As I sit in reflection of the goings-on this month in my practice, I have noticed many confusions and challenges arising in the realm of spiritual values, and what it really means to be on a spiritual path. I wanted to bring forth some key things I have seen that strongly indicate someone is living a life committed to spiritual growth, learning, and deepening. With so much talk of awakening and planetary acceleration going on, I am drawn to come back to the grounded fundamentals of spiritual living. What are the things that really matter, with so much available to us, and so many possible directions to take? For me, these are the core values and practices that I see in people who are really moving things spiritually in their lives-the things that I know will bring lasting, grounded satisfaction to them.
Here they are, the 5 Habits of the Spiritually Mature:
- They face everything with spaciousness and curiosity, and seek its source WITHIN.
Our ego-selves love to react to difficulty and challenge. “I can’t believe so-and-so said that to me! Who does she think she is?” “I can’t believe this happened to me! This is so unfair!” “I’ve worked so hard, why don’t I have x, y, z?”
It’s easy to be irked by someone’s words, depressed by a bad breakup, disappointed that you haven’t found a great living situation, or pissed off when your boss assigns you a shift you didn’t agree to taking. Yet, on a mature spiritual path, there is always an awareness that each thing that comes to us is a result of an action we have taken (or not taken!), or an invitation to grow in a new way. There is an awareness that we contribute to life, and the inner space we hold governs the type of experiences we have. Take the third example, your boss assigning you a shift you didn’t want. The temptation to get pissed off might be there, yet from a deeper perspective you can see that within the situation is an invitation to communicate well, set boundaries that are realistic, ask for what you need, and get clear in your own nervous system about what you can and cannot commit to.
When difficult interpersonal things come up, the mature spiritual person is aware of his/her own contribution to the confusion or negativity, and always uses difficult dynamics as a way to grow through witnessing, asking for guidance and clarity, and acting to resolve issues with curiosity and openness, not defensiveness and blame. No matter how you cultivate your spirituality, the best training ground to apply the principles is always in life.
- They own, face, and get support in weak areas
I don’t know about you other practitioners out there, but when I come up against a place in someone that says, “get out of here, I don’t need your help,” it is usually exactly there that I am drawn. It can feel a little squirmy and uncomfortable, yes, but I know I’m not alone when I say that I am drawn there.
Our most vulnerable areas, whatever realm they fall in, tend to have the most charge around them, and it takes a lot of maturity to be able to say, “wow, I really don’t understand this. Can you please help me? I’m flailing here.”
When someone goes into an “I don’t need anyone, back off!” frequency, the chances of growth diminish greatly. Why? Because the ripest moment for real healing is precisely when we are most drawn to isolate, split off, and go into an “I don’t need you” mode.
Humor me for a moment and imagine your wounds like an artichoke. The most delicious heart of the artichoke (your essence) is covered in layers and layers of protective armor that keep the most precious part safe, but also untouchable. To access the beauty at the center, you have to go through layers of stored pain, protective ego modes, negativity, masks, and reactivity. When one of those protecticve modes is triggered by something in life, it is an opportunity to dig a little deeper towards the center of who we are. Sometimes when we are the closest to finding our true essence and releasing it from the protection that keeps us from enjoying it, we are often very uncomfortable. It takes commitment to keep going when many parts of you are saying “no! stop! Yikes!”
If we keep our support system at bay until we ‘feel better’ or ‘figure it out’ for ourselves, no one, including ourself, gets access to the depth of healing that can occur when the wound itself is actually contacted. Only when we surrender to the support of spirit, loved ones, deep peers, healers, in those dark, encapsulated places, do we really heal.
If we can admit our weaknesses and our pain, and invite support in rather than shutting it out, we can grow unbelievably in a very short time! The spiritually mature know that there is often a huge payoff of consciousness for a bit of uncomfortable exposure.
- They value and cherish that which supports their growth
Whether it’s healing sessions, group support, support from a wonderful friend, ceremony, meditation, or something else that brings you to transcendence of your personal struggles and offers you perspective, in those who are spiritually mature there is a sense of honoring, surrendering to, and showing gratitude for the things that support their spiritual growth. Less mature paths are characterized by hot-and-cold feelings towards one’s teachers, practices, and way-showers, withdrawal from the support network when life get tough, or ‘spiritual shopping,’ hopping from healer to healer, guru to guru, or practice to practice rather than going deep with one or two or three practices and people that match you.
When we value the things that support us, we feel an inner commitment that does not waver or get reactive when our circumstances change or when the territory we face changes. We do not evade discomfort but instead turn towards our support system when tougher karmas come up. We may feel many masks arise, with statements like, ‘it’s too hard,’ ‘she/he doesn’t get me,’ ‘I’ve outgrown this,’ etc, and we need the maturity to hear our own judgments and fears around diving deep so that they don’t cause us to turn away from the very things that are helping us grow spiritually.
This principle also means having gratitude for the things that sustain and make growth possible on a more basic level. Gratitude for one’s job, the spouse who watches the kids so that you can have down time, the restaurant that cooked your meal, the internet provider who allows you to read this…the spiritually mature person has an awareness of all of these layers of support that make their growth on this planet possible. I always feel a red flag in my nervous system when someone talks about how their spouse is so annoying and not evolved (but he’s paying the bills and cooking dinner) or how their job is not spiritual enough (but it allows the roof over their head). The spiritually mature person can hold both awarenesses: seeing where issues and areas of growth are, without undervaluing the basic supportive structure of their life.
- They create a multi-layered network of community and support
I have noticed that every person who I know or witness who is serious about a spiritual life works continually on building, deepening, and shifting their support network as they change and grow.
The key to an effective support system is that it be both multi-level and multi-dimensional.
By multi-level, I mean that the support system needs to include a network of friends who are spiritually one’s peers, who can work and grow together through shared experience, as well as contact/study/treatment with more integrated, farther-along-a-path-than-you people. This means finding compatible practitioners who you go to for lift, perspective, and integration. It is a different role than the peer group, and both are needed. If the practitioner frequency is missing in someone’s life and the peer group is the only resource, it is like always asking someone who has never been to your destination city how to get there. They can guess and give suggestions for possible routes and ways they’ve heard secondhand, but it’s going to take you a lot longer than asking someone who knows the way by heart. Looking at the limiting beliefs and blocks to having an advisor-type person in your life regularly (‘it’s too expensive,’ ‘it’s a luxury, not a necessity,’ ‘I don’t like feeling like I need help’) can be helpful to move you past the stuckness of the peer-only model of growth.
By multi-dimensional, I mean that the support system works best when it includes beings on other levels than physical/human. This means cultivating the upper chakras and dimensions through prayer, feeling spiritual support from higher mentors, study of higher beings and mentors, and listening for guidance from higher beings and mentors. This brings true spiritual perspectives into the life of the person, and a sense of timelessness and the eternal Self. It brings energies of the absolute, non-dual into the personality and life, which inform every choice and action.
- They work their growing edge while cultivating reflection and restfulness
This habit takes discernment, one of the most valued spiritual principles in all cultures and religions.
How does one have the discernment to know what their edge is?
It can usually be found easily through conversation around the nature of one’s desires and how well one’s life reflects the embodiment of these desires. Say, for example, the desire is a fulfilling, supportive relationship, and the current relationship one is in is actually quite argumentative and disharmonious. We have a pretty good built-in roadmap to our wholeness, in other words, through following our desires and working on the blind spots and issues that stand in the way.
Say the desire is around career fulfillment. Rather than pushing in an unbalanced way towards having what we want, our support network and inner guidance can help us to name the issues standing between where we are and where we want to be, while at the same time sensing the timing and level of effort that will keep us sustainably connected to all of our life, not just over-focused and obsessive in one direction. When the restful, reflective part does not happen with the growth, we can lose perspective and integration of the new energies, losing everything at the expense of having one thing. This creates a spiritually unbalanced person, who is less effective over time than one who has grown sequentially and in alignment with timing and inner values.
“What if I don’t know what I want?” I hear this question a lot. Usually, it just means you haven’t given yourself permission to have authentic desires. If no one were telling you what you can have and should want, what would be left that is just for you? What out there or simple, complicated or unique desire authentically arises in you? In some the road map is more buried and has to be teased out, but I have yet to see it not there at all!
There are so many valuable paths, practices, and teachers out there in this super-charged time. I hope this exploration of the fundamental values that make any path, the path, have been helpful for you! I’d love to hear what things you notice in the lives of those you trust and emulate spiritually as well. I know for me, the territory of this numbered list is always changing, with deeper levels of understanding all the time. I wish you all the best in your path from here. Hope it bumps into mine soon for shared celebration of how cool it is to be walking this way!