“Fast-track your spiritual progress,” the headline yelled in my face.
I was on the way home from visiting a kinesiologist when I saw the ad. Having been told in no uncertain terms that my body needed healing and recuperation (following a period of intense self-development coupled with two pregnancies in quick succession), the words seemed to be the antithesis of everything I had been recently reminded of—that deliberately fast-tracking progress is not such a good idea.
We don’t always have a conscious choice about the speed at which we develop spiritually. Each of us has a natural, in-built, timing which, if we know how to pay attention to it, will prompt us to grow and change.
The temptation can be to ignore it, especially if we are comfortable with where we are in life. And if we ignore it too long, we can find ourselves playing catch-up when the energy builds to such an extent that it bursts through the walls we’ve erected, catapulting us into unplanned and rapid expansion.
In my case—as is the case with many I have worked with—the signs to make small changes went unheeded for a long time until they built from mole-hills to the size of a mountain which then came toppling down on my life.
Rapid spiritual growth followed hot on the heels of emotional crisis, which is a fairly common coupling. And the end result was a major energetic shake-up that took me years to fully recover from.
The irony of it is that I know there are many out there longing to have a similar experience of fast progress. Yes, please, help me to put some oomph in my kundalini practice! Yes, I want to to reach enlightenment before the end of 2014! Yes, I’ll pay for the express train to nirvana!
But there are plenty of good reasons to slow things down when it comes to spiritual development, if you have the choice. (And replacing the word “spiritual” with “self” is just as appropriate in this case.)
We can more easily integrate our growth, while staying in reasonable balance with other nurturing aspects of life, if we take our time. Unless we have the luxury of hiding away on a mountain top or in an ashram, most of us have a broader life that needs our attention. We have careers, friends, maybe family and other activities that we enjoy, and which are beneficial to us.
As we develop spiritually, our relationship to these other parts of our lives naturally changes and while there may be some we will choose to leave behind as we move on, there are others that we value and which we might like to continue enjoying. When we push ourselves too quickly, putting all our energy into the “growth” basket, we risk losing situations, people and circumstances that we may later regret not having.
Staying in balance doesn’t mean everything staying the same, though. But, to use a metaphor, there’s a world of difference between driving a flat bed truck around a sharp corner at 60mph, when the cargo slides around a bit, and driving the same corner at 100mph, when everything (which might be lover, family and work) just falls off the truck and is left dumped on the road.
Placing too much emphasis on the non-physical aspects of life can leave us ungrounded. When we focus predominantly on practices that raise our energy up the body or that take us out of the body, we weaken our connection with the earth on which we live and the life we are part of. The catalyst for seeking fast spiritual growth is often a desire to escape pain or frustration, but pushing to the other extreme leaves us vulnerable to making decisions that may not be in our best, long-term, interests. Ungrounded people don’t always make the wisest choices.
At a fundamental level, though, the body isn’t a fan of speedy and sudden changes. In this life, wherever we go, we have to take our body with us—and that includes when we step up the vibrational scale. My experience is that, although in theory the body is capable of quick change at a cellular level, the reality is that most people’s physical health isn’t strong enough for it to be able to tolerate the fast-track for long.
Most of us have accumulated years of emotional and physical baggage in the body—locked in the tissues, tendons, muscles and elsewhere in a way that we may be unaware of until stiffness or ill-health strike. When we go through a period of intense spiritual development, we trigger releases in the body which have to be cleared through the normal, physical, detoxing channels.
There’s only so much the liver and kidneys can deal with before they start being overloaded, particularly if we have been so focused on spiritual growth that we have neglected to clean up our physical bad habits.
And, as the body’s processes are all interconnected, any major change in one area affects the others, so the whole system takes a while to find a new balance (something it can’t do if we’re still continuing to strive for further growth). Imagine a marathon runner who doesn’t allow time between races? Pushing for continual spiritual growth is no different. We expect a lot of our bodies and they need to be respected.
For times when we find ourselves inadvertently caught in the fast lane, we can support the process by looking after the physical health of the body, i.e., giving it the right balance of nutrients, exercise and rest that it needs, and taking plenty of time on our own on the earth. And we can help to ground the changes by sharing “down time” with cherished close friends and lovers as well as by including body-centered practices that bring us into the moment (dance, perhaps, or yoga).
If we are still tempted by the fast-track, it might be no harm to wonder why we’re in such a hurry? Where are we trying to get to? What are we hoping to achieve?
Modern life places such an emphasis on competition and achievement that it easily spills over into self-development practices as well, leading to an, “I’m more advanced than you,” kind of spiritual snobbery.
But, strangely, we can sometimes be drawn to more challenging routes of development from a place of low self-esteem or a sense of unworthiness, without necessarily being aware of it. So perhaps the most pertinent question to ask is, “How can we facilitate our natural spiritual development in a way that is gentle and self-compassionate?”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Wiki Commons