This morning, as I helped my daughter with her violin home practice, we had a conversation about the process of learning and ‘improving’. In order to reach the next level/phase/step in any process of learning, you must practice and ‘master’ the skills associated with the level you are at. Then, through a variety of techniques, you move on gently pushing yourself forward through practice, repetition and focus. Parts of this process are challenging and quite frankly, boring. Parts of this process feel effortless and exhilarating. All of it: the tedium, the joy, the frustration, the fun…. are necessary components to development.
As far as I can see, this is true of all artistic processes and maybe most everything. We know it in music, art, dance, martial arts, creative writing, etc. Knowing its truth does not make it easy or desirable. I’ve known many who simply give up or walk away when they reach one of these points of transition that are especially difficult or frustrating. And perhaps that TOO is an appropriate response. After all, timing is everything. And we can’t possibly expect to be experts at everything. At least not all at once!
Interestingly, there is one place in my work that I am perhaps most motivated to “succeed” where I see other drop off or plateau regularly. That is in the process of self-discover or awakening. Many claim to be on this path towards wholeness and ‘enlightenment’, but few are willing to really push through the places of resistance and engage in the difficult work that it takes to get there. Many find a place along that path that feels good/comfortable and simply remain there without much resistance. This is also true in many other disciplines. My daughter could choose to stop progressing in the violin at the point she is now. She would still be able to impress her friends with her playing, bring out the violin at Holiday gatherings to play for family, teach the basics to kids and perhaps play with a community orchestra. This would be a fine place to stop. Or she can continue and aspire towards something else. The choice is hers and we talk about this choice frequently.
Spiritual development follows many of the same patterns. We can use our practices (meditation, yoga, energy work) to move us forward OR we can plateau at a place we feel cozy and choose to stay here. Both are viable options especially when chosen consciously. There is a vital difference though here from other practices. This ‘self awareness’ piece is something we all are engaged in whether we are consciously working on it or not. The same is not true of the violin, for example. Because we are all human and in the process of evolving both individually and together, the self-work we do effects not only our personal existence, but our collective experience as well. Every single one of us on the planet. And where we choose (if you believe its a choice) to plateau has a profound impact on our world. Its a spectrum, of course, and knowing where you are on that spectrum represents a key element of our awareness. Understanding the reasons and necessity for moving forward is also a key part of this awareness. Its not just about YOU. In this one area of our life, we truly are all connected.
In my work, I guide people through the process of moving to that next level. Whatever it is for them. Wherever they are in the moment. That process, by its very nature, involves intricate detail and subtle awareness around where it is easy to get stuck, give up or plateau. Especially those deceptive places that make think you have arrived, when really you are still in the process itself. Its a tricky balance that I see as a kind of dance. But this is my specialty and I work invisibly.
Knowing and expecting that you will get pushed, that there will be resistance, that you’ll have a natural tendency to want to reach for the practices and places that represent “escapism” in its many deceitful forms when the going gets tough. And then, being willing to take a deep breath in and take the next step forward…. anyway. This is the process of living and learning and evolving. And when we are able to see that our spiritual development requires the same kind of learning process that ever other “skill” we have every attained requires, we’ll slowly begin to understand both the process of AND the necessity of this work. This vital component to the well being of our present moment and all future generations on this beautiful planet.
May you find the courage, strength and support you need to bravely and boldly take your next steps forward in this moment, today, this week and this life.