Tag: spiritual growth

Letting Go of the Results

slipthroughfingersby Jim Tolles

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.

Transcending Difficult Emotions

feelingdownby Jim Tolles

There’s an unfortunate undercurrent to a lot of spiritual traditions that encourages us to repress or avoid difficult emotions. Spiritual transcendence is seen to mean that we no longer feel fear, anger or sadness, but this is grossly mistaken. Spiritual transcendence means that we are no longer controlled by fear, anger or sadness. If these emotions arise, we have learned to be with them and to let them go. We no longer find ourselves reactive and always trying to get away from the feelings that come from no other place but ourselves.

This may sound very advanced to many of you, but it’s not. All of you have the capacity to transcend the reactive and unconscious nature of emotions, but it starts by really going into them to understand where they come from and why you choose (even on a very unconscious level) to experience them. Let’s start with fear.

The Many Flavors of Fear

This is one buffet that most of us don’t want to eat at, and yet, because we ignore our fears, get lost in them, or try to run away from them, it is the buffet we all seem to get forced to stand in line for. Let me be clear that facing these emotions doesn’t mean wallowing in them. Fear tends to not be one that most of us want to stay in any longer than possible, but it’s always possible to get stuck cycling fearful thoughts in our minds and then reacting from that space. It may not seem easy to break this inner cycling, which may feel like someone running around screaming, Fire! all the time, but you created this inner mental loop. That also means you have the power to break it and change it.

There are many levels of fear, but I’ll speak to some core types. It’s important, however, that you do your work to understand the system of fear within you. While we can drop all unconsciousness at any time when we are truly ready, most of us need to do a little work to understand things and let them go. So here are some thoughts on common fears:

Fear of death. We might as well start with the big one. Much of people’s fears around money come from a fear of death, i.e. not having the means to survive. This is also why many people fear physical discomfort of any sort.

Fear of the unknown. This one probably also links back to fear of death in some ways. Fear of the unknown is also extremely common. It keeps people locked in familiar cycles even though they may be painful, miserable cycles in relationships, jobs, etc.

Fear of being alone. The fear of being alone is super common, especially on the spiritual path. But the ego creates this duality, and as we learn to feel our interconnectedness, this fear becomes an absurdity. In some ways, I also think it is linked to a fear of death because being alone means being separate from the community, which also can function as a survival support mechanism. Furthermore, this fear can be about lack of self-love and needing love from others.

The Heat of Anger

It can be helpful to view a lot of anger as stuck energy. It’s like you needed to move, say something, or understand something, and you got caught in resistance. Usually, this is where fear is blocking you, but you have enough moving energy to churn up some additional heat. This is more often than not an anger at oneself. The more we become deft in understanding our emotions, the more we can notice how they stem from being out of integrity with ourselves. Sure, there are certainly awful things that happen in the world around us and to us, but most days, we are the source of our greatest torment. That can seriously piss off people.

While I can’t overly generalize, anger can be met more effectively by getting a sense of what you need to do. For example, the man in a bad marriage who is getting increasingly angry may suddenly have to realize he’s scared of being alone, and that’s what’s keeping him there when he knows he needs to take action to get a divorce. Or perhaps it’s a fear of the unknown because he doesn’t know how this change will affect the children, and he presumes that his getting a divorce will result in a bad outcome. The ego has all kinds of head trips that it likes to play, and it usually assumes that it can predict the future. But no one can accurately do that all the time, and part of the big lesson in all of this is having faith in your inner knowing when it is time to take action.

Wallowing in Sadness

Sadness is the emotion that people tend to like to wallow in. Certain types of egos love to feed off this vibration. They just love the poor me game and the pity they can receive. It’s a putrid form of energy, but since this type of emotion generally doesn’t think you are worthy of love, this seems to be the best that it can get. It can also be a way of abdicating power and allowing inaction.

For all the stillness and quiet meditation that happens on the spiritual path, a lot of that will incite you to be very dynamic and active in the external world. The world needs people taking conscious action, and that always starts with you. It really is a wonderful spiritual workout to clear out difficult emotions. It is ground zero for really understanding yourself and clearing space for clarity about what you need to do in the other areas of your life and this world. If you don’t know you, you can’t really see others and the world around you. Your sight becomes skewed by these undealt with emotions and stories. Your limited vision is an impediment to helping others, which is why dealing with these types of inner emotions is also a service to the world.

But before I digress too much, sadness is met the same way as the other emotions; you look at it. You sit with it. You listen to its story. Using the metaphor of sitting with a sick child works well here. Your awareness is so strong that the child immediately starts to heal as you sit with it in a non-reactive space. This can be intensely uncomfortable, however. The child may be screaming, snotting, and puking, and this is where we all learn how messy the spiritual path can get. But it does pass, and as you develop the inner fortitude to be with these messy emotions, you are also building up a greater capacity of patience and tenacity to be with whatever the outer world sends your way.

Letting Go of Being Positive

My parting shot on dealing with difficult emotions is to let go of a paradigm that sees some emotions as positive and others as negative. They are simply emotions. They all come and go. No type of emotion is any better than the other. Repressing the bad ones doesn’t help you, and holding onto the good ones or chasing after them causes other problems. Transcending the ones we find most difficult simply means we create space to accept all emotions as they come and to let them go. Initially, there’s usually a backlog of unexperienced and unacknowledged upset emotions. This is okay. For most people, it should be expected. But it is not beyond your capacities to confront, and that backlog will not last. Ultimately, we all can come into a new conscious emotional equilibrium that allows us to live fully from our hearts and to acknowledge fear, sadness, anger, and other unsettling emotions as simply passing clouds in the overarching skyline of our lives.

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.

20 Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out in Life

LEO ART 2 by Leo Babauta

Everything has been figured out, except how to live. – Jean-Paul Sartre

I’m nearly 35 years old, and I’ve made my share of mistakes in my life. I’m not a big believer in regrets…and I have learned tremendously from every single mistake…and my life is pretty great. However, there are a few things I wish I had known when I was graduating from high school and starting out as an adult in life.

Would I change things? I’m not so sure. I might never have gotten into a mountain of debt, but then I wouldn’t have learned the amazing satisfaction of getting out of it. I might have made better career choices, but then I wouldn’t have all the work experience that makes me the blogger and writer that I am today. I might not have gotten married that first time, so that I would never have gotten divorced, but then I wouldn’t have my first two beautiful wonderful incredible children from that first marriage.

I don’t think I would change any of that. However, looking back, there are some lessons I’ve learned that I would probably tell my 18-year-old self. Do I share them now to share my regrets? No, I share them in hopes that younger men and women, just starting out in life, can benefit from my mistakes and my lessons.

What follows isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s one that I hope proves useful to at least a few people.

I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it. – Jack Handey

1. How to control impulse spending. If there’s anything that got me in trouble financially, it’s impulse spending. Buying clothes when I don’t need them. Buying gadgets because I gotta have them. Ordering stuff online because it’s so easy. Buying that new shiny SUV because…well, because it was going to help me with women. I’m not proud of any of that. I’ve learned to control my impulses, at least a little better. Now, I give myself some time to breathe. I think over my purchases, see if I’ve got the money, think about whether it’s a need or a want. That would have been a useful tool 15 years ago.

2. You gotta stay active. I was in track, cross country and basketball in high school, but once I started college, the running and basketball began to slowly fade away. Not right away – I played pick-up basketball for years after high school. But even that went away, until I became sedentary. Playing with my kids outdoors winded me. And I began to get fat. I’ve reversed that trend, and am very active now, but I’m still trying to burn the fat I gained in those inactive years.

3. How to plan finances. I always knew that I was supposed to budget and track my spending when I became an adult. I just was too lazy to do it. And I didn’t have a good idea of how to actually do it. Now, I’ve learned how to plan, and how to stick to that plan. Sure, I deviate from my plan, but I’ve learned how to handle that too. Maybe that’s not a skill you can learn from book reading. You just gotta practice. Well, I hope to teach it to my children before they go out on their own.

4. Junk food will come back to bite you in the butt. Yeah, it wasn’t just the sedentary lifestyle that got me fat. It was all the damn junk food too. I would eat pizza and burgers and Twinkies and sugar cereal and desserts and donuts and…well, you get the picture. As someone used to being able to eat whatever I wanted, it never seemed like it would be a problem. Bad health was something to worry about when you got old. Well, my jeans began to get way too tight, and to my horror, I climbed several pants sizes and developed a gut that only now is going away. I wish someone had shown me an “after” picture when I was young and downing the Big Gulp sodas.

5. Smoking is just dumb. I didn’t start smoking until I was well into my adult years. I won’t go into why I started, but it didn’t seem like a problem because I knew I could quit anytime I wanted. Or I thought I could, at least, until several years later I gave it a go and couldn’t do it. Five failed quits later and I realized with horror that my addiction was stronger than I was. Sure, I eventually beat the habit (quit date: Nov. 18, 2005) but it took a piece of my soul to do it.

6. Fund your retirement, son. And don’t withdraw it. This piece of wisdom, and probably all the ones above, might seem blisteringly obvious. And they are. Don’t think I didn’t know this when I was 18. I did. I just didn’t pay it serious attention. Retirement was something I could worry about when I was in my 30s. Well, I’m in my 30s now and I wish I could slap that little 18-year-old Leo around a bit. What money I could have invested by now! I had a retirement plan, but on the 3 occasions when I changed jobs, I withdrew that and spent it frivolously.

7. All the stuff you’re doing that seems hard – it will be of use. This is the first one that might not be as obvious. There were times in my life when work was hard, and I did it anyway, but hated it. I did it because I had to, but boy did it stress me out and leave me exhausted. Hard work isn’t as easy as I wanted it to be. But you know what? Every bit of hard work I did without knowing why I was doing it…it’s paid off for me in the long run. Maybe not right away, but I’m using skills and habits I learned during those times of high stress and long hours and tedious work – I use them all the time, and they’ve made me into the person I am today. Thank you, younger Leo!

8. Don’t buy that used van without checking it out closely. I thought I was being smart by buying used, but I didn’t check it out carefully enough. That dang van had loads of engine problems, a door that nearly fell off when I was driving, a door handle that snapped off, a side mirror that fell off, no spare tire despite three tires that were ready to blow (and did), windows that didn’t roll up, rattling noises, an eventual blown radiator…I could go on and on, but let’s just say that it wasn’t my best purchase. I still think buying used is smart, but check things out closely first.

9. That guy you’re going to sell your car to? On a gentleman’s agreement? He’s not gonna pay you. I sold another car to a friend of a friend, who I was sure would pay me even if I had nothing in writing. That was smart. I still see the guy once in awhile on the road, but I don’t have the energy to do a U-turn and chase after him.

10. Make time to pursue your passion, no matter how busy you are. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and get a book published. I just never had time to write. With a family and school and a full-time job, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Well, I’ve learned that you have to make those hours. Set aside a block of time to do what you love, cut out other stuff from your life that take up your time, and don’t let anything interfere with that work. If I had done that 15 years ago, I could have 15 books written by now. Not all would be great, but still.

11. All that stuff that’s stressing you out – it won’t matter in five years, let alone 15. When things are happening to you right now, they mean all the world. I had deadlines and projects and people breathing down my neck, and my stress levels went through the roof. I don’t regret the hard work (see above), but I think I would have been less stressed if I could have just realized that it wouldn’t matter a single bit just a few years down the road. Perspective is a good thing to learn.

12. The people you make friends with are so much more important than your job or the things you buy. I’ve had a few jobs, I’ve bought a lot of things, and I’ve made a few friends over these last 15 years. Of those, the only thing that still matter to me are the friends. And I wish I could have spent more time with friends (and family) than on the other things.

13. All that time you spend watching TV is a huge, huge waste of time. I don’t know how much TV I’ve watched over the years, but it’s a crapload. Hours and days and weeks I’ll never have back. Who cares what happens on reality TV, when reality is slipping by outside? Time is something you’ll never get back – don’t waste it on TV.

14. Your kids are going to grow up way faster than you think. Don’t waste a minute. I just had an Oh My God moment recently. My oldest daughter, Chloe, is 14 going on 15 next month. I have three years left with her before she leaves my house and becomes an adult. Three years! I am floored by that single fact, because it really doesn’t seem anywhere near enough time. I want to go back to my younger self and whack that younger Leo on the head and say Stop working so hard! Stop watching TV! Spend more time with your kids! These last 15 years with Chloe (and my other wonderful kids) have gone by much, much too fast.

15. Forget the drama. Focus on being happy. There have been many things that have happened to me, professionally and personally, that seem like the end of the world. And while these things were bad, they get blown up in our heads so that they become major drama. They caused me to be depressed from time to time. What a waste of time. If I realized that it was all in my head, and that I could be happy instead if I focused on the positive, on what I did have, and what I could be doing, I could have skipped all the moping about.

16. Pay more attention to blogs when you first hear about them; they’re more than just journals. I first read about blogs seven or eight blogs years ago, but when I took a look at them they didn’t seem like anything of interest, just some people’s journals about stuff they read on the web. Why would I want to read those? I have my own thoughts about the web, but I don’t need to share them with the world. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, on various sites and forums, but every time I happened upon a blog I would brush past it without interest. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I discovered what wonderful things they could be (I mentioned some of my early favorites in my list of influences). If I had gotten into blogging years ago, well, I wouldn’t have been wasting all that time.

17. Speaking of which, keep a journal. Seriously. Your memory is extremely faulty. I forget things really easily. Not short-term stuff, but long-term. I don’t remember things about my kids’ early years, because I didn’t record any of it. I don’t remember things about my life. It’s like a lot of foggy memories that I’ll never have access to. I wish I had kept a journal.

18. Tequila is seriously evil. I won’t go into details, but it should suffice to say that I had some bad experiences, and I’m not sure I learned very much from them or benefited in any way except to learn that tequila is the drink of the Devil.

19. Yes, you can do a marathon. Don’t put this goal off – it’s extremely rewarding. Running a marathon had always been a dream of mine since high school…something I wanted to do but thought was out of reach. Or if I ever did it, it would be years and years later. Well, I learned that it’s not only achievable, it’s incredibly rewarding. I wish I had started training when I was young and light and fit…I could have had some good finishing times!

20. All these mistakes you’re going to make, despite this advice? They’re worth it. My 18-year-old self would probably have read this post and said, Good advice! And then he would have proceeded to make the same mistakes, despite good intentions. I was a good kid, but I wasn’t good at following advice. I had to make my own mistakes and live my own life. And that’s what I did, and I don’t regret a minute of it. Every experience I’ve had (even the tequila ones) have led me down the path of life to where I am today. I love where I am today, and wouldn’t trade it for another life for all the world. The pain, the stress, the drama, the hard work, the mistakes, the depression, the hangovers, the debt, the fat…it was all worth it.

Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. – Mark Twain


The above article is printed here with the author’s permission. Leo Babauta is the creative mind behind ZenHabits.net. Zen Habits is one of the top blogs on the Internet. It covers: achieving goals, productivity, being organized, GTD, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, getting a flat stomach, eating healthy, simplifying, living frugally, parenting, happiness, and successfully implementing good habits. Leo is married with six kids. He lives on Guam, where he’s a writer, a runner and a vegetarian.