Nobody ever said that choosing to dedicate one’s life to a spiritual path of purification and transformation would be a walk in the park. Diving deeply into the hidden crevices and corners of our psyche is challenging, and requires us to summon up all our reserves of courage, honesty, self-responsibility and perseverance.
The rewards are more than worth the price that we are asked to pay, but it is easy to get sidetracked along the way with the idea that we only have to go through the fire once, and then we will live in the promised land forever.
Too often we depend on – and demand from ourselves – concrete outer results, or at least some measure of obvious progress that will make us feel good about the effort we are asked to make.
So just how do we measure progress on the spiritual path, and how do we know we are on the right track?
“Progress” is a very tricky thing. Seductive, even. When life on the outside seems to improve as an apparent result of our diligent efforts to change our thoughts, feelings and behaviors for the better, we pat ourselves on the back and feel so good about ourselves. After all, we are SO spiritual! And then at the drop of a hat life can take a turn and leave us flat on our face, wondering what happened to all our progress.
I have been traveling on this path for quite a few years now, and had many moments of insight, revelation, and transformation. The work I’ve done to uncover misconceptions, defensive strategies, and negative intention has brought healing and transformation in my life that has been beyond my wildest imagination. And I am so grateful for all of the gifts I’ve been graced with, and the life I have today.
But I still get triggered at times. I still have a lower self. I still get scared and feel vulnerable when I discover more and more subtle aspects of my personality that don’t live up to my Idealized Self Image.
As worthwhile and precious as our healing and character transformation is, it is important to note that often when we look to measure the “progress” we have made, we are focusing on the “progess” that has transpired on the personality level.
When we evaluate our value and worth from a dualistic measuring stick of “progess” that is reflected on the personality level, we will always inevitably reach a point of “regress.” Just when we think we have found solid ground to stand on, the rug is pulled out from under us and we find ourselves free-falling.
So while progress on the spiritual path is wonderful, and worth striving for, it is helpful to remember that who we really are is not what we accomplish, what we change, or what we do, either materially or spiritually. The authentic path forward will sometimes feel like progress and sometime feel like regression because on the soul level, the movement is not a doing but an un-doing, a returning, a reconnection to our Real Self.
And we are not here to improve our ego, or to polish our personality. We are here to re-educate our ego to its true task, that of re-discovering and surrendering to the greater reality, the truth of who we are at the deepest level of our being. And when we have moments when we realize this, we experience not pride in our achievement but awe and humility at the miracle that we are.
The miracle that we are, and have always been, regardless of how evolved (or not) the personality level is.
One of the most humbling lessons I am continually learning is that Regressing is often Progressing, as long as it is held compassionately and without defense.
Next time you feel lost, hurting, defeated, without answers or direction, consider that you might be making more true progress than when you were strutting around like a peacock feeling like you had it going on.
So don’t push away those feelings. Welcome them. Hold them tenderly. Trust them. For It is only when we let go of everything we think we know to be true, everything we thought would save us and make us finally good enough, and stay with what is present in each moment, that we can be open to a greater truth that lies beyond our self constructed limitations.
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