Trying to Measure Spiritual Progress

The mistake that people make with all spiritual practices is they walk into this room full of tools, and all these tools can help you to break through the illusion of duality, into that spiritual awareness connection, into the All-That-Is.

But what most people do is they try a tool for a brief period. They don’t get the quick results they’re looking for. They drop the tool. They go back and pick up another tool. “Let me try this one.”

Because we don’t know how to set our expectations, particularly in the West, there isn’t a tradition of a spiritual approach to awakening. It’s religious. And religion can sometimes be experienced as separating, “You can only know God through Jesus.” There’s not so much the teaching of “Here’s your direct connection. You don’t need any intermediary.” The intermediary is not the connection. The intermediary may be a teacher and a pointer of the way, but the intermediary is not the connection. In Christianity, Jesus is the intermediary. Through Jesus, you find God.

In spirituality, because we don’t have the language or the background to really understand what it means, people can’t comprehend nonduality. So much of this, all these books, I Am That, anything that has to do with awakening, the challenge is that if somebody hasn’t had a breakthrough experience, none of what these guys are saying can possibly make sense to the average Westerner.

It’s like trying to describe color to a blind man. There’s no reference point. Somebody gave a great example of that. trying to describe the color green to a blind man–that it’s, for example, soft. Then the blind man suddenly can see. And the guy says, oh, I see soft. Because he still doesn’t understand what green is.

So even when you see in that initial stage of seeing, you’re still filtering it through physical interpretation, words equaling symbols. But we don’t have that connection on the pure level of this is what it is. So we have to fall back on this as a description of our best guess of what we think it is.

So for somebody in the West trying to use spiritual tools that don’t come from their culture, they have no way of grasping whether they’re making progress or not.

The biggest question that I always get from teaching meditation or hypnosis to people is “How do I know if I’m doing it right?”

There’s a complete lack of trust and identification with the process. So it is full of doubt. And the doubt energy overpowers the “You’re on the right road, let go” energy. It’s like being on I-90. You’ve got a map in your hand. It says you’re on I-90. Your navigation says you’re on I-90. And you’re still wondering, am I on I-90? So there’s that intense inability to let go of “Am I doing it right? Am I getting the result?” Because we are stuck in being result and goal-oriented.

All spiritual teachers will tell you that the desire and the goal and the grasping (essentially the doubting) is what puts on the brakes so that you can’t possibly get to where you want to get to because you’ve got the brakes on. Then you’re wondering why it’s not working. Then discouragement sets in. Then people give up.

So, in this whole room of tools, the first instruction is when you pick a tool, know that it works. Don’t guess that it works. Don’t wonder if you’re doing it right. The tool in and of itself will force you to use it correctly if you let go.

If you don’t let go–.  It’s like picking up a rake. The rake will tell you “I am meant to rake.” But if you, as a Westerner say, OK, here’s this tool. I don’t know what it is. It’s got these tongs on it. I’m going to use the other end to poke holes in the dirt.

So you can create different ways to use a tool that it wasn’t intended for and not get the expected result, and then blame the tool. But the tool itself will tell you, use me this way, if you are in a quiet, listening space.

It’s like that with all spiritual teaching and with the inner teacher. There’s a baked-in instruction that comes with it. All you need to do is be able to listen. You need to be able to stop so that you can get into a relaxed state so you can be in the present. And then you just need to listen and the tool will tell you I’m a rake. Use me to rake up leaves and so on.

As soon as you can develop the ability to listen, there’s a bond of trust within the relationship that begins to develop. I can trust that this tool is going to tell me what to do, so I don’t need to freak out every time I go back and grab a new tool. Or I don’t need to feel like this tool isn’t doing the job. It’s useless, I’m going to go get another tool. And you just go through tool after tool after tool when any one of those tools would take you the entire distance that you want to go.

Q: I think the other part of this is the reason why we might drop the tool is that we have expectations about what the results are supposed to be. And when we don’t get the result, whatever it is, whether we think all of a sudden, we’re going to feel God or we’re going to be psychic. Whatever expectations people have from meditation. Those might not even be the right expectations to have. Because we have preconceived ideas of what we’re hoping this is going to do for us. If it doesn’t do that for us then we think we haven’t done it right.

But that’s you going in and telling the tool what it is, rather than letting the tool speak to you to show you what it is and how it should be used. So that’s a human-made thought process. Going in with a misunderstanding to start.

Q: Yeah, but I think in the West especially, we are led to believe throughout life in almost everything that we do, that we set a goal. We have an idea of what it is that we want and then we judge an action that we take based on whether or not it delivers what we had expected to get from it.

When it could be, and I don’t know this because I don’t meditate well enough and haven’t been long enough to know. That you may have actually achieved something powerful, but it wasn’t maybe what you had expected or wanted or thought you wanted

Or you can’t identify it because it’s so alien to your expectation that it doesn’t register.

I think also one of the things I’ve been having a conversation with myself about is that it’s more subtle than I might have thought. I look back now on a period of about two months ago when even though I didn’t think I was being successful, I was trying to meditate every day. I think I was in a better frame of mind then than I am now, but at the time I didn’t realize it.

Some of it is that we have this culture of instant gratification. Particularly with all the social media and technology that contributes to attention deficit.

Yeah, if I do this, I want to all of a sudden to be wise and calm.

It’s like working with some of my younger students who say, “We want to hurry up and get to the good stuff.” You get to the good stuff after you learn the basics. That gets you to the good stuff. So there’s a lack of discipline in a lot of people at the beginning.

One of the barriers to really making progress on this spiritual path is for people to let go of distractions. But to do that makes them feel crazy, makes them feel insecure. Because they’re not getting the dopamine hit every five minutes or every minute or every 30 seconds of scrolling through an Instagram feed or any of the things that people have learned to do to self-medicate. They need to learn and practice how to be quiet.

If I said to either one of those kids right now, put your phone away for a week. You have 1/2 an hour a day where you can catch up with emails or text or do whatever you need to. You are not to be on any social media or do any of that. They couldn’t do it.

But that’s how you sift through, OK at what level of readiness are you to really walk this path?

And the beginning readiness is, “I’m interested.” There’s no barrier to that level. All I have to do is say, I’m interested.

But the next level is OK, what are you willing to do to have the growth and the awareness that you’re looking for?

So in the beginning, there’s a lot of time taken with people just beginning to make that shift from how distracted we’ve become as a culture to slowly but surely moving towards silence. Beingness rather than doingness. Paying attention. Being able to make those connections.

That’s where people experience it as tedious rather than as joyful because they’re used to constant stimulation, and when you remove that artificial stimulation, people’s response is this doesn’t feel good.

So there’s not enough instant gratification or quick rewards on the spiritual path to keep the average person going. It’s really easy to give up. It’s much easier to just show up in church once a week, pretend you’re listening, and check the box. I’ve done my spiritual thing; I’m going to get into heaven. Rather than actually do the work.

But it’s not hard work once it becomes who you are and what you do. But in the beginning, it seems impossible for people to get over those barriers of letting go of cultural diseases.

So how do you know if you’re making progress? 

The progress reveals itself. The more you look for it–it’s like trying to chase a dog. The more it’s going to run away from you. If you sit down, the dog’s going to come back and sit with you. 

Chasing energies always chases away. You’re not going to get that sense of spiritual connection by chasing. It’s the whole idea of measurement that becomes the chase.

So in the beingness–. It’s like intuition. How do I just know what I know? It’s not because I’m chasing it. It’s because it just drops on my head. And then I know.

It’s the same thing with meditation. If you’re not looking to measure the experience, how did I do today? Did I get it right today? Did I reach Alpha or Theta or Delta? Let’s hook me up to machines so I can hear the sound. OK, I’m there.

But, in the beginning, that may be what’s needed to create that sense of security of “I’m doing it right.” But even then, you’re not doing it right. You’ve just trained your brain to cycle at a certain frequency which indicates that you are in that state of altered consciousness. But it’s still doing. It’s not a beingness in that state, it’s a doingness in that state. But it’s a way in.

What so many people are looking for is, “I don’t understand what I’m seeing. I don’t understand what I’m looking at. I don’t even really understand what I’m asking for. But can you help bring me along until eventually, I can sort of start recognizing what I’m seeing? And then experiencing what I’m seeing.”

The Inner Teacher can do that for sure.

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