Prerequisites to spiritual growth, true responsibility, what’s needed for rapid consistent spiritual growth, and your Priorities.
During a lifetime, people can go through many changes, spiritually, physically and mentally/emotionally. Like life, our choices also often has its ups and downs. Like an addict who is in recovery for a time, or “falls of the wagon” another time, consistency is not usually a human characteristic. Spiritually speaking, for a while, some may live more selfishly, then they may be more generous or unselfish for a period. Some spend time spiritually or personally growing, then spend time degenerating. But in all cases, there is an “averaging” of all of that. A place that is between our extremes, that is a center-point or balance point.
Most people who believe in an afterlife, including heaven or hell, deal with the same issue. Where are you going to end up after all the swings your life takes in one direction or another. Even those who believe in reincarnation can understand how variations of the above can go on lifetime after lifetime – making two steps forward, one step back, or one step forward, two steps back, etc.. Amongst those who do make progress in spiritual growth, it is usually slowly – over lifetimes. Every once in a while, someone decides to really “go for it”, and take a “fast track” to spiritual growth. Some make good progress, some slip and fall, some (the fewest), make it all the way “home” (to God/the Universal Spirit).
Just as in school, there are classes that are prerequisites to taking more advanced classes, life has its prerequisites also. Most importantly, so does spiritual growth.
For those who have decided to take the “fast track” to a spiritual life and returning to a life of serving God, there are prerequisites. It is the same for any true spiritual path. Because ultimately, all true paths lead to the same destination.
What are the prerequisites? Things like being flowing, humble, willing to do anything it takes to be a better person and return to God. Here are a few specifics:
Dave’s Top Ten List of Spiritual Growth Prerequisites: (OK, there’s not ten – but I’m not Dave either)
1 – Humility
2 – Wanting/using constructive criticism and using it to become a better person
3 – Being flowing/tolerant of the paths and choices of others, without letting them take advantage of you (I.e., don’t be “a doormat”)
4 – Taking responsibility for everything you do in your life, and the results of your thoughts and actions
5 – Mastering your “physical affairs” (you know, getting out of the child or “bachelor” mode, and doing a good job with laundry, dishes, cleaning, work, etc.)
List of Requisites for Deliberate Consistent Spiritual Growth:
1 – Soliciting constructive criticism
2 – Accepting the constructive criticism you get, positively.
3 – Applying the constructive criticism – using it to change and grow
4 – Thinking of others instead of thinking only of yourself (I.e., caring/compassion)
5 – Giving. Switching from the self-centered polarity of wanting and taking, to the spirit centered polarity of giving and self-sacrifice
6 – Self discipline
7 – Devotion to God/Universal Spirit, and helping others
8 – Unswerving, rock solid commitment to your goals
9 – Listening to and using constructive criticism from any source, whether it’s a “wise man” or a “fool” (who happens to have something you can learn from).
10- Emulation. Rather than being envious or jealous of those you admire, working on making the things you admire in them, qualities you have yourself also.
HUMILITY & CRITICISM
First let me qualify what I mean by criticism. We’re primarily talking about getting criticism from those who want to help you change and grow in positive, constructive ways, not those trying to control you, or bring you down for their own selfish or negative reasons. Those with a negative/selfish agenda, do NOT have your best interests as their goal. Sure, you can learn from anyone – IF they really have something valid to offer you. But when someone is really against good things you have chosen for your life, what will they be offering you as “criticism”?
We recently had a reader who asked for criticism from those he knew were antagonistic towards him and his chosen paths in life. They thought he was crazy and irresponsible for wanting to become a better person, being unselfishly compassionate, unselfishly angry or intense with those who need and deserve it, etc. They wanted to dissuade him from his freely chosen beliefs and path. Of course, they’d already made their views known, and criticized him from their negative point of view. That’s not what we’re talking about here. In fact, that is a selfish-trick. The selfish separate self is hoping that they WILL dissuade him, so it can retain dominance and control. I’m not saying a person should ignore criticism from anyone (other than someone you know has nothing by negative intent and negative input) – most people should be allowed their opinion in case there is something valid there to help you become a better, kinder person. But when you know it’s from someone with a negative agenda, “where they are coming from” needs to be taken into consideration. Plus you don’t need to “solicit” such criticism, they will try and force their opinion onto you. And as I have often said to those who would criticize my choice of my spiritual path, or other aspects of my life which are part of or reflections of that, “I welcome your opinion, but only ONE time, anything beyond that is nagging, being overbearing, and trying to force your beliefs and opinions onto me.” And I will walk out on anyone who doesn’t respect my choices, and nags me with their opinions. If you indulge such people, you are not just wasting your time, you are buying into their ploy and draining your energy and thoughts into their “black hole”, which is partly what they want – at least it is “a beginning” for their ploy, and gives them hope that they can confuse and ensnare you. And your selfish separate SELF is more than happy to oblige.
As soon as it becomes clear that anyone trying to persuade you with a negative agenda, they shouldn’t be listened to. Giving energy to them is just what they want. And “feeding” them by entertaining their “opinion”, is nurturing their lower nature, nurturing darkness. It harms them as well as you. That is not being “compassionate”, that is not being kind, or unselfishly loving. It’s like the beggar story in the book again – if you give to someone who might use your gift for drugs, and ends up killing someone during a robbery, or harming themselves, is that being kind and unselfishly loving? NO. And if they “take you in” and get you to listen to them, and make yourself vulnerable to them, is that being unselfishly loving? NO.
Now, more about true constructive criticism.
Criticism is like someone holding a mirror in front of you. It can show you yourself – what is really there as opposed to what you like to think of yourself as. If you don’t like what you see, you may hate the mirror/mirror holder. If you like what you see, you will like them. If you don’t like what you see, but wanted to see it anyway so you could change yourself, you won’t hate or be angry with the mirror or mirror holder. If you lack humility, you will avoid the mirror, or be in denial of what you see (often goes along with being angry at the mirror, hating the mirror, or being angry or hating the person holding the mirror). But the mirror can be a great tool! In fact, it is THE greatest tool for change, and you should be grateful for it, and those holding it up to you. If you are willing to see a flaw, a blackhead, etc.., you can use the mirror to help yourself “fix yourself up” – i.e., correct yourself. In that sense, criticism can be likened to a sculptor’s chisel that someone is handing you – you can use to sculpt your being into what you want it to be, and keep sculpting until perfection (or as close as you can get). Unfortunately, most people throw the chisel at the person holding the mirror!
Humility is the attitude it takes to really want, take, and apply criticism. It is what someone feels, and how someone acts, who has truly realized that their SELF is their own worst enemy, that they are their own problem, that they need to change, that they really want to change, that they need a mirror, want a mirror, and will use a chisel if given the opportunity. It is truly realizing that your perceptions and opinions are limited and may or may not be correct. It is “being an empty cup”, in order that you may be filled (a full cup cannot be filled). It is “becoming like a little child” in a sense.
Those who start some sort of spiritual path (such as joining a monastery or becoming a minister/priest in a seminary) may think they have humility or believe they have realized they know little and need to learn and grow. They may say they have it, or they say they don’t. They may even ask for criticism. But the first time they get it in a way that really shows them their flaws, they usually do some or all of the following – they deny, they resist, they fight it, they defend, they run, condemn the critic and refuse to use the chisel, often “throwing it” back at the critic in anger, telling them they need to chisel themselves instead.
Even people who have dedicated their lives to caring for others, may do this to some extent. I have long observed when something is brought up to someone about a trait, or incident in which they are flawed, or behaved in a flawed manner, they often instantly get defensive, without even thinking about it, and make themselves “confused” about the issue. They get evasive or beat around the bush about it. They find it painful, and are “hurt”. They may eventually work through this of course, see their flaws, apologize, do an affirmation to confirm their positive commitment, and every once in a while, change. But while “under fire” they may still be defensive and confused, even though the matter is perfectly clear and obvious to everyone else. Of course, “everyone else” may do the exact same thing when their time comes. As with the next, and the next… And these are with people who have totally dedicated themselves to seeing their flaws and made a commitment to self improvement. So for those who aren’t, it is even more difficult.
As mentioned in ancient teachings, it’s important to give and get the most clear, unselfishly loving, unbiased criticism possible. Of course, that also presents the biggest threat, and most painful to the self, and self-ego. It is after all, essentially attacking the walls of separation. Those who give criticism from an unselfishly loving place, don’t like getting a negative response, but they care more about you than they do having to deal with your anger, negativity and hatred. So they deliver the truth, sometimes without any sugar coating, and sometimes intensely (depending on the blockage and resistance that exists towards accepting the truth).
Which brings us to our next issue – kindness and compassion. Most people have no idea what it’s like to get their self-ego “busted”, until it happens the first time. They swear they understand, swear they know what it’s like, but they don’t. It happens every time. And the first time someone does get the painful burning truth brought up to them, is the first time you see how they are going to react.
What they really expect kindness and compassion to be, is someone being “nice” to them, soothing and coddling. But until selflessness is achieved, people are ruled by, and think they ARE, their selfish side. But they don’t see it that way. So what they expect, is for a kind, or compassionate person to be nice, coddling, soothing, and in agreement with, their SELF. And if and when that doesn’t happen, and instead, they get the unvarnished truth and criticism, they point their finger at the mirror/mirror holder, accuse them of being unkind, uncompassionate, not spiritual, not of the light, and throw the chisel at them.
Quite some time ago, I realized that the “Lost Teachings of Atlantis” book has very few examples of the harsh, intense experience of having one’s flaws pointed out in a real monastic situation, as I did. It only infers it. Thinking about why, I realized that since it no longer bothers me to be criticized, intensely or not, my memories didn’t include relating how intense and painful it was for me at the time, and I didn’t focus on writing about those interactions. I wrote mostly about the “situations” I was placed in, that I got negative about. Perhaps I’ll have opportunity to change that sometime in the future. But believe me, I had very negative responses and avoided seeing the truth about myself until I “got” humility. I was defensive, was in denial of the truth of what was being brought up about me, and blamed others for being unloving, uncompassionate, untrue, etc.. And the thing is, with life itself, if you don’t listen the first time, and learn your lesson when it’s being presented mildly, you will have to learn it the harsh way, or the hard way (rejecting it and then later getting it through the school of hard knocks). And that wastes a lot of time, even if you DO eventually learn. I was scared of people who brought things up to me until I got humility and really started wanting to change. I was being “drug over the coals” frequently, ruthlessly (my perception) criticized and humiliated. Then when I changed, “people changed”. But was it really them that changed at all? No. Just me.
Humiliation. An awful word isn’t it? One with a terrible negative connotation. Humility, nice connotation, smiley faces. Humiliation, bad connotation, “frowney faces”. But what’s the diff? Notice the strong similarity in the words? Well, humiliation is what happens when you aren’t humble, but are forced into a situation that breaks down your self-ego. Sort of (but not quite), forced humility. It all depends on your perspective. Whether or not you are positive or negative, and whether or not you are wanting to be humble – for real. How can you “humiliate” someone who is humble? Call them a _____! No, seriously. You can’t humiliate someone who is humble. You can’t offend or humiliate someone who has transcended SELF. You may illicit a very intense response (for you), but they simply don’t care anymore about defending their self – because that’s not what they are anymore, that’s not “where they come from” or how they live anymore. So there is nothing to defend. They are a fool for God. But it is ooohhhh so easy to “push buttons” on those who think highly of themselves, and want to avoid the truth, the light, selflessness.
Take the example of Jesus getting intensely righteously indignant (an enlightened, loving, compassionate being’s version of anger), in response to the money changers in the Temple. He actually got physical. Now, should we say that Jesus was unloving, uncompassionate, and not of God because of that? Or realize he was that way all the time in the face of selfishness, defensiveness, etc.. But how do you think the money changers felt? They were totally humiliated, let alone thrashed, both self-ego wise, and physically. I’m sure they thought, felt, and accused Jesus of being unkind, don’t you? You are no different, and that’s the way it feels to finally really get your self-ego exposed. It is after all, an attack on the selfish separate self, and until you get beyond it, that’s who and what you feel and think you are – so you feel like you are being unjustly and wrongly attacked, and defend your self. Unless you’ve at least achieved the level of humility it takes to want it, take it, see it, and use it. And you have the commitment to see your self through times of extreme struggle with your self.
Here are a few things I hear sometimes, that are examples of being unflowing and “stuck” in a self chosen life.
First, people often say they don’t have time for prayer or meditation because they don’t have the luxury of living at a monastery, and/or, have jobs and a family that take up so much of their time, that they have no time left. Bull, to number one and two. I worked harder and longer hours than ANY of you with jobs and families, and still took time out for quieting my mind and reaching out for God. I made time. So can you. It’s a matter or priorities, not time.
I have lived in Hawaii a number of times, and during those periods, I’d constantly meet people on vacation who said, “You’re so lucky to be able to live here”. It always amazed me, because it wasn’t a matter of luck at all, just choice, and in my case, also Universal will. So I’d say, “You can live here too, but…shhhh, here’s the secret… you can’t live here unless… you move here.”, and they’d often get a puzzled look.
THE STORY OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN (I MEAN THE HANDLESS MONK)
This is the story of the beginnings of the famous Shaolin order of monks (made famous by the great spiritual TV show “Kung Fu” – the original, not the spiritually lacking “Kung Fu, the legend continues”). It’s a story about the kind of dedication and commitment that is a prerequisite to true spiritual growth.
Long ago, a student of Buddha, who had since become a true teacher, visited the capital of China. He was famous, had developed a great new martial art, and both the royal politicians and the Buddhist monasteries wanted his blessings, teachings, and martial arts instruction. They gave him the red carpet treatment, and showed him all the Temples and shrines they’d built to honor Buddha. Then he was asked what he thought of their impressive projects. He was appalled, and told them the buildings were abominations, reflections of their lack of “getting it”. He said Buddha didn’t want to be worshipped, he wanted people to change, to find freedom, compassion, enlightenment, etc.. Buddha, as did this monk/teacher, wanted people to live and learn from the teachings, not idolize them. Thus, he went to a cave in the mountains, and refused to teach until he found a worthy student. Monks would come frequently, asking him to be their teacher, but he would send them away, telling them they didn’t have what it took to learn. One day, a monk went to see the teacher, and cut off his hand in a gesture of self sacrifice, discipline, and commitment. This person he took as his student, and that student became the first Shaolin monk and master. Now, that story is to make a point, don’t anyone go doing stupid mutilations to their body in an attempt to make themselves humble or something like that. That was for that one man, that time, that place, and that situation. But humility is humility. There are many ways it shows when you have it, as well as with dedication, discipline and commitment. There are indications that you have have become an empty cup, and there are indications that you are dedicated and committed – giving and helping for instance. All of the “prerequisites” can be demonstrated, and that means far more than just “lip service”. Not that verbally affirming your goals and ideals isn’t good too – but it isn’t enough. And none of you are really going to make a big dent in spiritual growth, until you “get” those prerequisites.
MASTERING YOUR “PHYSICAL AFFAIRS” BEFORE YOU CAN MASTER SPIRITUAL AFFAIRS
The following is NOT addressed to those who are truly trapped by circumstances. There are those in the world, who just can’t make a good living by honest means, because of severe disability, third world situations, or other factors. In fact, there are people who’d be thrilled just to be able to raise enough food to feed themselves or their families. There are increasing numbers of family farmers who lose their farms after generations of working the land, and they work 16 hour or more days.
When I first learned the next concept, I was asking a dear friend and mentor about certain men I had noticed who were sort of “perpetual bachelor boys”. These guys were a bit sloppy, lazy, irresponsible, “spacey”, etc. – you know, the type that most women don’t want to date, let alone get attached to. Interestingly, these “perpetual bachelor boys” seemed to make little spiritual headway also. They also tended to “sleep in” rather than getting up on time. Their overall condition, and spiritual condition, involved being so lazy as to not even have their Earthly affairs in order. Having the basic physical aspects of your life together/mastered, is a prerequisite to getting your spiritual affairs in order, and making real spiritual growth progress. It’s so true, I see it all the time.
Mastering your Earthly physical affairs doesn’t mean making millions, driving a BMW etc. But it does mean having enough drive to keep yourself and your dwelling clean, hold down a job, pay your bills, take care of your family if you have one, etc. – you know, basic adult responsibility stuff. You see, changing yourself internally and the demands it makes on a person’s use of free will, discipline, and personal sacrifice are so extreme, no one can expect to really walk a spiritual path, and achieve spiritual growth, if they haven’t even mastered that basic discipline of making a living, keeping clean clothes, etc.. If they are so lazy, undisciplined, or uncaring that they don’t even survive in a physically decent manner, how can they progress in something far more difficult, such as the sacrifice and self-discipline required by true spiritual growth? It’s very true. Of course, that doesn’t apply to those who are destitute because of legitimate reasons beyond their control (although there is still karma involved in that one – but that’s another issue). But as we speak, even in this dim economic environment, in the “Western world” at least, and many Eastern or third world counties, there is ample opportunity to shape one’s life into anything you choose, and no excuse to be “poor” (unless you have taken a vow of poverty deliberately, or there are true extenuating circumstances). People can use “green energy” to further spiritual causes, and there is no excuse not to maximize that potential. And if you have taken a vow of poverty because of laziness, not idealistic devotion, that is unacceptable (of course, you wouldn’t likely have a computer or be in touch with us if that were the case).
The change from a selfish separate self, to an unselfishly loving being, is a 180 degree, total turnaround. It is changing from a consciousness and way of living that is “take” oriented, constantly wanting and seeing everything in the light of “how does this impact me”, and making your self look good, to a consciousness and way of living that is “give” oriented, constantly wanting and seeing everything in the light of “how does this effect them”, and not caring how you appear to others. That also obviously involves changing from working hard and hustling for your self (or being lazy), to being the hardest worker anyone’s ever seen, for others, the greatest good of all and your own spiritual growth.
I’ll try to give specifics. Even if you get to the point where you really want to give, and think of others all the time, until you are enlightened and just a channel for Good/compassion, you can give in ways that are detrimental to others. And again, being a giving person doesn’t mean being a doormat or “nice” all the time. Giving to others for their spiritual growth for instance, as described above, can be very intense and seem harsh – but if that’s what they need, you have to do it if you care about them, even if they or others judge you as being cruel and not spiritual. But you must be of the right consciousness, and coming from the right, caring place.
“The best way to avoid responsibility, is to say ‘I have responsibilities’” – The Messiah’s Handbook, “Illusions” – Richard Bach
Also see: spiritual enlightenment – what is it, and how do I attain it?