This post argues that certain traits are necessary to be sincerely engaged in self-growth, self-healing and spiritual development. These traits come into play in the distance event that each of these really are—a marathon, not a sprint or a few laps. Of course everyone wants to grow, heal and develop their spirituality. That wish, intention and aspiration is universal. Everyone is enthusiastic at the starting line. That’s easy and a given.
The traits are crucial in making it to the finish line. It’s common to lose some ground, stagnate, accrue new wounds, get lazy in one’s practice or in some manner be in entropy for a spell. This is a normal part of the path. What isn’t normal is losing sight of self-awareness and the fact that it requires moment to moment, continual application.
Self-growth, self-healing and spiritual development are skills. Skills can be innate or learned. Either way they can be improved and developed.
There really isn’t a starting or finish line. We live, we experience, we laugh and we suffer. Somewhere in there, we seek solutions to our struggles and/or knowledge to act on our aspirations. In this search we come across ways and means, practices and teachings that provide succor and answers we need and want.
There’s one little wrinkle. These solutions invariably require one to practice. And to continue practicing.
Understanding suffering is very important. The practice of meditation is designed not to develop pleasure but to understand the truth of suffering; and in order to understand the truth of suffering, one also has to understand the truth of awareness. When true awareness takes place, suffering does not exist. Through awareness, suffering is somewhat changed in its perspective. It is not necessarily that you do not suffer, but the haunting quality that fundamentally you are in trouble is removed.
— Chögyam Trungpa
Practice then is an attribute! The willingness to practice is a trait. It may be inborn or acquired and in either case it can be cultivated and developed. Practice starts with the practices of the teachings and solutions one has discovered and picked for themselves. For example, if meditation is included then one sits and meditates. Period. There’s no way around it.
Meditation is hugely beneficial. It’s a total solution. But there’s one point that’s easily missed. Through commitment to meditation, through hours and hours of participating in it, the attribute of practice becomes stronger and stronger.
What that means is that when we’re in a lull, when we stall, when we step off the path, our life is still happening, we’re living that life and the opportunity to practice is ongoing.
Practice is an independent characteristic. It’s independent of any of its forms. Meditation is one form of practice. There are many others. But if we’ve boosted our practice skill, even if the form falls away for a time, practice is still possible. Not only is it possible, it becomes a lifeline.
Formal or informal practice spurs awareness. There’s ordinary awareness and heightened awareness. When we’re in a dull period, whatever heightened awareness we’ve built up kicks in. This is vital.
When our search begins the green shoots of awareness are there. Otherwise we never seek. This awareness is rudimentary. It has to be grown so the seeker in us isn’t lost.
Awareness is a major attribute because it’s foundational. It has to be the one constant. High, low or any state in between awareness is the bond, the enduring hub without which our life isn’t possible.
Unrefined awareness isn’t enough. The attribute which helps us persist in the process of refining awareness is the seeker.
This trait needs some context. What are the qualities of being a seeker? Firstly, curiosity. An interest in life and its intricacies. Along with curiosity, willingness to explore and experiment. There has to be a tendency towards the thrill of self-discovery.
That indeed is the whole premise of the spiritual quest: To identify our particular existence and its relationship to the life which surrounds us and also courses through us.
Included in this is our relationship with ourselves which is central!
The seeker within must be embraced and established. This provides consistency in applying ourselves to personal growth and spiritual development. Because the seeker won’t allow for too much inertia, procrastination or denial. The seeker will goad us always, appropriately and with precise timing.
The seeker must be alive and awake within for this to happen and we must be strongly connected with it.
If the habit of practice is there, then all things become fodder for it. If awareness has been refined, then even the awareness that one’s slacking is very useful. If the seeker is alive and well, then it propels the individual out of any funk s/he may be in.
Courage is another crucial attribute. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about courage. Often it’s seen as a heroic quality, which it is, but heroism on the path of life and spirituality isn’t necessarily a grand, once-only act. Courage is a constant application of its powers. First it has to be found. It has to be plucked from one’s depths and brought to the forefront.
Courage is the ability to stick to and live from one’s value system. There are many temptations, distractions and seductions that want us to live otherwise. There’s a lot of pressure to shortchange our values for what the market wants to sell us.
There’s courage initially when we make an internal agreement to make changes and transform ourselves. Many people resist internal promptings and remain in status quo. Many people live in denial their entire life.
Once courage is shown, life and our path will continue to require it. Courage like the other attributes isn’t a one-and-done dynamic.
When there’s awareness and the habit of practice and we live connected to our value system by displaying courage, what emerges is clarity. We have to be in a clear state to make any of it work. Therefore clarity is another attribute.
Even in murky times, there will be an underlying clarity because all of it is being fed into our practice. And all of our practices enhance awareness and clarity. Remember, upon first subscribing to a teaching or solution, we apply it with no ands, ifs, or buts. These practices help us get and stay clear!
If later we stumble, the clarity that’s been established will carry us through. As long as we remain mindful.
It’s obvious by now that these attributes work in clusters. They overlap, empower and support each other. They also generate other qualities which won’t be outlined here.
This can’t end though without mentioning love as an attribute which gels all of them together. Of course love isn’t there just to gel other traits. Love is one of the primary qualities of life. In the context of growth love is the means to open the heart and keep it open. It’s loving ourselves while we grow and loving the process even when it’s difficult.
The attributes lead to healing within. Healing opens the heart to more love. Love also heals. Courage and love are conjoined. Without love, courage can become brittle. And without courage, we may stay closed off from love. It takes courage to love in many instances!
The first stage of the awakening journey is the calling. The calling arrives when we first feel that spiritual impulse that galvanizes our attention. All of a sudden we sense a greater mystery to life that we seek to experience more deeply; it literally calls us.
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