When most people start their spiritual journeys, they are oriented externally. What I mean is that they have learned from society that their "answers" are out there. Others aren't looking for something so conceptual. They're looking for experiences. So they attempt to find some external stimulus to enjoy as an "awakened," "enlightened," or simply good feeling state. Those that get a taste of a really good feeling spiritual experience are often addicted to it, and they soon compare everything to the original or the latest and greatest experience they've had while trying to replicate the experience.
In this way, many spiritual beginners are quickly lost even when some feel like they've found a new home. The home you are seeking and the connection you are craving is inside you. It's always inside you and is you.
As such, the first and most important advice I can offer to beginners is to go within.
But you should always be using this external support to better listen to your inner knowing. Now, I have a whole load of blog posts about intuition, and I really encourage you to check out the posts in the below compilation after reading this post:
Intuition: A Short Guide to Improving Your Inner Knowing
However, let me give you the short, short version of figuring out what is your intuition versus your ego. Intuition is typically:
- Without agenda (It doesn't need to be right or wrong. It doesn't try to control your actions.)
- A peaceful feeling (But it can be buried under a ton of fear.)
- Consistent (The ego will barter with you and go back and forth.)
When these three elements are present within an idea, it's more likely to be an intuition.
Building Your First Real Spiritual Practice
We live in a world where there are tons of spiritual practices now available to people thanks to the Internet, for one thing. It can lead people to create the most bizarre hodge-podge practices that you can imagine. What makes them hodge-podge is when someone is lost trying to improve themselves, get awakened, avoid bad feelings, or something else goal-oriented. Goals are always coming from the ego, and trying to do the spiritual path right is almost a sure-fire way to do it wrong. This is also because it's the ego-self that resides in the right-wrong paradigm. Without your intuition, you can create a spiritual practice that helps you to mask issues instead of revealing them. And for some of my hardcore self improvement readers, you can also do too much and in some cases cause physical and energetic collapse (Yes, this does happen, and I have some people in mind).
If you're new to listening to your inner knowing (I use this term synonymously with intuition), then I encourage you to start slowly and simply. The spiritual path is actually a very simple one. Ultimately, it's this: be here now. Most of our spiritual work revolves around where we attempt to avoid the here and now and whatever experiences that are arising that we don't like. This avoidance and control tends to make our lives very complicated. And whenever things start getting too complicated, the unconscious ego is usually at work.
If you're new to the idea of the ego (which is essentially a bunch of ideas and issues blended together to create your idea of who you are), please check out a few of my ego blog posts too:
What Every Spiritual Beginner Should Know
If there's anything that any spiritual beginner absolutely should know, it's this. Take it one breath at a time.
And then keep coming back to your breath. The breathe keeps you in the here and now. Your breath is always in the present moment. It can never be anywhere else, and you cannot wait to breathe. If you do, then you die.
The more deeply and evenly you can breathe, the more your body stays relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the more you can figure out how to handle any situation--easy or difficult. You are also less likely to hold onto pain or difficult moments that trigger you. Through your breathing, you can also learn to better understand how you get triggered and what that trigger is really all about. Because an argument with your girlfriend may seem like the cause of your upset, it is rarely the root cause of the upset feelings inside of you. A person can stop being a spiritual beginner very quickly when s/he starts making these connections and learns to use an upsetting moment to breathe into it and look at what the deeper issue is.
Learning to Go Deeper Towards Core Issues
Core issues are powerful. They're usually combinations of heart, body, mind, and spirit with multiple facets in your life. A core issue may be something like the belief of: "I am unlovable." This little idea is more than an idea because it will have influenced how a person treats their body, what types of people they engage with and don't engage with, what jobs they take on, and many more things. In this way, learning to delve into core issues is a lesson in patience. It's this paradoxical spiritual truth that we are already perfect as we are, and when we allow ourselves to simply be, we naturally move deeper into any pain or issue that we're holding onto.
This last part is where patience is needed to allow ourselves to grow. Our spiritual growth moves in its own time once we make space for it, and spiritual growth arises most powerfully when we accept ourselves as we are. That's really the most important part. Because if you don't accept yourself and are trying to fix yourself through "spirituality," then you are actually acting out the belief of "I am unlovable." Usually when people are doing this, they are looking for a spiritual teacher or guru to fix them. They are looking for a perfect soulmate to complete them. They are looking for a purpose to life or a meaning to make themselves feel better.
But the only real way to be at peace is to go towards the core issue--not to act them out and try to appease them. These nasty little dictators will never be appeased.
Selecting the Right Spiritual Teacher for You
Obviously, I'm a spiritual teacher, but I don't teach everyone. I am also not the right teacher for everyone. It also may not be time for you to work with a spiritual teacher such as myself. That's why it's always important to be cultivating that inner knowing inside you. Your intuition is your divinity that already teaches and guides you. Your intuition also will help you find the best spiritual teacher for you.
As you grow, you may change spiritual teachers since many spiritual teachers are quite limited in the breadth of their teaching, but I really encourage making a serious long-term commitment to one teacher after you've chosen this person. Because intuition is consistent, keep checking in with yourself about whether you should work with someone. If your "intuition" seems to be constantly changing, then you might continue searching. As I said earlier, intuition is typically very consistent. It's the ego that is busy debating things.
Also, your intuition may consistently say, "yes," while your ego is screaming, "no." This is an instance where you will simply have to take the leap of faith. The stronger your inner "yes," the more likely you have found a great spiritual teacher for you. The strength of your "yes" often drives up any fear that's on top of it, which makes the ego scream "no."
Along with that, when you do choose a teacher, trust him or her. If you've been mindful, you'll find a teacher who isn't trying to control you and who helps you become empowered on your journey. The teacher won't try to get anything from you perse, although reciprocity is important in the relationship. We live in a world that uses money as a primary support, and donations, tithing, and so forth have long been practiced to support spiritual teachers and monastics. The main thing is that the teacher is doing the work just for money.
If you have trust issues, then you're going to have to work through them with your teacher. The more you look at a trust issue, the more you may notice that this is actually a projection of your own lack of trust in yourself. So I know being at the beginning of your spiritual journey can be a little muddy and unclear. That's okay, but getting started is important. Having a spiritual teacher to help you work through the mud can be invaluable.
The Long Slow Journey
I don't want you to think that your spiritual journey is inherently slow. As I said, the journey is just being here now. The more you drop into your inner peace and love, the more you naturally journey in a direction that is most true to you.
But human beings have learned to create so many barriers to themselves that we have to face a lot of our issues first before we can simply grow. It's like if an apple seed had a self image crisis and refused to sprout. And then it tried to grow down instead of up. And then it wanted to be a pear tree instead of an apple tree. I can only image that this poor, confused fruit tree would become quite misshapen and sorry-looking. This is what we do to ourselves, and we have lots of negative feedback loops in society feeding us lies every day. These lies include you need money to be happy; you need relationships to be happy; you need meaning to be happy; you need people to like you to be happy; and so on and so forth. I encourage you to journal out the lies that you see around you and the ones you believe in. Get them out into the light where they cannot hide. It's an important step to your spiritual journey.
The point of all of this is to have patience. Don't try to get anywhere, and be patient with where you're growing. I know. It sounds conflicting, but it'll make sense in time. Give your consciousness time to adjust. A part of you knows the truth that I'm sharing, so meditate and create space with mindful breathing for that part to come up. Practice listening to what is arising inside of you, and if you do, your spiritual journey will naturally begin to unfold before you.
For those new to me, please check out my ebook to help you begin your spiritual journey: