The Dance of Personal and Spiritual Growth


All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance.

Edward Gibbon

Growth is exciting; growth is dynamic and alarming. Growth of the soul, growth of the mind.

Vita Sackville-West

“Life is flux,” it is said, and change would seem to be one of the unavoidable hallmarks of life. I personally feel that one of the reasons we are here on earth, generally speaking, is to learn and grow, and I am a strong proponent of personal and spiritual growth. For this reason, I strive in my work with clients to provide insight that will facilitate their own process of unfolding, wherever they may be in that process.

I have a tendency to intertwine personal and spiritual growth, rather than segregating them, because I feel that it is difficult, in fact, to truly separate them from each other or, indeed, to have one without the other. We often view personal growth as perhaps psychological in nature rather than spiritual — working on our issues, for example. Because of this view, we may regard personal growth as a lesser priority because we see it as “unspiritual” or as unnecessary when we want to be focusing on what we perceive to be more spiritual pursuits. What I have come to learn, however, is that it is often the personal issues and stuff that may be clouding and impeding our spirituality, so that our personal growth (clearing away some of our “stuff”) may lead to spiritual growth. Hence, I feel that one (personal growth) will often lead to or allow us to open up to the other (spiritual growth). In addition, clearing away some of the dross of our “stuff” and growing personally shifts our energy from a denser vibration to a lighter one, syncing us up more to the higher, finer vibrations of a spiritual level.

I have been asked in the past what spirituality is. A tough question, that – although it is one that has definitely prompted me to think long and hard about it. I tend to view spirituality as a feeling of connection to that which is supposedly outside of us (or outside of the narrow confines of our egos) – a connection to others, to animals, to nature, to earth, to the universe, to other levels and realms, and to the Divine. Thus, spirituality, for me, is the sense of connection to the all (as well as to the All!). And spiritual growth represents the growth of feeling that connection, sometimes irrespective of our conscious acknowledgment of it. Openness may be one of the first prerequisites to that growth. Clearing the blocks to that openness and/or clearing our personal stuff that may be blocking our feeling that connection to what is outside of us can both pave the way for our spiritual growth, as well as allowing us to resonate more with higher spiritual energies. Conversely, rigidity and tight energy may tend to impede it.

Many of us have tended to approach our spiritual growth from a mental or intellectual perspective. We may be avid readers of books on spirituality and metaphysics, trying to cram our minds with an understanding of ideas about spirituality, whether learning about the religions of the world or contemporary theories of spirituality or prescribed steps to spiritual understanding or success. We may become quite learned about these ideas of spirituality, and this is a wonderful step toward spiritual growth. We truly grow spiritually, however, when we begin to live our spirituality as well, through experiencing it and exploring it experientially – when we begin to feel it and thus to know it on a different level. Growing and knowing on the level of feeling rounds out our spirituality, allowing it to permeate the different levels of our being so that it is integrated into our being. (I have previously examined this in my article, “Experiential Spirituality and Contemporary Gnosis.”)

So how do we maximize our growth and how do we pursue it? What I have learned through my work with clients, as well as from my own process, is that everyone’s path is different, that there is no set of rules for everyone to follow. I would like to say that openness is a prerequisite. However, I’ve seen those who were not exactly predisposed to being open go through growth or opening experiences. And our manner of growing may vary as well. Some may go through intense periods of rapid growth, while others may evolve more gradually over time, much like a flower slowly opening its petals to take in the nurturing elements of its environment. And for still others, both types of growth processes may be experienced at different points in their lives. (I also feel that it may not be for everyone to experience a lot of growth; some may be living lives in which they are to experience not growing.)

There may be different triggers for our growth, from a vague feeling of disenchantment or lack of fulfillment or that there must be something more to life; to more traumatic triggers such as the loss of a job or relationship, illness or accident, death of a loved one, a near-death experience, etc. We usually know, if we are aware of the growth paradigm, when we experience triggers such as these that we’re being asked to shift and change in some way. We may go through painful periods of change (which I often liken to being forged or tempered on an anvil), as well as pleasant periods of exploratory discovery. Both the triggers to and the ways of growing may be highly variable. When we experience difficult triggers, if we’re not clued in to the growth “imperative” we may resist and chafe under the pain or unpleasantness. As anyone who has moved past this resistance knows, our resistance to the growth process only prolongs our struggle, much as the moth caught in an ensnaring web.

I think it’s important to understand that there are no graven-in-stone rules to follow for growth. It may be more a matter of honoring our own process and looking for the signs and guidance given and available to us constantly. Self-awareness and self-knowledge, combined with openness, can be key. It may also be true that we can’t will ourselves to grow (“I’m going to grow now!”), as much as perhaps allowing ourselves to walk a balance between receptively looking for the signs and guidance around us and actively following through on that guidance – thus, partnering with the universe on our growth and unfolding, as well as being an active participant rather than an unwilling or passive recipient of energies.

For these reasons, self-knowledge can maximize our process. Learning how to access and listen to guidance can be key, as can finding our inner voice and learning to tap into it.

There are many, many modalities that can facilitate. I would like to think that my work with clients helps in this process. Other helpful modalities include meditation, energy healing, rolfing, affirmations, therapy and counseling, touch for health, heart-opening exercises, acupuncture, massage therapy, crystal healing, color therapy, astrology – and the list goes on and on. Certainly books that expand our understanding can be immensely helpful and can even trigger “aha” experiences of realization, as long as we read with a discerning eye (or gut).

Once we begin to grow personally and spiritually, there is often no turning back. We may begin to recognize some of the lessons we’re undergoing, as we realize that we’re being asked to go to new levels of trust, surrender, patience, and flow, among others – those states of being that can maximize our sense of partnering with the universe and with the Divine. We learn that there is indeed more meaning to life than just the superficialities our five senses allow us to experience. Our growth and unfolding – our dance of personal and spiritual growth, if you will – can be addictive as we reap unexpected rewards of heightened fulfillment and peace (once we travel through the tunnel of pain to the light). And we often realize that we wouldn’t want to go back to our former modes of being. Much like the butterfly that sheds its cloaking but limiting garment of the cocoon, we find that our new lighter state allows us both more freedom of being and the ability to feel the light of the sun as we fly more unencumbered to higher levels.

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