The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.

— Barry H. Gillespie

The path can be a path of healing. It can be path of personal growth, or a spiritual path. While each of these are distinct, they also converge and become the same path. There’s overlap between these paths and people have entry points based on needs and motivations. Not everyone will allow the experience of these paths converging. Some may remain within a distinct segment. The potential is there to step onto the most meaningful, expansive, inclusive and rewarding of these which is the spiritual.

Personal growth is mostly about character and skill development, career growth, and maturing emotionally and mentally. Its realm is functioning better in the world as an ego-mind, and there are tools there to achieve personal growth, without even delving into healing.

Healing is in the middle between personal growth and spirituality.

Healing can be confined to only personal growth. A person who heals physically may not wish to consider what else is possible. Someone who becomes whole after heartache, may not know that the healing of the heart is a grand journey. Someone who heals a negative mental pattern, may not wish to explore consciousness in its true sense. Again, it depends on the person’s needs, motivations and openness.

Healing by its nature isn’t confined. It’s happy to be circumscribed and help the person there. It can also extend far into the spiritual, be the genesis of it and reach its full potential, housed in universal consciousness. Healing also enhances spirituality and vice versa.

Another entry is directly from the spiritual, in which case most people will have to step back and go through healing and personal growth for their spirituality to be truly stable.

Any of these paths are susceptible to the recurrence of the same challenges. Change isn’t linear. It’s layered.

Inside #5 by Maria Pleshkova
Inside #5 by Maria Pleshkova

Change, growth, healing and understanding are arcing evolutionary cycles. Evolutions can occur within one human lifetime. Ideally they happen in ascending arcs or spirals. It’s also true that the nature of personal evolution is cyclical.

The most common reason challenges come back to haunt us, after we thought we were done with them is because we hadn’t yet fully integrated the insight and learning. That and not putting any work into it in the fist place. That’s obviously a recipe for disaster. But even with some sincere inner work, unless there’s a total embrace, the same stuff is going to be a bother again and again.

And that’s pretty much the cycle. Almost nothing is resolved on the first try, nothing significant anyway. So we keep putting the work in. If a challenge surprises us after its been given its due, we take it up again. And each time, we meet the challenge at a more evolved rung of the spiral.

At the beginning, when we’re at the least evolved rung of the spiral, a challenge creates misery, we’re in full reactivity, resentment and resistance are our only modes, and the drama churns on and on. We’re unable to entertain other possibilities and can only lay blame outside ourselves. There’s disharmony, upset and anger.

If we willingly engage in inner work, are sincere about it and stay with it, our growth moves up the spiral. With each upper level of the spiral, there’s more spaciousness, more empowerment, forgiveness, inner resourcefulness, healing and a solid ability to respond to the challenge, rather than react.

Some recurring patterns heal fairly quickly and with finality. Others keep revisiting. Healing is an ongoing engagement. If we’ve broken through the identification of ourselves as an ego-mind only, and have embraced healing as a way of life, then more than likely we’ve also stepped onto the spiritual path.

In response to suffering, we can either find a limited solution in the form of personal growth, or expand into healing and spirituality which bring more substantial solutions. Even so difficult challenges can rear their ugly heads.

The difference then is that we’re still able to keep ascending the spiral, keep finding ourselves at the sweet spot of the evolutionary arc.

From that vantage point, we’re able to be much more in faith, much more metaphysical and exercise a whole lot more wisdom in our understanding and acceptance. Joy and harmony are still present. We’re able to dip into universal resources such as compassion and spiritual power. We’re able to laugh.

Faced yet again with the same knot, we don’t repeat our previous unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. We become unstuck faster and use the repeating challenge as fuel for our path.

Without mud, you cannot have a lotus flower. Without suffering, you have no ways in order to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. Happiness is the lotus flower, and the suffering is the mud. So the practice is how to make use of the suffering, make use of the mud, to create the flower, the happiness, and this is possible.

— Thich Nhat Hanh


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Spiral of Healing