I’ll give you a heads up right at the beginning of this article. Many of my reflections will likely initiate a degree of emotional resistance in many readers. My observations largely run counter to what is popular in contemporary culture marketing, and that includes much of widely broadcast “spiritual” advice, teachings, and practices. That being said, my views are powerfully substantiated in practice and results.
I understand if not, because most people like to read and think about things that they wish to hear. Even if it is not true. This particular pattern explains many of the popular (social and political) movements worldwide in the past few years. The same tendency applies to those seeking perspectives on their inner work. Practitioners of all sorts are more likely to believe what they feel good about, regardless of whether it is accurate.
The result of this pattern has been a drift in inner work (and results) from what is core to developing ongoing spiritual maturity. I observe a perceptual and intentional shift to living a life dedicated to daily effort to feel good and look good — rather than daily effort to embrace new mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual challenge. The former produces excellent spiritual ideals and appearances. The latter produces enduring spiritual maturity.
Training for the soul
The awareness of the drift in expectations and effort in inner work crystallized in my awareness when reading a book on endurance training for mountain athletes, co-written by a very experienced coach (of world champion athletes) and a renowned professional alpinist of many decades. They began the book by laying out that there are no substitutes for consistent, long-term training for building endurance fitness. That is, the ability to sustain your body through intense effort over the days and weeks of an expedition (in contrast to optimizing your body for a sprint).
There are plenty of trendy training programs and elaborate plans that promote shortcuts, with exquisite marketing. The problem with all of them? They ultimately do not deliver long-term development of an athlete. A beginner can do just about anything and see results. However, fitness will plateau without commitment to the core physiological changes inherent to a base of aerobic capacity.
Where am I going with this analogy?
As someone interested in inner work and progressive spiritual development, you can start off with an erratic practice, occasional workshops, and any number of strategies and experience some sort of notable result. (I can’t define how valuable that result is, however. Many “amazing” awakenings and elevations that I observe seem fairly superficial and temporary).
As a culture, we have come to seek and expect quick gratification for our efforts. In the development (training) of spiritual maturity, however, there isn’t an option for “same-day delivery” on Amazon for a spiritual upgrade. Not everything can be outsourced, or acquired with a time-saving subscription. Spiritual practice and development is one of those activities where you actually have to genuinely show up and put in effort. (Or not.)
The disconnect between intentions, effort, and results
The last two sentences of the preceding paragraph lay the groundwork for my next rather unpopular observation. How much effort that you put into your mental, emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual development really matters. Simply, the more quality time that you devote, the greater the progress that you will make.
That seems somewhat obvious, doesn’t it? But as part of our cultural movement to the appearance of results (rather than durable substance), this basic principle has been diminished or lost in many people’s expectations (about all sorts of things). Comparably, in the fitness training model, it has been advocated to substitute increased intensity for shorter workouts “to save time.” You will definitely improve your fitness (to a point), but will not create the sustained shifts needed for long-term improvements in your athletic performance. Very similar for developing ongoing spiritual maturity. Shortcuts will surely lead you to a wall.
In many respects, what approach you take comes down to your intentions and goals. Either in the world of physical fitness/endurance or the world of inner work, the same principle applies. What level of spiritual maturity and awakening do you aspire to embody?
There’s no value judgment in the answer. I don’t want to be a world champion cyclist, and therefore, I’m not prioritizing my life for the amount of time/effort it would take to be one. But I’m not deluded that my moderate level of endurance training will send me to the Tour de France.
But that’s the exact type of delusion that I see regularly marketed for spiritual practice, particularly on social media.
The marketing … you can put in a few hours a week, and reach stunning levels of spiritual awareness and embodiment. I’ve seen someone proudly advertise their practices and program after “three years of hard work” to elevate out of inner muck. Can you imagine someone aspiring to coach Olympic-level training after three (or even ten) years of athletic experience? They would probably be ignored, and doubtfully would earn much of an income.
Yet it seems possible to use a similar level of credential and attracts thousands (even millions) of followers online. Notably, most testimonials are based upon “immediate” results rather than demonstrating long-term, sustained transformation. Many people attracted to inner work have lost their way — both in terms of discernment and honest appraisal of what it takes to spiritually mature (as well to lead others).
If you reflect for a moment, you can probably see the larger cultural reflections of these disconnects between personal expectations, quality experience/results, and estimation of leadership.
Effective inner work … progress, please?
Given what I illustrated above, I think it is fair and honest to disclose the amount of time and effort that I have directed towards my inner work and energetic capacity. Just in this particular incarnation, I would estimate that I have spiritually and energetically trained about 800-1,000 hours per year for about 20 years of my adult life (in addition to completing my doctorate and earlier profession as an academic scientist). The past decade has involved much less training per say, and much more time in direct planetary service.
These hours are comparable to the training time for a world-class athlete. Which is the equivalent level of my aspiration for my spiritual/energetic capacity, and the energetic endurance requirement, for the magnitude of planetary work that I do. I regularly need to be able to handle tens of thousands of souls in transition (per week), travel across vast space-times, and deal with uncharted multi-dimensional landscapes to resurrect energetic structures lost for millions of years. When there are major planetary events occurring (not the ones in the news), I can be working in different planes of consciousness 24/7 for a week or two continuously. This type of “performance” requirement is what endurance training — physical and spiritual — enables.
Please let me emphasize — my choice of “spiritual training” level is not meant to discourage or dissuade anyone from dedicating less time and energy to their inner work. I share this background information as a reference point, to help put spiritual practice into perspective. A lot of people can dress well and look good in the gym (or yoga studio et al.), but would hardly go very far placed into long-term challenging situations. Big muscles or pristine poses do not necessarily translate into useful, holistic, and healthy capacity in real world applications.
In this respect, the least flashy, most humble, and quiet people that you know might be the most spiritually mature, powerful, and deep in their awareness. Superficial appearances can be deceptive. Who has really completed deep, consistent, and meaningful inner work is not necessarily the person with the title, following, charisma, or various social trappings.
This brings up an important point. You can spend a lot of apparent time — but that does not guarantee meaningful and useful results for your spiritual maturity. A hallmark of effective training of any sort is the actual progressive development (of whatever you are seeking to improve) in genuine practice (a.k.a. the real world).
Part of the illusion of many current programs, healings, and practices is that what counts is (somewhat) passively just showing up, not your demonstrable long-term results. Focus on the activity, ideas, or effort — rather than the actual outcome — is what underpins the pervasive (worldwide) disconnects that this article is intended to illuminate.
Embracing a life of challenge
I offer to you that what creates lasting and meaningful long-term results — in all aspect of life — is purposefully working through challenges. Mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical. As you work through a new level of challenge in any of these areas, you become more clear, strong, whole, and capable.
If you embrace a life of ongoing challenge as fundamental, then you have shifted your orientation from satisfying appearances to genuine inner development.
Furthermore, if you do not evaluate your response to new challenges (i.e., check your progress), then you will not really know if you have been doing something beneficial and productive in your practice. It seems simple, but it is one of those core principles from which so many people have drifted away.
Logging hours at workshops, online courses, and podcasts is inherently empty. What ultimately counts is whether, or how, you are progressing towards your desired goal by your participation (in this context, increased energetic vibration and spiritual maturity).
For example, someone once asked my husband if he thought that she should attend the next event with a famous spiritual teacher that she followed. He asked her how she had evolved since she received a blessing a year ago? The conversation ended. She was planning her next retreat without considering whether she had transformed, or applied the insights, from the last retreat. Sound familiar to anyone you know?
Thank you for your thoughtfulness and genuine interest, if you are still reading. I do hope that the reflections in this article will support you in creating the deep, meaningful, and genuine outcomes that you desire, as well as seeing our planetary situation more clearly. I see and honor you in taking the long, deep, and challenging road of core clearings and liberation.
One of the points made in (physical) endurance training is that “you can’t coach desire.” Goals, visions, and intentions are hollow until you have the dedication to follow through on them: day by day, year by year. Many aspects of spiritual growth can only be fully observed in hindsight. I remember, in my 20s, that I had very particular ideas about what I was doing and why. When I was in my 30s, and looked back over the past decade, I then saw what it was REALLY all about. Now, another decade beyond, I see it again from another reference point.
The energetically elevated view shines a different light on the process, purpose, and progress of inner (soul) work. Therefore, do not despair or feel disappointed if you do not fully see or understand what you are doing now, and why. Even if you cannot describe it, you probably can feel it.
So many aspects of inner work are much more difficult to chart than the physical training model that I have used as parallel and metaphor in this article. (All metaphors are only useful to a point). No one can tell you what you want and no one can ultimately tell you how to achieve it. Or even if you have achieved your goal. Always return to and trust your inner knowing above all else.
Best wishes for your journey!