we are dynamic growing beings, so there may still be no end in sight. As you rest into your natural spiritual growth, it becomes like the four seasons in moderate climates. There is a time for planting seeds, a time for growth and maturation, a time for harvest, and a time for rest. It's not a big deal. There's no failure in needing time to rest. There's no need to have a harvest when you are just planting the seeds. Each season brings with it new challenges and realizations, and this is natural. The most important thing is that you continue to embrace your current experience in the now. Whatever has gone on in the past is gone, and when we have difficulty or challenges now, we know to embrace them fully so we don't store new pain and new stories. This too goes for the spiritual ego and any unconscious aspects of it. There's no need to be anyone particularly spiritual. This isn't avoidance. Rather it is acknowledgement that all things change and flow, and the ego is always shifting because you don't really need to be anyone in particular. It's much easier to be nobody, and nobody accepts everything without avoiding anything.

This lovely picture of the ocean is from my reader, Tingting. Thanks!
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