Imagine you are studying for a test, and once you truly understand the subject and have memorized all that is needed to pass the test… you buy another book to study and understand the same stuff you already understand. Sure, maybe it helped you bring a slightly different perspective to help with your test. Great!
But then you get another book about roughly the same subject. And another. And 2 more. And 12 more. And you just keep swallowing content you already “get” and never actually get up and go pass the damn test.
I see this a lot in the spiritual and self-development crowd, and I have been guilty of the same. We tend to forget that books, words, and perspectives may be pointers to important truths, but the real test — the real advancement and “training ground” — happens in real life. In YOUR journey. Not on paper, not on a screen, not even in your head, but in the very moment you are in, waiting to be lived, felt, and explored.
Much like we can get addicted to looking at a cell phone screen to avoid simply being with ourselves, we can also get addicted to keeping our noses in endless research and self-help books — because letting go of constantly “intellectualizing” our way through life may bring us face to face with our fear of uncertainty and the unknown.
In a way, getting caught up in researching theory and concepts is kind of like reading a bunch of video game strategy guides, but never actually playing!
“Even if you think you know the “Truth,” you have to let it go to experience it.” – Unknown
Addiction To Processes
There is another, equally as deceiving but far more subtle trap that we can fall into as well: the addiction to continually putting yourself through all of these complex processes to “clear your emotions” or “slash your negative beliefs.” There’s nothing wrong with working on yourself, of course; quite the opposite. But the ego is a sneaky little thing, and just might want to stay in charge by keeping you stuck in these processes endlessly, making you perceive growth as an all-consuming, serious and heavy mission that will make you forget about enjoying life itself, or even being present with your loved ones. (a.k.a the most important things in life that people on their death beds regret not doing more often).
“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
When you’re engaged in your own life and start living, instead of endlessly conceptualizing about ways of living; the ego doesn’t have much of a say and can finally take a back seat. Your heart and soul finally get to drive. Your mind becomes a tool instead of a dictator, and you can finally follow your true calling from a grounded, trusting, and peaceful space. I don’t mean to say that the ego is an evil thing; it is just our way of avoiding whatever scares us about giving up mental control and sinking into the moment we’re in.
Personal anecdote: The other day, I felt agitated and uncomfortable, and after unconsciously trying to avoid the feeling by putting my awareness elsewhere (Facebook’s newsfeed, YouTube videos, etc.), I decided to just give up and relax my awareness in the moment without distraction. And when I did it, I initially felt my body tense up, with nervous spasms traveling through my arms and neck. I felt my awareness trying to escape my body by fighting to stay inside my head. And the more I consciously relaxed and created space for what I was experiencing — even for my mental resistance — I felt my tenseness weaken. I was simply being there for myself, unconditionally present. And I could finally relax… kind of like a child who calms down as soon as you rest them on your chest and give them your presence.
We often underestimate the power of simply giving up “trying” anything and simply relaxing. Of giving ourselves a break, taking a few deep present breaths and hearing the birds sing. It does not always HAVE to be done with candles, crystals, step-by-step guides or a $200 session with a coach. All of that can be a great help and push in the right direction, but in any case, that direction should be towards your own freedom to live your life fully and wholly.
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“If you wait until you’re really sure, you’ll never take off the training wheels.”
– Cynthia Lewis
Knowing how (and when) to turn off the mind and simply enjoy life is the most important gift you can give to yourself and others. It makes you not only feel lighter, but be lighter to be around. It helps others step into that same vibration. And by putting this mindfulness into practice, you might notice your issues dissolve much faster than when you relentlessly try to release them with complex processes, without ever taking moments to simply be.
Arrogance Because Of What You “Know”
I’ve also noticed that the more you live in your head and attach to your own theories, the more arrogant, self-righteous, and combative you may become. Your knowledge becomes something you’re proud to show off or use in arguments to simply prove you are “right.” And this is COMPLETELY missing the point of what growth is about. It disconnects you from others and instills an elitist mindset within you. It brings you further away from a state of love, bringing heaviness rather than the lightness you seek.
Sounds pretty useless to me.
When we are REALLY interested in Truth, we dive into the experience of life more than we protect our opinions. We become kinder rather than condescending. We know that Truth is a state of being more than this “thing” to explain or use as a reference for judging others.
Inner-Transformation vs. Behaviour Change
True growth doesn’t happen in your head as you think about it, talk about it, or justify yourself with it — not even by acting more “evolved.” It happens as you transform from the inside out. It happens when you truly realize, accept, and own up to the root cause of your issue, and genuinely want to shift because of a heartfelt realization that there is another, more loving, and truer way to live. And then, you can quit reiterating the realization in your head and start living it.
Fake growth is a strategy more than an inner-transformation. It is a sudden and superficial change of behaviour rather than a continual practice that transforms you from the inside. It is just swapping one mask for another. You change storylines, yet you remain unchanged underneath. And sometimes, it feels very real and convincing until you find yourself repeating the same patterns and feeling the same pains all over again.
I have to check myself constantly to see where I stand between both versions… because I am freshly out of this trap! But ultimately it’s easy to discern. True growth initially feels challenging, but ultimately feels light, humbling, heart-opening, expansive, and loving. Fake growth still feels like you’re walking a fine line between being being a nice person and defending your poor ego against even the slightest threat. I am sure glad I’m getting off the fake growth train.
“For the next while, simply be. Don’t strive to stand for ANYTHING. It’s dark and it sucks, so don’t let it depress you. But you need that silence. It will show you clarity. Boredom, but clarity. And you won’t feel great or unique in any way. You will feel very ordinary and dull. The key is to let your true self have breathing room, so that you can come to understand yourself. If you adopt a persona you admire and you try to become that person too fast, your true self remains unchanged in the background and feels judged and repressed. Accept your current self. As you do so, you may feel as though you are sacrificing all you have worked for. But in reality, you are simply giving yourself the chance to do things right this time around.”
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