Whether you are moving through a spiritual awakening, healing, or going through a spiritual growth spurt, you may have the wonderful experience of releasing an issue. Congratulations! You may feel a release, openness, and maybe a surge of “you” that makes you feel fresh, vibrant, and alive. It is truly amazing what we find within ourselves when we let go of old attachments to pain and false ego beliefs. If we let go of just a little of this junk, we can feel like we’ve struck gold. We have, yet it is nothing special. It may sound strange to say this, but the more you are just you, the more this is nothing special. The initial euphoria of finding oneself melts into the naturalness of being.

Melting Into Silence

Yet, part of that melting away of the old also involves continuing to develop our willingness to go into the unknown. When you’ve dropped part or all of a major issue, you’re probably also finding yourself in a new part of the woods. All the old sign posts that you were used to following are gone. Gone with them are familiarity and the comfort human beings derive from familiarity, which we generally associate with safety even if our lives are miserable. And the temptation to backslide and run back to familiarity can be strong.

So, let’s talk about this temptation to backslide and how to stabilize in this new or re-discovered sense of spaciousness.

No Idea What to Do? Take a Deep Breath

Before getting caught up in the next set of life lessons, choices, and to-do lists, take a deep breath. Enjoy this moment of freedom. Enjoy this spaciousness. Watch the mind if it is trying to define and control life once more. If you have stepped out of an old issue, don’t be too quick to fill up that vacated space. I often write a lot about how important it is to get comfortable with spaciousness. We are so used to filling up every last moment of our lives that to suddenly have a few slots free is disconcerting.

Well, get used to it (the freedom, not so much being disconcerted). This is a good place to be! It gets even better the more you relax into it. Before you make the next decision, relax and breathe into the moment. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, a few deep breaths to slow down and pause and observe things can save you from horrendously bad mistakes or missed opportunities.

Adding Breathwork to the Spiritual Toolkit

But I Still Don’t Know What to Do

The complaint in the above subhead comes up for many of you still early on your paths. The ego is still in control even after letting go of an issue, and that ego wants direction and definition. However, sometimes we don’t need to do anything. Life is already taking us where we need to go. Sometimes we do need to take action, but in this world, it often is much less work than we think. A few strokes of the paddle in the river of life when you are flowing with it instead of resisting the flow tend to be enough work. We’re not generally in the rapids where we have more navigating to do, and more often than not, even when we think we are, those rapids are mostly made up by our egos anyway. So the continued relaxing is really important as you adjust to this new space.

And it’s really important to let yourself adjust. It’s important to notice your thoughts and any new ideas and concerns that emerge. Realizations tend to continue on their own in spaciousness if you let them bubble up. Witnessing and accepting those new realizations is an important part of going deeper in the work and becoming more stable in spaciousness. If a person stops accepting and tries to resist the truth they’re discovering, then spiritual development grinds to a halt until the issue that is resisting is addressed.

In general, as I’ve mentioned in the Multiple Layers of Healing blog post, we tend to go through different levels of healing, and coming to a place of spaciousness doesn’t usually mean the whole of an issue is gone. It could, but that’s just not guaranteed. In a really big release, all or most of the layers have released the issue. If the subtle energy, body, mind, and heart all drop something (like lack of self-love), you can feel tremendously free, peaceful, and/or full of love.

Yet at the same time, the ego can find ways to still hold on. Ironically and sadly, the resisting ego can make spiritual freedom and spaciousness absolutely terrifying. This may give you a sense of being of two minds after a release. In one way, you are at peace. In another, the ego is freaked out. When this happens, the next layer of your inner work on ego attachments is now visible.

The Tendency to Backslide

It is so easy for someone to want to backslide and go back to what is familiar and rebuild an issue again. It happens a lot.

The Spiritual Backslide

Here’s an example.

A woman has horrible self-esteem issues. Her lack of self-love has led her to date men who are abusive. Their abuse of power is the shadow side of her abdication of power, and their hard-heartedness mirrors her own lack of self-love. She finally realizes it. She sees how all the men in her life have taken advantage of her and how she’s deprived herself of love. She finds her voice, breaks up with her latest romance, and transfers to a new department at work with colleagues and a boss who appreciate her.

However, the new men in her life aren’t aggressive, and her old physical, emotional, intellectual, and sexual triggers have not been healed. In work situations, she finds herself thinking the men are weak. In romance, she doesn’t think she is “interested” in the men with whom she now interacts. She also rejects gentle, loving approaches as being insincere. She can’t receive the new compliments her co-workers and boss are offering her either. She hasn’t realized that she still can’t receive love and that her ideas of love are still mixed with pain. Already, she is thinking that her past lovers weren’t so bad, and the old job she was doing had better people to work with. Because these new situations are so unfamiliar to her, she is looking to go back to the old situations and former ways of acting.

This is one of hundreds of issues that I could point to. The importance of the above example is to illustrate that sometimes the fear of the unknown is one of the greatest causes of giving up on ourselves and our healing right when life is starting to bud.

The Fear of the Unknown

The Return to Old Patterns

The great thing about having released an issue or part of one is that if you return to an old pattern that was unhealthy it begins to feel bad to absolutely horrible. If the woman in the earlier example does return to the ex-partner or former job, the impact of doing so could be exceptionally intense. The more aware someone is, the more they see about themselves and others. This makes returning to old illusions very difficult, and that tends to force people back towards facing the fear of the unknown and discovering new, spontaneous, and natural ways of interacting.

To be sure, if someone is too early on in their spiritual inner work, backsliding is easier to do. Plenty of people try to make changes, give up on them, and go back to the way things have been. Although, how many people are doing serious inner work while making changes, I can’t say. The inner work is key here because it takes the power out of the issues and the beliefs. If we can’t believe in the self-worth issue that says we aren’t good enough for love, then when someone treats us poorly, it’s obvious. We don’t delude ourselves and try to say that they mean well, we deserve it, things will get better, or any of this other ego nonsense. Nope. We know what love is, and being treated poorly is not it.

So whenever we backslide, it’s time to do more inner work to see what beliefs and ego attachments have drawn us out of the newness and spaciousness of a new level of conscious awareness.

What Is Spiritual Inner Work?

Feeling the Discomfort of the Unknown

When someone has a release and no immediate issue to be found, the openness generally feels nice. The mind is calm. The body is relaxed. The heart is peaceful, and energy flows as it wants to.

But many times, this openness exposes deeper issues, fears, and desires as I’ve been mentioning. The desire to hide from these deeper things can be strong. When this desire comes, it’s important to just sit and be with the sensations, emotions, and thoughts that are arising. It’s really very simple. While the ego may want a 10-step program of what do in the uncertainty after releasing an issue, the solution is usually a no-step program. Just be. That’s not a doing. You are already and always being. See? No steps.

So be in the unknown. See what emerges. Sometimes, the discomfort fades. As the discomfort fades, the desire to know what to do or the urge to do something tend to dissolve. When they dissolve, that’s when it is time to do something if something needs to be done.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive. You may have times when your whole body, mind, and heart are screaming at you to do something or that this spaciousness is somehow unsafe. But this is your test. Can you endure it? Can you dissolve this intense craving and/or fear by simply being present to it? If you do, another level of openness and clarity is often your gift, and then you can take action if necessary.

Feeling Uneasy in Spaciousness

The Evolution of Conscious Patterns

The beauty of coming to peace in this new space is that it tends to encourage a natural evolution of new conscious patterns. Sometimes, this requires thinking and experimentation, but how someone comes to those thoughts and experimenting with new ways of behaving is fundamentally different when it comes from peace and spaciousness than from fear and desire. Since most people are completely new to acting from peacefulness, it may feel strange or uncertain as well. It’s just more new stuff, and that’s a good thing.

Levels of Conscious Awareness

In general, not knowing how to behave or think is a sign of letting go of the ego in a significant way and shifting in conscious awareness. The ego is, as I’ve said so many times before, just a program. It gives you the same ideas and behaviors over and over again, and that traps people in certain kinds of situations, relationships, problems, and other things. The fact there there is uncertainty about how to act and think shows that the ego grip has been loosen. Now there is space for something more intuitive and intelligent to arise.

Deeper Issues Unmasked

Whether there is a relaxing into space first and then deeper issues are seen or there is no space until the next ego attachments are revealed, the next set of lessons will arise. The issues that could hide underneath the broad umbrella of an issue such as self-worth no longer are unmasked. How you work with these issues may change too. So uncertainty in your spiritual practice may arise, but generally speaking, meditation, breathing to relax the body, being the witness to your experiences, and a little bit of energetic support go a long way with the majority of issues. Other practices may become close to useless, but the ones I mentioned tend to stick around.

As you do your inner work, you can release the next level of ego attachments, and you probably return to another new and uncertain space, but now it’s also kind of familiar in a way. It is less frightening to be in the unknown, and the cycle of healing, growth, and release moves you deeper towards spiritual freedom.

How to Find Spiritual Freedom

The Process of Releasing Pain from Your Energy Body

Don’t Rush to the Next Thing

At the center of this blog post is an encouragement towards patience. Don’t rush to the next issue or to a new way of living. Don’t think that the work is immediately done the first time you end up in this spaciousness. For some of you who enjoy this spaciousness and are not frightened in some way by it, don’t try to hold onto it. This experience, like any experience, is transitory. It will pass. That’s okay. The more you go within, the more you learn to be at peace with whatever experience life tosses your way and the fear of unknown experiences can dissolve.

(Updated July 7, 2018)


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.


  1. Hello Jim,
    Your post has arrived at just the right time and by reading it I’ve understood lots of things especially how the ego works. I’ve been meditating for a long time and about a couple of months ago I had a release. I didn’t know what was happening, at first I was completely at peace with myself, there was a strong sense of joy and harmony but little by little, an intrusive thought started creeping in, it was something painful that I had to deal with some years ago. I was surprised by this thought, which I believed it had been buried within me. Along with it I started having some “flashes” related to my past and at a certain point I had to cope with anger. This emotion became stronger and stronger but I was able to mentally step back from it and recognise it’s inconsistency. There’re now two minds or sides within me, my real “I”, which is always comforting and guiding me, and the ego, which keeps me alerted. The good news is that I’m now we’ll aware of what is taking place within and when the turbulence starts, I simply watch it with confidence. Surrender is the key to defeating the ego !
    Thanks a lot for everything you’ve been doing for all of us !
    Stefano, Verona (Italy)

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