Many of you will have put in a lot of time, effort, energy, and most likely money into your spiritual paths, and you probably will have gone through more than a few lifestyle changes. This is wonderful. I am sure that many of you have reaped a lot of benefits from this dedication and have become increasingly conscious about yourself and life. But there is a very interesting way that people can get stuck on getting somewhere. The spiritual path is not the self-improvement path, although there is definitely that element to it. Initially (depending on where you are in conscious awareness), there may be a lot to improve on. Poor eating, poor exercise habits, addictions, over-working, and so forth are areas that clearly need improvement for a lot of people, but the self-improvement path doesn’t ever really end. There is always something that you can be
better at, which is why we have to be very careful about the ideas we have with getting somewhere and receiving results. Because if we make the spiritual path about the end goals, we are no longer on the spiritual path.
Letting Go of Getting Somewhere
The only thing that wants to get somewhere or achieve something is the ego. As I mentioned above, that’s not all bad. Wanting to be free of an alcohol or sex addiction is certainly a healthy aspiration, and it’s one that may require vigorous effort and dedication. So initially, there’s an interesting way that it is important to get somewhere. But as we work through these large issues and move into subtler spaces, it becomes more and more critical to let go of the end results. Otherwise, we are trying to force something that doesn’t require force; we are trying to make something happen when there is nothing to make happen. The spiritual truth of life is that we are perfection itself, and there is no way to perfect perfection. This may be quite confusing to many of you, and part of that has to do with how you still rate and judge yourself and the life around you. Again and again, what we find out about the journey of the spiritual path is that it asks us to peel away things, not add to it. There’s nowhere to go. We are already here.
Arriving at the Here and Now
The good news is that we are all here and now. We have always been here. We have never been in yesterday, and we will never be in tomorrow. But most people’s minds have not focused on this fundamental truth of living. They’ve been lost in the future or in the past, so coming into this moment tends to be rather painful. It’s like coming back home to a house in complete disarray with trash everywhere, overflowing toilets, and cockroaches. It’s not a pretty sight. So as I mentioned earlier, dedicated effort and self-improvement become critical at the early stages of the spiritual path. But even then, it’s not that you’re trying to get somewhere. It’s more about how you are completely focused on the truth of this moment and can allow the results to unfold from that. Because this is ultimately the ONLY way to directly influence the future, and we still can’t control or predict the outcomes.
That Which Wants to Control
You may notice some resistance coming up in you even as you read these words. What is this resistance about? Is it control? For most unconscious egos, that’s what they’re up to. Even the seemingly out-of-control egos are in fact playing a certain level of control over the type of life experiences they want. In so doing, they are not in the flow, and they tend to be ungrounded and tossed about by the many vagaries of life. The more we let go of control, but stay present in the here and now, the more we can create a conscious influence on our lives. For instance, if you need to go back to school, just waiting around for something to float into your life may not work particularly well. Neither will over-controlling things to find some perfect situation. There is a middle way of doing the work to research schools and programs that must be struck along with allowing the space to be surprised. Maybe in doing your due diligence, you don’t like your original number one choice school, and school number three becomes particularly impressive to you. Changing your mind is part of this letting go of the results that is a necessary part of consciously living because we simply can’t know everything to see the whole of the picture about where we should go and what will best serve us. We leave that part in the hands of God.
Having Faith in the Divine or Whomever
I know that
God is a charged word for many of you. Just use whatever term you want. Regardless, having faith in the universe and how things are unfolding is part of letting go of the results. We all need to set out in defined directions at times as with the school metaphor above, but sometimes, forks in the road appear with a newer better option. I actually had that very thing happen for me when I was seeking admission into MFA programs. The spiritual path started to unfold for me instead, so I didn’t go back to school. But the energy I exerted took me in the direction that I needed to get started, and then something shifted.
This is how the spiritual path is. It is constantly evolving and changing, so holding onto the results we think we want simply becomes a futile absurdity. We have to have faith because there is so little we can ever fully know about the vastness of creation. In this humility, we embrace each moment with conscious dedication, and when the winds of change shift as they like to, we can change our sails to embrace this new opportunity and let go of the original destination. In so doing, we have space for something potentially more true for our paths to appear than perhaps we had originally imagined.
The above article has been printed here with the author’s permission. Jim Tolles is a spiritual teacher, healer, and writer. He is the author of the ebook Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening. He teaches students around the world via online video conversations, and he blogs regularly at spiritualawakeningprocess.com. He currently resides in the U.S. in Northern California.