Usually when someone sets out on the spiritual path, progress is pretty easy to discern. Part of this depends on who is teaching them and how they are oriented to the spiritual path. If the path is being offered as a practice in remembering beliefs, then it is easy to notice that you can remember a new set of beliefs. If it is about meditating regularly, then you can notice when you weren’t meditating and now that you are.

For those who come to spirituality for healing, this can be one of the most noticeable areas for progress. To go from having a heavy, fearful, depressed trauma clouding your everyday life and then to not have it is quite an extraordinary shift. For those of you who have done significant healing, the feeling of ease, freedom, or internal sense of safety that comes after releasing old pain is unmistakable. You can’t fake this. And if you have fully healed from a trauma, that’s an extraordinary change in your experience of yourself and life. That kind of shift is exceptionally easy to see how much progress you have made.

As you continue to grow and finish cycles of healing, the concept of progress starts to fade. It does this for a variety of reasons that I’ll go into, but it can be quite surprising, especially for those who have been on the self improvement path. How do you know you are progressing? Where are you now? Where are you going? The deeper you go on the spiritual path, the more you are thrust into the unknown.

On this topic of the unknown and dissolving ideas like progress, I felt like offering some thoughts today. Oh, and if you are new to this spiritual awakening blog, feel free to join my newsletter:

Letting Go of Ego Goals and Progress

Early in most people’s spiritual paths, goals are useful. They can help people overcome depression, laziness, apathy, and a general inertia that likes to hold us in whatever healthy or unhealthy cycles to which we are accustomed. If you are an alcoholic, then having a goal to overcome addiction is really, really useful. In breaking out of these old cycles, we find the freedom to live more fully as well as to move to different states of awareness within ourselves. When we don’t overcome our ego and energetic inertia, we do not really make choices about how we feel, and we tend to be limited in how we feel about ourselves in general. That’s just part of what an ego does–it attempts to limit the scope of feelings and experiences we have to the “safe” ones. But as many of you know, our egos often get this wrong. They often inhibit our abilities to enjoy life and can even keep us stuck in a whole lot of misery.

Emptying Out Your Ego

Additionally, egos tend to be very good at defining everything. So our initial concepts around goals and progress are also coming from this old program and whatever it believes is or is not possible for you. You can see the problem here, can’t you? If your ego self tells you that you can only be a stay-at-home housewife or that you have to be a carpenter, then a huge chunk of your ideas around progress in life are tied to these beliefs. Certainly, not all of our beliefs are that specific. Some are quite open-ended or vague, and ambiguity can also make it difficult to get any sense of progress. When the ego self is vague in what it wants, you can feel endlessly and aimlessly adrift in life.

However, instead of trying to re-craft an idea of progress, let it go entirely. The deeper you go on the spiritual path, the more you’re going to have to let go of this and just about any idea you have anyway.

Useful Ideas Arise as Needed, the Rest is Nonsense

Clearly, ideas can be useful. I am using them in this spiritual blog post. Concepts and communication allow us to do a lot of really cool things. They are particularly useful when explaining things like gravity, sunlight, seasons, and many other natural phenomena. They give us a shared understanding that allows us to act collectively or individually around something.

However, many of the ideas that form our ego and which our ego recycles in our brain-juices are useless, restrictive, and out-right toxic. Consider self-worth issues that drive some people to constantly have to succeed and prove themselves. The simple idea that a person is “not enough” or “not okay” causes immense pain, and this person can be caught in an endless struggle to progress to a state of “enough-ness.” But if the core issue is never addressed, that time of feeling “enough” never comes or is extremely temporary if it is achieved. These types of self-worth issues lock people in a state of purgatory–a living Hell–of endless striving and craving.

So when I say that most ideas are nonsense and we are losing beliefs and ideas, think of this in terms of the latter scenario. We are not losing the ability to think. Actually, losing beliefs and ideas tends to open up our minds. We gain an increased capacity to think because our egos no longer need to define everything in their limited terms. We also find ourselves in the space of not knowing that forces us to stay in the present moment to engage with whatever new thing life has to offer us.

The Fear of the Unknown

Spiritual Awakening and Finding Progress in Hindsight

For those who have awakened and are going through the cycles of healing that follow, it can be really tough to discern any kind of progress at first. A lot can be getting healed and processed all at once. Additionally, almost no one has any mental understanding of how spiritual awakening acts much less how it should feel when they first awaken. So it can seem like all the inner processing is endless and going nowhere. Or you simply feel out of control and like life is falling apart.

However, as you pay attention and learn to do inner work, you get a better sense of what is being healed. Also, you can start to notice what issues have been processed out of you after they have released. Plus, there are definitely releases that come where you unequivocally feel better, freer, wiser, more loving, something else, or a combination of all of the above. That makes it really easy to discern some kind of progress. So while initially, awakening feels difficult to understand, you can learn to see the method in all the initial madness.

Am I Having a Spiritual Awakening?

Yet, the more you dissolve into the present moment and into your divine self, the less progress matters to you. The awakened self IS. That is enough, and the ego that is being dissolved is less and less in existence to even care if you are “progressing” in any direction at all.

Living Life and Life Living You

As healing cycles conclude–because healing cycles are supposed to conclude–you really start to live rather than just subsisting and getting dragged through life via your ego. Life also seems to live through you. It’s like you are a plant, and things just sprout on their own. They never sprout when you expect, and they are rarely what you would expect. In this way, you constantly re-discover yourself. Where some people get stuck on spiritual plateaus–including those who awaken–this true openness does not stop flowing. It doesn’t lock into a new “person” or ego self that you have to be. It keeps moving and changing, and yet despite that inner movement that you might think would give you a sense of being there, but now you are over here, it becomes really hard to gauge any progress.

Getting off the Spiritual Plateau

Like I said earlier, a lot of our concepts of progress come from our initial unconscious egos. The deeper you drop into presence, the less you have an ego that wants progress. For those who are still digging out the parts of an ego that need to self-evaluate in this way, you are going to be harder and harder pressed to find reference points in everyday life to which you can compare yourself. Most people aren’t swimming in this part of the ocean, and that also takes away reference points to which you can compare yourself.

Instead, let life grow you according to deeper rhythms of awareness and divine wisdom.

The Changeless True Self

The true self in us is changeless. It’s always there. It’s always perfectly at peace with whatever experience we have. It does not progress, and it is that example that we continually return our attention to even as we are discovering more about this natural spiritual growth arising in our human lives. In this way, the true self is your best benchmark precisely because it is not a benchmark. It is not a space to be achieved, and so that space within us reminds us to not concern ourselves with achieving goals or progress. In letting go of progress, goals, and achievements, we rest more deeply in ourselves. Interestingly enough, that seems to really light a fire under us for further growth. It does so because we are getting out of the way. It’s like taking a rock off a sprout. Now the sprout can shoot straight up towards the sun, reaching it arms wide open as it develops into a fully mature redwood tree.

The Peace of Natural Spiritual Growth

Early on when you are doing your healing, you are weeding and pulling away rocks so that your tree can grow. As some of you have finished that phase of the spiritual journey, now you can just grow. When there is nothing in the way, this growth feels fundamentally different. It almost feels like you aren’t doing anything. You surrender and allow, and you grow. You expand. You open. It’s beautiful and so easy.

As you learn to listen to yourself, you can sort of feel the ever-growing and moving energy within you. It’s like a quiet background hum–a gently purring engine–that is happily evolving and growing now that nothing is impeding its journey.

The Unimpeded Spiritual Journey and Continued Re-discovery

Re-discovery is one of the key themes of this part of spiritual life because it is an acknowledgment of the constantly changing human being we inhabit. While the true self is changeless, that changeless aspect always acknowledges and embraces the constantly changing human self. Because of this, we re-discover ourselves every day. Something shifts or changes, and now we adjust to that. A new challenge or difficulty arises, and so we meet it head-on without denial or upset. A wonderful opportunity emerges, and we reach out our arms to embrace it. With each new arising, we discover and develop new aspects of our human-selves.

Because we change and learn things in the surrendered awakened state, you could say we progress, but the more deeply surrendered to the present moment you are, the less you care to create this concept of progress any more. You are simply being you, and you are enjoying this evolving re-discovery project that being a human being is.

No More Progress, No Where to Go, Every Where to Be

Without the idea of progress and without a lot of ego issues that often underlie it, there is nowhere to go. When there is nowhere to go, you can paradoxically go everywhere. The restrictions of ego beliefs are gone. So enjoy! Bear in mind that life and exploration won’t be like before. The ego often gives us these little emotional rewards when we follow its rules. You go to the Bahamas and it says, “Good job,” making us feel good with the release of a few happy body chemicals. If the trip goes badly, then it punishes you with unhappy body chemicals.

But in the space of unending presence, the ups and downs of the ego judgment go away. You live a far more peaceful life as you continue to embrace everything as it is, and you find that you have  full permission to go wherever you feel called because it doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong, will help you to progress to some goal or not.

The space of unobstructed spiritual growth is a beautiful kind of freedom. Ultimately, freedom is one of the greatest gifts of no longer needing progress. You are unfettered and uninhibited, and that freedom naturally elicits a spiritual growth that continues to evolve you all on its own.

For some more thoughts on spiritual progress, please enjoy this video.


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


Write A Comment