Spiritual Progress

Spiritual Progress

By Desmond YSC

Sometimes we are able to see how others are unconsciously doing things or thinking in ways that serve only to hurt themselves. They do so without being aware of it. It is easy to observe others but observing ourselves is much more difficult. We accept all our thoughts as the truth without any doubt whatsoever. For example, a friend may walk pass us without greeting us and we may think that he is being arrogant when in actual fact, he may only be distracted with some troubling thoughts. However, our interpretation of the event that we take as the truth has a greater hold over our emotions than the true scenario.

The truth is, our thoughts or interpretation of the external world may not reflect reality and is subject to our past experiences and habitual thinking patterns. Not all our thoughts are true. If we wear glasses with red lenses, everything will appear red. A person who is raised to think that no one can be trusted will always look at others with suspicion, even those who are genuinely trying to help him.  Accepting that not all our thoughts are correct can be very liberating. We may face the same event at different times and interpret them differently merely because our moods were different at those time.

Some of us may hold the view that visions or the development of psychic abilities are marks of spiritual progress. Do these things really reduce our suffering? Why do we practice anyway? True seekers practice because they seek happiness and inner peace. Visions during our meditation may be exhilarating for a while but eventually, we will fall back to into our original state of mind. Psychic abilities merely add to One’s ego. We have read about many spiritual masters falling from grace because their ego got the better of them. Power corrupts, including psychic power.

True spiritual progress is measured by how aware we are of our thinking process, emotions and our physical state. The better we are at watching ourselves, the greater will be the peace that we bring into our life. Just pause a moment and consider if what I say is consistent with your experience.

But, we cannot just ‘decide’ to be more aware. This requires training and that is actually what our spiritual practices are all about. Many people complain that they are not progressing because they do not experience visions or develop psychic abilities. Many complain that they cannot meditate because they cannot silent their mind. These complains will continue until the end of time because they are not using the correct scales.

Our meditation practices are meant to increase our awareness of our body, mind and emotions in a controlled environment with minimal distractions so that we can eventually bring that level of awareness into our daily life. When we are learning to drive, it is better to train on a quiet road and develop our skill until we are good enough to drive in the rush hour traffic.

When we meditate, we learn to recognise tension in our body. We learn to truly feel our emotions and we see how different thoughts conditions different emotions.  When we catch ourselves thinking negative thoughts that cause negative emotions, we will see that we are only causing unnecessary suffering for ourselves. A wise person said that harbouring hatred in our heart is like drinking poison and hoping for the hated person to die. Only when we recognise that what we are drinking is actually poison, will we stop doing so. No one else can convince us otherwise. Sometimes we may also see how our moods trigger different thoughts.

We often think that our thoughts affect our emotions but sometimes, it goes the other way round. So we learn to watch our emotions. What does loneliness feel like? Does it really hurt? Where? Is it really that painful? Watch those emotions and recognise that the more we watch them, the less power they have over us. This is the secret of achieving emotional maturity.

As we continue to watch, over time, we may realise that all our thoughts and emotions are conditioned by external circumstances and the only shield we have to maintain our inner-peace is a strong state of awareness developed over years and years of spiritual practice. Eventually, we will develop the skill of maintaining our peace of mind irrespective of the external circumstances, merely by focusing our awareness on our mind, body and emotions. The true measure of spiritual progress is how much we understand ourselves.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Vivien Poh
    Sep 15, 2015 @ 09:05:20

    Great sharing Desmond, thank you and Namaste!

    Reply

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