“The spiritual path – is simply the journey of living our lives. Everyone is on a spiritual path; most people just don’t know it.” ~ Marianne Williamson
Walking the spiritual path cannot be described as easy. It is something many of us are striving towards on a conscious level and this fact is verified by the growing number of ‘bestsellers’ now available in the ‘Self Help and Spiritual Growth Genre.’
Most of the text available on this subject promotes a focus on positivity, love, kindness and forgiveness. These things are important and in order to grow spiritually we need to develop into loving kind people. However, I want to examine this concept a little deeper from my own personal experiences.
Positivity is something that most ‘self-help and spiritual growth’ books primarily focus on. What most are either not aware of, or do not tell us is that the human brain is actually more geared towards the negative. Yes, that is true, there is new research in neuroscience illustrating that our brains are more sensitive to anger and fear than to peace and happiness.
For a long time, I struggled with the affirmations or positive mantras that most ‘self-help’ authors advocate and I wondered why any positive effects I experienced were short lived. I now realize that this is due to the fact that we are ‘tuned in’ to quickly remember our negative events rather than our positive ones.
Why is this so?
Well, the brain has evolved in this way for good reason. Neuropsychologists tell us that the brain has developed methods that are designed to protect us from harm so that we are always on high alert to possible danger. I can see the sense in this (more so for our cave men ancestors), but unfortunately, if we are not aware of this fact when working hard on our own self-development, we can become despondent and disillusioned very quickly.
‘Why is it so hard for me to remain positive?
I recite my affirmations daily and follow all the advice I am given, but I still have days when I cannot remain happy and positive and this makes me feel inadequate.
What am I doing wrong?’
Does this sound familiar? Yes, I think we have all been there.
I think that affirmations have their place and that they can work if a strict, daily discipline is followed. However, if you have had to deal with a lot of very difficult situations in your life, or if you have suffered any sort of abuse in childhood, then affirmations can actually make you feel more hopeless. The best advice I have been given on my spiritual path is ‘do not try to stop your negative thoughts.’ Even Zen Masters experience negative thoughts, it is just how the human brain works.
The best thing you can do if you are struggling with affirmations is to practice mindfulness.
This process involves simply spending time acknowledging your thoughts without buying into them. When we attach ourselves to these destructive thoughts and give them meaning, then a negative feeling is produced in the body and it is this process that brings us down. If we can learn to carry out this mental discipline every day, then we will be able to master our thoughts and feelings better and improve our overall wellbeing.
On my journey, I have found this information quite liberating because I finally realized that everybody has difficulty controlling their negative thoughts. The books I read always made me feel that I SHOULD have more power over them, but now I know that this is just not the case.
In the early days of my development I felt that if I did not forgive people, get along with everyone or have loving thoughts all the time, then I was failing. Coming from this premise, I ultimately realized that it made me very vulnerable in the outside world.
Most of the popular literature on spiritual growth is based on the idea that we should forgive, help and accept others without any questions asked in order to progress. On the surface, this seems reasonable, given that we are trying to become better, more loving people. However, over the years I have learned that in many ways, this information can just set you up for disappointment and let-down.
You may feel annoyed at what I have just said, but please stay with me why I explain a little more about what I am trying to say.
As we grow spiritually, we become more in tune with other people and we naturally forget about our own needs and begin to focus on everyone else. Unfortunately, as this happens, we no longer set appropriate boundaries and people who do not have adequate personal boundaries are ultimately ‘walked all over.’
If you do not set personal boundaries, then others will set them for you. Respecting others whilst maintaining our own individual sense of balance is a very important spiritual lesson.
The ‘Law of One’ asks us to accept everyone without judgment, but that does not mean at the expense of our own self-worth. You have to realize that your feelings and needs are still as important as those of the people around you. Without healthy boundaries, we just do not have healthy relationships.
Another trap many of us fall into is entering toxic relationships because we equate spirituality to being kind. Yes, send healing, love, and light to people in need, but always remember the ‘Law of Discernment’ – we need to discriminate and be discerning in all areas of our lives so that we make the right choices and this also relates to relationships.
Forgiveness is the ‘big one’ that most spiritual gurus talk about. Yes, we need to forgive those who have hurt and deceived us in order to break the ties that bind us and keep us living in the past. However, forgiveness, in my opinion, is a destination we need to reach; but first, we have to take the journey to get there.
If someone has seriously abused us, or hurt us deeply on an emotional level, then we cannot just flick an internal switch and forgive in one single action. In fact, it would be dangerous in some instances to do so as we could be opening ourselves up to continued abuse. It can take years to reach forgiveness because we can have many layers of healing to go through to reach that place.
We are human, we cannot just ignore our emotions and let go of something that has deeply wounded us in an instant. I do believe in the saying ‘the wound is the place where the light enters us’ but it is a step by step process that takes us to this place called forgiveness and we need to be gentle with ourselves each step of the way.
“If you’re mad, be mad. Don’t hide and suppress your feelings. Let it all out, and once you’re done with being mad, allow forgiveness to enter your heart.” ~ Luminita D. Saviuc, 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy
I hope that these observations will help you as a walk on your own spiritual path. Enjoy the process, don’t take yourself too seriously, observe the above points and hopefully, your spiritual path will be smoother. I wish you all the best on your journey 🙂