Ten Common Pitfalls of Spiritual Practice

With all the helpful information on what and how to practice, developing spiritually seems straightforward and easily achieved when in actuality it is not. There comes a time when one must go beyond what some refer to as a secular spirituality; feeling better about oneself and getting what one wants in life. If one does not identify greater spiritual goals for oneself practice becomes routine and confused, discipline wanes, and belief weakens. This lack of direction and/or impasse can result in disappointment in oneself and envy of others spiritual development. These then contribute to one becoming hostage to mundane societal norms and also to religious-spiritual dogma. The alternative is to remember one’s transpersonal identity and its responsibilities, what one is doing and the impact it is having, and what one’s purpose is in doing as one does. This prevents one’s practice from stalling and becoming self-centered. It also insures one’s practice does not become “everyone’s practice” and instead creates the personally fashioned and uniquely lived one it must be.

Spirituality is nothing if not mind altering. And being able to discern common psychological awareness from spiritual occurrences and awareness is of utmost importance. One needs to know the difference between spacing out and the “not-thinking” of raised awareness, intuition versus inspiration, lucky guesses from true clairvoyance, and auditory sound distortions versus true messages from spiritual guides and other helpers. Misperceptions mislead and harm us, while only true experience informs and guides us.

It is easy to misperceive the change in one’s character and one’s spiritual abilities as one evolves spiritually. Feeling transpersonal attunement following a retreat does not mean one has altered one’s mind; only that one has experienced this state of awareness. Nor do visions through prayer or in a sweat ceremony mean one is visionary. Change in awareness does not equal permanent change of mind or one’s character. Sustaining one’s experience through practice, and preparing for and accepting the high probability one will return to traditional awareness are best practice. And doing so actually contributes to the likelihood that one day one’s mind will have evolved into a permanent higher stage of awareness.

When one does not recognize the state of mind versus stage of mind phenomena one’s ego can become inflated. One thinks one is more and can do more than is actually true. Most commonly the ego thinks of itself as having the worth and power of the Divine, a clear case of mistaken identity. A common form of this occurs when one credits oneself with positive manifestations in one’s life. Whether on the level of the proverbial parking space or the million-dollar miracle, if one does not credit the Divine Source one is deceiving one. And this eventually leads to a cessation of desired manifestations and/or the manifestation of negative ones. Being respectfully humble and grateful for what one receives, while sustaining worship results in ethically securing what one needs.

Temptations are especially frequent when one is evolving spiritually and life is manifesting as one might desire. Their defining characteristic is appearing as an opportunity that presents itself as an easy shortcut to one’s next goal. And initially a temptation seems to be a good solution for a good cause with only minor drawbacks. This could be the chance to start a business with another; an all expenses paid retreat, the appearance of the love of your life. Caution is necessary because one must be certain this is not a temptation that will move you away from other meaningful objectives; causing you to compromise more than you might have otherwise, or take more risk or responsibility than you should. One must examine wisely to be sure doors are opening easily and not being forced, and this is best done with patience and faith. (See No Perfect Om, Spiritual and Religious Experience: “Blessing or Temptation”)

Some refer to it as karma, others as God’s will. No matter, life is comprised of intentions and consequences ordered in a circular fashion; “what goes around comes around”. Based on self-perception and recollected personal history one all too often misunderstands this as punishment or reward. In actuality events are best understood as multi-determined. While one has contributed, one is not the sole cause, but rather other forces have also been influential. And it is this collection of forces, as universal motivation and/or consequence that actually determines outcome. Remembering there is no individual self to blame or credit can help one remember this principle. Respecting the Nondual One’s actions as loving and beneficial, one then learns from the experience and moves forward in life.

Living in the material world but not being of the material world is too often misunderstood as a directive to reject the mundane world in which we live. Retreating from the world, hiding away from it, and disparaging what is not spiritual is a losing proposition. Instead one is to partake in the world with wisdom and the moderate action it provides; relinquishing the material aspects that harm spiritual development, surrendering to the universal rules that require sacrifice of mundane behaviors and pleasures that are damaging. Avoiding the detrimental and embracing virtue promotes a healthy spirituality, supports universal diversity, and furthers the common good.

Spiritual bypassing is a common pitfall and occurs when one uses one’s spiritual practice to falsely shore up a weak ego. This can take the form of acting in a disdainful manner toward the world conveying one does not need it or others, telling oneself one is a better person than those who do not practice, or acting the role of a spiritual person rather than actually embodying true spiritual character. Overly relying on Spirit to meet one’s mundane psychological needs is another example, for instance using God to replace one’s lost lover or partner. Addressing one’s unique psychological needs as part of one’s practice, especially monitoring the shadow side of one’s character is crucial in this regard. (See No Perfect Om, Challenges to Spiritual Growth: “Two Common Forms of Spiritual Bypassing”)

Like spiritual bypassing, spiritual materialism serves the ego. It often involves an overemphasis on securing and maintaining the material pleasures in the world. And it can also take the form of securing and reveling in the social status that comes from serving others. Rather than accepting worldly social and material gains as the byproduct of spiritual life and practice, they become the unconscious emphasis of practice. These results are usually cloaked in the language of blessings and miracles, and are garnered with little gratitude and accompanied by pretentious display. Accepting and appreciating one’s spiritual moments or material gains as commonplace, and returning them to Spirit as the originator of them can prevent materialism from tainting one’s spirituality.

The tenth pitfall is associated with one of the most sought after prizes in life, romantic love. And this has become idealized as finding the love of one’s life, one’s soulmate. The spiritual pitfall occurs when one has difficulty distinguishing Divine Love from romantic love. The latter is based on chemistry and fit between two individuals. The former is the result of two beings having the spirit within each one recognize the spirit in the other, resulting in Spirit recognizing Itself and Love resulting. Confusing the two loves results in a relationship ending when the two involved realize there is a poor fit between them that has eroded the initial Divine Love. To prevent this tragedy one must determine if romantic love is present, distinguish between chemistry and spiritual feelings, and if all are present to continue one’s spiritual practice rather than let one’s lover become the new “god/goddess” in one’s life. (See One Perfect Om, Consider These Ten Things Before Declaring You Have Found Your Soulmate)

 

 

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