I don’t know about you, but I’d say my spiritual progress has had both ups and, well I won’t say downs, I’ll say plateaus. Now that I think about it, just when I’ve felt like I’m struggling most, that’s often when my teachers have commented how well I’m doing. So who am I to judge the status of my non-self?
Whether we need to know how things are going or not (for them to actually be going well, or not) there are things we can do to increase the chances we’re making progress in our meditation or spiritual growth in general.
Imagine it’s a language you want to learn
Let’s say it’s learning to speak Russian.
Imagine that it’s very important to you, and while you still study most days, you don’t feel like you’re getting better recently. You give your best linguist friend a call for advice, and they have plenty to say because they’ve been there:
“Why not get a Russian partner, who doesn’t speak much English? Or, do you have any Russian speaking friends? Perhaps you could paste Russian vocabulary all around your apartment, so you’re surrounded by it. Then, cover up or take away any English words from your room, car, or desk. Talk Russian to yourself in your car”…
They come up with all these ideas to make Russian more part of your life, so it’s easier to learn it.
Hearing this, you begin to see that despite your intentions, how your life really isn’t set up to help you learn Russian.
Setting yourself up for success with meditation or spiritual work
If meditation or spiritual growth were a language you wanted to master, then, what’s the equivalent of a Russian-speaking partner, or vocabulary stickies on your walls?
As individuals, we’re are all in different places in our lives, with things that are already working and things we’d like to improve on.
Yet, setting up a retreat center and running it together, at Clear Sky we’ve found five areas that are worth looking at for all of us, when our progress needs re-igniting:
1) The places you spend your time
Would you practice your Russian pronunciation with an English movie playing in the background? Or listen to your Russian audio lesson when you can hear lots of people speaking English almost as loudly?
If mindfulness or a calm state are your new languages, what’s the equivalent of these unhelpful ways of learning? Maybe we have a lovely shrine but our car is full of junk, and we choose to ignore it. Perhaps we make our bed faithfully every morning and dirty clothes always make it to the basket – but our desk or computer files are a disaster area.
Suggestion: Spend a few days looking closely at all the spaces you’re in and see where your habitual language is still playing loudest.
2) Your schedule and routines
Life is busy.
Does this story resonate?:
“Oops, I missed studying my Russian for the third day in a row. I’ll do ten minutes before bed tonight, because I know I won’t get up early again tomorrow. I’ll probably have to work through lunch tomorrow, and I’m meeting friends for drinks after work…” A week later, you find your Russian textbook under your gym shorts, and realize that the week went by without finding time for your biggest goal.
The same story can go for regular meditation. I know it has for me. Yet, the best way to have a regular practice is to make it part of a realistic schedule and have routines that support you.
It takes time and effort. Yet, it’s easy to resist structure, right? Part of meditation is feeling free of all those worldly things. Sometimes we resist setting up a structure because there’s no “freedom” in it. Yet, how free are we when our habits stop us from realizing our aspirations? Don’t let that inner rebel shoot you in the foot, or bully you in the name of freedom.
Suggestion: Look at your daily routine and see where it’s supporting what’s really important to you, and where it’s not.
There are three more areas I’d like to bring up, and I’m going to save them for Part 2. They’re not a secret, mind you, they’re up on our website and we’re running a online course to introduce you to them starting March 7.
Part two will come next week, and in the meantime I invite you to try this quick and simple quiz to see what areas might be holding you back.
Did you try any of the suggestions?
We’d love to see what you found out, in the comments below or on Facebook.