The Dance of Personal and Spiritual Growth


All things human will retrograde if not move forward.

Edward Gibbon

Growth is exciting. Growth is exciting and frightening. Growth of the soul and mind.

Vita Sackville-West

“Life is flux,” it is said, and change seems to be one of the unavoidable hallmarks of living. My personal belief is that one of the primary reasons we are here on earth generally speaking is to grow and learn, and I am a strong proponent of personal and spiritual development. In this regard, I endeavor in my work with clients to offer insights that aid them in their own process of unfolding, wherever they may be in that process.

I have a tendency to mix spiritual and personal development, instead of segregating thembecause I believe that it’s difficult, in actual fact, to distinguish them or, indeed, to have one without the other. We often view personal growth as being psychological rather than spiritual — working on our issues, for example. This is why it is possible to view personal development as less important since we perceive it to be “unspiritual” or as unnecessary in the context of focussed on what we consider as spiritual activities. What I’ve come learn, however, is that it’s usually personal issues and other stuff that could be obscuring and impeding our spirituality, so that our personal growth (clearing out certain aspects or all of our “stuff”) may lead to spiritual progress. Hence, I feel that one (personal personal growth) can lead to or help us be open to the other (spiritual development). Furthermore, removing some of the junk in your “stuff” and growing personally transforms our energy from an intense energy to a higher frequency, syncing us up more to the higher, finer spiritual levels.

I’ve been asked in the past what spirituality is. A tough question, that even though it’s one that has definitely prompted me to think long and deeply about it. Spirituality is something I see as an experience of connection to the world that is outside of us (or beyond the narrow confines of our personal egos) A connection to other beings, to animals with nature, earth and to the universe to higher levels and realms and to the divine. Therefore, spirituality for me, is a feeling of being connected to the whole (as as the All!). Spiritual development is the growth of feeling that connection, sometimes irrespective of our conscious awareness of it. It is possible that openness is one of the primary requirements for this spiritual growth. The removal of obstacles to openness as well as clearing out our personal clutter that is hindering our sense of connection to what is outside of us could both open the way for our spiritual development, as well as allowing us to resonate more with higher spiritual energies. Conversely, rigidity and rigid energy can hinder this.

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A lot of us have tried to approach our spiritual growth from an intellectual or mental perspective. There are many keen readers on metaphysics and spirituality, trying to fill our minds with a deeper understanding about spirituality, whether you are learning about the different religious traditions of the world or contemporary theories of spirituality or the prescribed steps to spiritual understanding or even success. It is possible to become knowledgeable about the theories of spirituality and it is an excellent step towards spiritual development. Spiritually, we can truly develop however, when we begin to live our spirituality by taking part in its presence and revelling in it through experience in order to be able to feel it and thus to become aware of the essence of it at a new level. Being aware and growing that we are feeling rounds out our spirituality and lets it permeate the various levels of our being to ensure that it is integrated into our lives. (I have already discussed this in my essay, “Experiential Spirituality and Contemporary Gnosis.”)

So how do we maximize our growth and how do we achieve it? What I have learned through my interaction with clients and also from my own experience, is that every person’s journey is unique, and there is no set of guidelines that everyone must follow. I would like to say that openness is an essential quality. However, I’ve seen those who weren’t necessarily naturally open, go through transformation or opening experiences. Additionally, our method of growing can differ in the same way. There are those who experience times of rapid growth however, others can develop more slowly over time, much like a flower slowly opening its petals to absorb the nurturing elements of its surroundings. And for still others there are two types of development processes could be experienced at different stages during their lifetime. (I am also of the opinion that it’s not possible for everyone to experience the same amount of growth; some may live lives in which they’re the opposite of being growing.)

There are many reasons for our growth starting with a vague sense of disenchantment or lack of fulfillment or a sense that there’s something more to life; to more traumatizing triggers like the loss of relationships or jobs, illness or accident, death of a family member, the experience of a near-death, for example. It is common to recognize, if conscious of the growing paradigm, when we experience events like these, that we’re being asked to shift or alter in some way. We might experience difficult times of changes (which I usually liken to being formed or tempered on an Anvil) and also moments of discovery that are pleasant. The triggers and the methods of growth can be very different. If we are confronted with challenging triggers, if not fully aware of the growth “imperative” we may resist and feel a sting of pain or unpleasantness. For anyone who has made it beyond this resistance is aware that our resistance to the process of growth only prolongs our struggle, much as the moth that is caught in an ensnaring web.

It is important to realize that there are no rules that must be followed for development. It’s more likely to be an issue of embracing the process we are in and looking for the signals and direction provided and accessible to us continuously. Self-awareness and self-knowledge with an openness that is essential. Also, it could be true that we don’t make a decision to force ourselves to grow (“I’m going to get bigger in the near future!! “), as much as perhaps allowing ourselves to be in a state of line between being open to the signs and guidance around us, and then proactively acting on the guidance we receive – thus, being in partnership and collaborating with our universe in our growth and unfolding, and being an active participant, not an inactive recipient of energies.

Self-knowledge will help us maximize our efficiency. Knowing how to access and hear guidance is important, as is identifying that inner voice in us, as well as learning to listen to it.

There are a myriad of options that can help. I’d like to think that my work with clients aids in this process. Other beneficial modalities include meditation, energy healing such as rolfing, affirmations counseling and therapy, massage to heal, heart-opening exercise massage therapy, acupuncture color therapy, crystal healing and astrology. The list can go on and on. Certain books that help expand our understanding are extremely helpful and can even trigger “aha” experiences of realization in the event that we read them with a critical eye (or gut).

As we grow spiritually and personally and spiritually, there’s no stopping. We may begin to recognize some of the experiences you’re going through, and discover that we’re being asked to go to higher levels of trust, surrender or patience, as well as flow among other the state of mind that maximize our sense of partnering with the universe and with the Divine. It is clear that there is an underlying meaning in life than the superficial things our five senses enable us to experience. The process of growing and unfolding – our dance of spiritual and personal growth or spiritual growth, can be addictive as we reap the unexpected benefits of greater satisfaction and peace (once we have crossed the dark tunnel to the illumination). We often come to realize that we would never want to go back to the old ways of being. Similar to the butterfly that removes the cloaking, but restricting garment of the cocoon as we realize that our lighter state gives us more freedom to be who we are and the ability to experience the light of the sun while flying without being weighed down by higher levels.

(This article first appeared within Innerchange Magazine June-July 2001)

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