The true nature of personal growth is seldom spoken about. In this article I want to explain how it feels when you go through the different stages of growth and the meaning of spirituality as I have come to experience it after many years of working on myself.
If you are committed to working on your personal growth you will sooner or later enter unknown territory as you transit from one developmental level to the next. Many a time you will uncover shadows from unresolved early life trauma, you did not even know you had, which makes the transition from one level to the next more involved and challenging.
Yet few professionals or gurus have the experience and knowledge to tell you about what really is going on, or are simply unwilling to be totally honest with you. I believe that you should have as good an understanding as possible about what it is like when you decide to take personal growth into your own hands. This knowledge will prepare you for the journey into the unknown.
To get from where you are now to the profound understanding that there will never be an end to your searching or an end to life's challenges and to let that be okay takes time. Time and working towards something you have difficulty in fully comprehending are your challenge.
You can't not grow, no matter where you are in your development
After all personal growth is natural. Everyone does it all the time. Your development starts from the moment you are conceived and continues until you die. (We are just concerned with the human life span here.) Most of us will remain at the developmental stages where most of our growth is largely subconscious and this gives us the illusion that we have no influence over the process.
Most people believe and will continue to believe that they are the victims of outside circumstances. Insisting to hang on to this piece of fundamentally flawed "knowledge" causes many problems on the path of personal development and spiritual growth.
My journey of personal growth started in earnest when I encountered big problems trading derivatives and realised that I had to do something about the massive losses I was incurring in the early days of my trading. My world as I had known it was falling apart.
My personal growth journey led me to insights and countless challenges along the way which I could not have dreamt of and which have completely changed my view of life. This was a long process during which I travelled mostly in the dark, unable to find someone who really understood what I was going through and who could guide me.
I learnt by trial and error until I found something that worked for me and clarity gradually replaced the mental fog.
When you pursue your personal development properly beyond the pop culture of personal growth you will find yourself often in uncharted territory as you move from one level to the next and this process can take some time. At this point on the journey many give up, partly because they do not understand what is happening to them and how to cope with the seemingly endless challenges which are posing a threat to your identity and security.
The further you climb up on the rungs of personal growth the fewer people can assist you and that can be a little daunting to say the least. On the plus side, as you get beyond a certain point in your personal growth your ability to manifest the outcomes you desire will start to accelerate. Often at a surprising rate of knots. Suddenly it feels as if you have reached the top of the mountain.
Unfortunately, these experiences seldom last for long periods initially. They are more like a glimpse of what it could be like to be arriving at the end of the tunnel and finally seeing the light. At this point in your journey you will not have fully grasped the idea that you will never arrive and that all beginnings and endings are an illusion created by your mind which insists on putting every experience in neat boxes. You will still be struggling with what parts of you need relinquishing so that you can evolve to a seemingly new reality.
Transition periods are a large part of your personal growth journey
Moving from level to level always involves transition. The transition takes up a fair time of your journey hence you need to understand the process. As you transit through the different stages of personal growth it may feel at times as if you are temporarily losing your identity. This is natural, yet quite a weird sensation when you encounter it for the first time.
When you are moving from one developmental level to the next you have to give up something that was previously of value to you. This causes value conflicts and confusion you experience as loss of identity.
Until you have completely let go of the things that keep you anchored with one foot in the old developmental level you will experience problems. Another challenge is to know exactly which old habits, thoughts and beliefs you have to let go off and which ones to keep. Your next challenge is finding a practical way that works for you as you go through these transitional periods. As you can see there are many challenges.
To illustrate the pointI am going to use an example I have used before: As a toddler you had to give up crawling eventually in order to walk. Of course, in the early developmental stages you allowed the process to evolve unconsciously and you also had the guidance and help of your parents who knew how to encourage you and make you feel safe.
As you are evolving into the higher levels of consciousness, and that is basically what personal growth is all about, your increased level of awareness as an adult is a handicap as you are more aware of the strangeness of the new territory you are entering. Old conditioning creates further conflicts. You will be fighting the new insights with old coping mechanisms. The idea of having to relinquish those things that worked so well in the past in order to move forward is not part of your life principles because you probably were never told about this important step that makes progress possible.
Coming back to the example of the toddler, this is what is happening to the toddler: During the learning period, or transition the toddler is effectively crawling and walking intermittently. Since he has found out that walking is much faster than crawling he will want to walk more, but is not yet able to maintain the walking stance for very long. He gives himself a break and reverts to crawling when he gets tired, has enough of the new experience or falls over. Going back to crawling now feels cumbersome and not as good or natural as it used to.
Since the toddler develops largely subconsciously he does not judge his progress, but you, the adult, do. Your learned need to be critical of yourself makes personal development work challenging.
In addition, you, the adult going through the transition to the next level will often experience relationship or business worries during this time. It feels as if your life is completely disintegrating and you will be resisting this instead of allowing this disintegration as part of the process.
Every time you put up a fight or resist the changes you are making matters more difficult for yourself. You are using the old coping mechanisms, pushing, fighting, goal setting, etc. and expect to see events unfold in a certain order. Continuing to hold on to these views ironically increases chaos and the potential damage to those things which are so dear and familiar to you and which you fear losing most.
Gradually you will learn that there is a very different universal order from your old reality and what you have been told about the workings of this world. You begin to adjust your behaviour accordingly, it is a natural process at this point. You can't help yourself. Force will not be necessary. You are beginning to flow with the process of evolution and are integrating all the new ideas as a perfectly natural way of being.
When you reach this point you are ready to embrace the first levels of enlightenment and you will inevitably begin to understand what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience. You will also begin to understand the deeper meaning of spirituality.
As I said, transition from one level to the next takes time. Often years. You did not wake up one morning walking as if you had always walked when you have been crawling until now.
The modern pop culture of personal development will tell you that you can change instantly. As a general rule this is nonsense. Change is gradual because the speed of change depends on your developmental level. Most people are in the concrete operational stages and change simply does not happen that fast unless induced by profound shock. (You can learn more about these stages and how to use them to help you with your growth in my books The Buddhist Trader, and Forgive And Let Your Love Grow and my On Line Course)
Spirituality and success are one
As your self awareness expands you will gradually have more and more control over your emotions and thoughts and thus more choice. It is precisely the increased choice which makes your life more worthwhile. Increased choice will bring you peace and happiness. Both are the foundations for success.
You will also understand that the world is a spiritual place. Spirituality is a way of understanding the make up of the universe rather than something to strive for. As you reach the levels of so called enlightenment you will become aware of the spiritual nature of everything that is.
You will understand that success comes naturally to anyone who has an understanding of this state. You will discover what you have been looking for is effectively already there and a part of you. You will also begin to develop unity consciousness and see how everything interacts with everything.
You are starting to understand that duality is a choice. Duality is how we make sense of our world, at least most of us, but as you grow into the levels of enlightenment you will experience that duality just like everything else in your life is a choice of operating. It has its place but is not the only place. I will stop here now before we get too involved in this concept.
Suffice it to say that true change comes only from within and you do not need to change what you are doing on the outside, even though many people do as they grow. There is a lovely Buddhist saying: "Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment chop wood and carry water."
No matter what you do in your life, whether you are a stock broker, trader, mother, or are employed or self employed the higher levels of development will increase your happiness, well being and success and above all they give you more choice, independence and control over your existence.
Transition and growth enables you to see for yourself that the universe always evolves in an orderly fashion, and this is immensely reassuring.
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