Personal Growth

Growth: Tracing Your Spiritual Journey

Man is looking at scenic view of Torres del Paine National Park
Man is looking at scenic view of Torres del Paine National Park

Everything grows in one way or another. Growth is the development or change we see in the physical universe around us. While growth is happening constantly, spring is when we usually notice it more in nature. The growth that had been resting and dormant during winter, suddenly bursts forth, as if it’s trying to make up for lost time. Some things grow and regenerate quickly like the plants which flower and seed, ready to return the next year. Others, like trees, grow more slowly, often taking many years to reach their maturity.

We as humans grow and change as we mature from babies into children and then adults. Our minds and bodies are also affected by the seasons and spring generally brings a feeling of renewal to all levels of life. We can support this with a few simple practices.

  • Take some time to clear out the old clutter, not only from your closet but also old habits or emotions, which no longer serve you. Growth needs space.
  • Take care of your body, eat a healthy diet. Growth doesn’t happen on an empty stomach.
  • Get outside, stretch, walk, enjoy nature. Growth needs to breathe.
  • Do something every day to make you laugh and bring you happiness. Growth wants to have fun.
  • Spend time with people who uplift you. Growth likes companionship.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Growth needs to find its own speed.

Spiritual Growth

While it is necessary to nurture our physical and mental growth, the most important growth happens spiritually. Spiritual growth is often likened to the growth of a lotus flower. The lotus seed begins life in the mud at the bottom of the lake. The shoot rises upwards through the water towards the light. Bursting through the surface, the flower opens and blooms in the warm sunlight. Similarly, we begin in the darkness of ignorance. With the help of our spiritual practices, we grow towards the light of Pure Consciousness. Finally, we emerge into the brilliance of enlightenment.

In the Vedic concept of reincarnation, spiritual growth is the journey of the individual soul as it washes or releases its karmic burden. The soul, which has a much longer shelf life than the physical body, grows as it progresses through many lifetimes until it finally reaches home. This spiritual growth is an expansion of awareness or consciousness, from the limited to the unbounded. The Spiritual Self, which unfolds, is your most beautiful and powerful form. It is the authentic self, the unconditioned part of you without the stories and labels.

We are all progressing in the direction of perfection or enlightenment, whether we do anything or nothing. However, the great teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to say, “Water the root to enjoy the fruit”. He was telling us that our spiritual practices will awaken the seeds lying asleep within our consciousness, and regularity is like adding fertilizer to accelerate the growth.

Supporting Spiritual Growth

Although some growth happens automatically, the spiritual growth Maharishi was referring to requires a commitment. This transformation will often mean fundamental changes in our lives. Like learning to walk, we may wobble and fall down at first but need to keep getting back up until eventually, we run, dance, and fly. The journey may, at times, feel lonely because we’re dropping the energies that don’t align with those of our destination. However, ultimately dropping all the old stories from the past, we allow the Divine to write the new ones that now serve us. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Find spiritual practices that work for you and be regular with them. Growth likes routine.
  • Seek the help of qualified teachers and teachings. Growth accepts support.
  • Have faith in your teachers, their teachings, and most of all, yourself. Growth is fearless.
  • Live consciously and pay attention. Growth is humble.
  • Listen to the signals your body sends you. Growth is aware.
  • Pursue activities that nurture you. Growth is natural.
  • Think big and pursue the highest first. Growth is expansive.
  • Take time for self-reflection. Growth is your truth.

Look for spiritual growth in all aspects of your life. Don’t only expect it to happen when you’re meditating or practicing yoga asanas. We often make the greatest advances in the midst of conflict, when we’re frustrated or fearful. We may be following those same old habits when suddenly we realize that we have a choice to do things differently. Spiritual growth demands awareness and flexibility.

When we first begin our spiritual journey, the ego doesn’t pay much attention. It thinks this will be just another passing fad. As we continue, however, the ego starts to feel threatened. The ego loves to control everything, that’s its job, but spiritual growth is to break free of limitations. Be aware, the further we progress the greater the ego will try to distract us. We can’t crush the ego, rather we need to be patient with it. Allow the ego to support you when needed but to relax when not.

Our spiritual growth may go fast or slow. Think of it like climbing a mountain. Sometimes we stride along the trail but at other times, we may want to sit and enjoy the view. In time, a yearning to know who we really are grows within, and now nothing can stop us. As we get closer to the summit, we may be so tired that we feel like we are almost crawling the final stretch. This is the last of our karma being cleared as fast as possible. Now, as the singer Bob Marley put it, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”.

The Goal is Just the Beginning

Finally, we reach our goal. We burst through the clouds covering the top of the mountain, into the brilliance of the glorious sun of enlightenment. We rediscover our true, non-changing Self, who Paramhansa Yogananda described when he said, “You are infinite, spaceless, timeless, beyond body thought and utterance, beyond body and mind. You are endless blessing in which worlds and universes are floating like bubbles”.

Its journey complete, the individual soul, rests within the universal soul. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, just resting in Being. All growth as we know it, physical, mental, and spiritual is complete. Or is it? On our spiritual journey, we can have glimpses of the mountain top, we taste enlightenment, but can never really imagine what it will be like to finally reach there. Might there be more? All the Vedas will tantalizingly say is that beyond the beyond, lie the unimaginable realms.

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