Mistakes on the Spiritual Path

If there are such things as mistakes on the Spiritual Path, then I must be one of the world's leading experts on them, having made pretty much all of them one way or another. If you had asked me 20 years ago whether it is possible to make spiritual mistakes, I'm pretty sure I would have said "Of course!" My understanding is different today. It is all very well to know about things, but it is completely different to actually know them. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let's have a look at some of the common "mistakes" people are inclined to make on the Spiritual Path, (most of which I have made, by the way.)

The list

* Suppression of natural reactions and instincts
* Narrow beliefs
* Self-deception
* Exclusivity
* "Miracle" thinking
* Self-abasement
* Guilt
* Artificial humility
* Unnatural detachment
* Rejection of ambition
* Spiritual ego
* Artificial "spiritual" persona
* Fanaticism
* Sexual hangups (rejection or overstimulation)
* Unnatural seriousness
* Blind rejection of all previous beliefs
* Guru worship
* Self-criticism / self rejection
* Onesidedness

Now I think you would agree, that is quite a big list. To have done most of the things on that list is quite an undertaking! The thing is, I didn't know I was doing any of those things while I was doing them. They may have been as plain as daylight to those around me, but if anyone had come to me and pointed out what I was doing, I would undoubtedly have said "you don't understand..." and proceeded to justify my position on that particular point - and let me tell you, it is not at all difficult to justify any of those attitudes. They look quite different from the inside to how they appear on the outside.

Eagerness

It is quite natural that we want to do our best on the Spiritual Path. When we finally find what we have been seeking for all our lives, it is a HUGE moment for us. We want to make progress, we want to please our Preceptor/Guru/Saviour/ whatever you choose to call Them. We want to please God/Source/Divinity/whatever you want to call It. We take to the practice with alacrity. We are eager; we are motivated; we are excited. Perhaps our "calling" included a powerful experience of raised consciousness and we are highly motivated, if not desperate to continue operating on that level. We resent it when life "gets in the way" and "drags us down."

Choosing different company

Friends and relatives are unlikely to understand the sudden change in us. Even employers may notice something different. We don't feel comfortable with most "worldly" people and soon find we are hardly ever seeing our old friends, if at all. We find ourselves moving almost exclusively in circles of fellow believers. We all seem to understand one another on a much deeper level. There is an unspoken bond between us that is absent with other people. We feel uplifted together. We feel "dragged down" in the company of others. This is well and good as far as it goes - AS LONG AS IT IS NOT HURTFUL TO THOSE WHO WERE PREVIOUSLY CLOSE TO US! It is just plain selfish to turn our backs on those who love us, just because WE have changed our beliefs.

Slow progress

Typically, we soon find we aren't making the kind of progress we expected to on our Spiritual Path. HA! This is the MIND getting involved. We think we know what progress ought to look like and we don't see that, so we think we are getting nowhere. How on Earth can we know what progress is? It is something we have not experienced before and somewhere we have not been before. For better or for worse, we are brought up to do things in order to get particular results and it kinda goes against the grain when our spiritual efforts don't produce obvious spin-offs, so our minds start to get restless.

Looking for shortcuts

Instead of practicing patience and trust, we start looking for ways we might be able to do better. Technically speaking, we are actually looking for shortcuts, although we would most likely vehemently deny it. Where do we start looking? We DON'T look at our own burdens or hangups. We hope that it wont be necessary to "face our demons". Instead, we seize upon esoteric things, like detachment; humility; devotion; faith; love - all things over which we have no real conscious control - then we try to increase them in our lives.

Spiritual persona

Perhaps we try to be more humble; more devoted; more meditative; more loving. This often leads to the developing of a "spiritual personality" - a persona that embodies the characteristics that we think a spiritual person ought to have. On the one hand, we are trying to be humble, but on the other, we are actually feeding the very ego we are trying to starve.

Fanaticism or immersion?

Maybe we try to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of our particular belief or Spiritual Path. We get addicted to the high we get from it. We might  attend all the meetings, read spiritual books, discuss spirituality at every opportunity; listen to talks; watch videos - whatever is available to us - all in the belief that this will help us increase our faith, raise our vibrations and make more progress. We probably see this as "commitment" or "devotion", while outsiders would be justified in interpreting it as fanaticism. In some ways, it amounts to "voluntary brainwashing."  In that state of eagerness, it is hard to practice discrimination about what we are learning. It seems to us that it is "all good."

Self punishment

All high paths have a strict moral code and being human, there is always the likelihood that we will slip up and break that code occasionally. It is easy to start criticizing ourselves and mentally beating ourselves up at those times. It is equally easy for that self-chastisement to become a habit. Many a spiritual seeker has fallen into the trap of self criticism and even condemnation, in the belief that this is what humility is. True humility is something VERY different to that! I should know, 'cos I'm really humble. In fact, I'm quite proud of my humility! (LOL)

Life can prick your bubble

What happens when the realities of life in the 3rd dimension interrupt us and "prick our spiritual bubble"? When "reality" interrupts our spiritual reverie, we typically experience some or other negative emotion that causes our vibrational frequency to drop. The test of our spirituality and our character comes at this point. Do we blindly blame circumstances, karma, or even life life itself? Or do we turn within and ask ourselves what it was in US that caused us to react that way? Do we run away, saying "this world is a harsh place and I want nothing to do with it" or do we turn within and seek answers? If we want to know where we really stand in terms of raised consciousness, we should look at how much our frequency is affected at these times. Do we keep our balance or go into a tailspin? Real detachment has nothing to do with avoiding life; it is about accepting life without getting shaken up by it, and that is not an intellectual exercise or a "technique." It arises spontaneously from genuine spirituality. 

The mind, oh the mind!

The scenarios listed above are by no means exhaustive. They serve merely to illustrate some of the many ways in which the mind can behave. It is a devious instrument. It wants to be in control and will find many ways to try to hijack our process, some of them admirably creative. What my mind did with me may be quite different from what your mind did with you. Our reactions and behaviour are the result of a combination of things:- our birth family; genetic makeup; upbringing; religion; education; country and place of birth; and even the language we speak. All of those things (and more) affect how we think. Those influences can be considered our karma. We had little or no control over what they were feeding into our minds.

Karma or self-determination?

From one perspective (karma) we appear to have little to no control over how our minds react to various circumstances. This is the passive, victimhood approach to life. In reality, our minds don't react to circumstances, they react to the way we see those circumstances. When something happens, it is done. It is then too late to resist it, bemoan it or blame it for how you are feeling. All you do then is to create suffering for yourself.  You can't change what's happened, by you CAN change how it affects you.

What is true?

One of the most pertinent questions we can ask ourselves is "how many of the influences and stories we absorbed while growing up are true? Are they true for every person on this planet?" If not, then they are not universal or immutable truths.  Why would you want to continue believing something when it isn't true? We have absolute freedom of choice at this point to retain or replace them. We CAN change our lives by changing the false beliefs that hold us hostage and spoil our experience of life.  When you finally recognize it, it often comes as a quite a shock. That is the exercise of free will. We are free to believe whatever makes sense to us.

Lighten up

It is all too easy to find fault with ourselves and even easier to find fault with others. We can even find fault with finding fault! The problem isn't so much that we make "mistakes" - it is that we take ourselves and life itself far too seriously. We WILL do things we look back on and feel dissatisfied with. This is all a part of being human. Life is a learning experience - emphasis on EXPERIENCE. If someone told you when you stepped onto your Path "watch out for the mind, it will try to trick you in all sorts of clever ways" you would not have known what they were talking about. Heck! They probably DID say that to you! Yet you made those "mistakes" anyway. Had you not made them, would you have any idea what they were or how they could affect you? Of course not! Life is lived in practice, not in theory.

So mistakes don't matter?

Beware another trick of the mind:- this is not a free pass at a funfair. Mistakes don't matter when we are doing our best. It remains incumbent on us all to do the best we can according to our lights. If we fall short of the mark while doing our best, that is a sure sign that there is some belief in operation that needs looking at. If we aren't trying to do our best, we will never know about it.

Taking it personally

It makes more sense to forget about the past. Forget guilt, forget regret, forget blame. They offer NO benefits to anybody. They will not change anything that has happened, but they WILL lower your vibrations. You have done what you have done and you can't change any of it. Other people have done what they have done and you can't change that either. Some will say "but I can't forget about it. It is too painful." Sometimes we need some time to come to terms with things. The important thing is that we intend to come to terms with them, not use them as a sympathy card.

Guilt and resentment

Feeling guilty or resentful serves nobody. Forgive yourself, forgive others. We are all learning as we go. People, including you, act and react because of what drives them and what drives them is their own mental conditioning. It has just about everything to do with their beliefs and the feelings those beliefs trigger; it has precious little to do with the other person. The last thing you should do is take it personally. You shouldn't even take life itself personally (unless you really feel like giving yourself an almighty thrashing).

Mistakes or experiences?

Have you made a lot of mistakes? Well, you said and did certain things because, in the grip of the pressure, needs, influences and desires you were under, that seemed like the only choice at the time. Given the same circumstances and pressures and the same level of life experience, you would probably do the same thing every time; however, having done it and experienced the results, you now have more data from which to operate and probably wouldn't react the same way - well at least not more than a few times, hey? A more constructive way of looking at it is that you have tried out various aspects of being human and as a result, you have gained a wide variety of interesting experiences. You have accumulated knowledge and wisdom you could not have gained any other way and are now better equipped to succeed in life. Congratulate yourself for being bold enough to try, then move on.

Victim mentality

Anger and blame are another unholy pair. They also carry low vibrations that will drag you down without fail. Anger and blame are the typical reactions of powerlessness and victimhood. It is essential for your spiritual growth and your psychological health that you release all such low frequency emotions. They will keep pulling you down and they will keep you trapped in victim thinking. Forgiveness is the key to taking the sting out of these twin scorpions. A lot can be achieved via sincere intention and forgiveness practices, but that may not be enough in all cases. What to do and how to do it is beyond the scope of this article. You may be able to clear those things by yourself, but all emotions are very subjective, so you may be better off with a competent coach to walk you through the necessary processes.

Avoidable "errors?"

Had I known the vital necessity of releasing false beliefs and releasing unhelpful emotions at the beginning of my journey, I might have done my best to tackle them there and then -  but chances are I might still have avoided dealing with them. Had I dealt effectively with them at that time, I would definitely have made far fewer of the classical "spiritual errors" - but I would also not have acquired the experience I have today. I have no regrets. I needed to make those "mistakes". I needed to find out what it was like to try to make spiritual progress whilst carrying burdensome emotions. I needed to carry them for decades, so that I could really appreciate what a blessed relief it is and how good it feels when they are finally released. I was placed in the best position to experience what a positive effect releasing them had on my vibrational frequency and in turn, my experience of life.

What about you?

What benefits can you derive from my life experience? Simply put, my experience has put me in a perfect position to help others. Had it all been easy and smooth sailing, I would neither be who I am now, nor know what I know now. It was and still is all part of my service to God. It is all actually quite perfect!

I'm perfect - not!

Reading this, you may get the impression that I think I have shed all my burdens and overcome all my faults. Ha Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth! Faults are tricky animals. You can have a fault for decades or even a lifetime without realizing it is a fault. When you finally recognize it, it often comes as a quite a shock. You can also be aware that you have a fault and convince yourself that it isn't serious or just doesn't matter. Some people even make a show of celebrating their faults. Anyone who has done this kind of work will tell you that it is like peeling an onion. Under each layer is yet another layer. It is not so much a matter of becoming perfect, it is more about becoming conscious.

So what's different then?

Do I think I have no more faults? No. Do I get upset when I discover another? Yes - but there is a difference now. I no longer feel like crawling into a hole and sulking. It no longer feels like a life or death issue and quite significantly, I no longer have to waste a whole lot of energy trying to cover up my mistakes. Why? Because I'm no longer invested in trying to prove that I'm perfect. What about the opinions of others? It is not nice to be harshly judged and it still makes me feel bad for a while, but it doesn't send me into a tailspin.

Quality of life

As long as I know I am doing my best, living in integrity to the best of my ability and being of service wherever possible, it doesn't matter all that much what others think of me. I am engaged in serving God. I have some idea of what God thinks of me (or rather, feels for me) and nobody else's opinion matters much compared to that. And that, my friend, is a major determinant of the frequency of your vibration, the amount of joy you experience, the fulfillment you feel and of your overall quality of life.