Is Spiritual Practice Enough?
If your spiritual goal is to lift yourself to a higher consciousness, and you are not getting there, you must shed whatever is holding you down! This obvious activity may call for more than your spiritual practice can give you.
Many people take up a spiritual practice, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi, as a way to reduce the stress of daily life. The teachings they receive in class, their practice and their study open them to a world of higher consciousness not even acknowledged in any other aspect of their life. ‘Let’s go live there’, we say to ourselves!
Dedicated daily practice brings results: greater calm, centredness and perspective, and the rest. At times, in the practice, we achieve a heightened consciousness. This appears more in the practice than in everyday life, where our mundane, daily consciousness easily asserts its conflicted and painful opposition. These fleeting experiences of higher states lead some people to hold on to a delusional goal of leaving this incarnation for a permanent place in the bliss realms. But the purpose of incarnating is not to escape incarnation!
While expanding consciousness and bringing that into daily life is the more likely purpose of most incarnating beings, after practicing for a while, many people find the benefits are tapering off, and enlightenment, nirvana, samadhi, or whatever they are seeking, is nowhere in sight! ‘Okay, better try something else!’, they say, or ‘There’s something wrong with me!’
This is the time to press on, to practice more seriously. After all, did anyone actually say that reaching higher consciousness would be easy? Well if they did, they lied! In fact, it is difficult to achieve, and even more difficult to maintain. It must be viewed as a lifelong journey, not, alas, as a blissful weekend retreat, or mind-blowing shaktipat from a spiritual teacher. These may be significant milestones along the way, but yours is the longer journey of your consciousness over time – in this life and in many more.
But trust yourself! The spiritual practice you’ve chosen is probably perfect for you. You may just have reached its initial goal – the one not often mentioned: you’ve found your self! You’ve run into your own consciousness, your own blocks and baggage – brought into this life, or developed here, to provide you the lessons you have not yet learned. This can be a confusing place to be, exacerbated by the chaotic everyday world around you.
Touching states of higher consciousness will always highlight those contrasting lower energies of the personality that stand in your way. That stop you being in the flow. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow cast. Ultimately, when access has been stabilised, the higher will contain the lower, lifting its vibration, while still holding its critical features. However, this will happen only for your relatively harmless, non-self-centred characteristics that are congruent with your higher Self. The darker, constraining energies of pain, grief, guilt, fear, and worse, all need to be cleared. After all, they are what weighs you down.
Some people find assistance and methods to overcome their blocks through their spiritual practices and teachers. Others live in and for that higher state, turning their back on less desirable aspects of their personality. In over 30 years of healing, counselling and teaching, I have encountered many otherwise spiritual people who would not or could not look at themselves and acknowledge their darker side – who were indulging this tendency called ‘spiritual bypassing’.
To avoid this tendency requires a disciplined and coordinated approach to your life’s psychological, spiritual and karmic journey. Firstly, you must look at yourself as rigorously as you can; and in all unpleasant situations, ask yourself, ‘What is my part in this?’ For what happens to you in the world is always, but always, a lesson for you. It reflects either what you have not yet learned, or what you must next learn to handle without losing your cool, your balance and direction.
Secondly, you must find ways to change yourself which work: which help you clear the unconscious feelings, attitudes and beliefs that are adversely shaping your life. This requires determination and courage. For it is these unknowns that stop you living ‘in the flow’ of your higher Self, its purpose, love and service on the Earth.
 John Welwood: ‘. . . trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced and made peace with it.’ in Human Nature, Buddha Nature, an interview by Tina Fossella