This is a question that I’ve been asked and have been asking for a long time. There are many goals that we strive for in our lives that have measurable endpoints such as weight loss, getting out of debt and financial freedom. However, what is our measure for something as nebulous as spiritual growth?
Many of us feel we are on a spiritual path but what does this mean? It means different things for different people. A spiritual path could be identified with a particular religious practice, with mindfulness and meditation or simply spending quiet time in nature. It may be none of these things and it may be more personal for you. High level athletes often consider their sport and their training as their spiritual practice. Regardless of what your spiritual practice is, the question still remains, how does one measure progress on the spiritual path?
My answer to this question is that you measure it by the degree of absence of thought and the degree of self-compassion. Let me explain. The first measure comes from Eckhart Tolle’s book, ‘The Power of Now,’ which I highly recommend to all of you. Eckhart Tolle considers most thinking as dysfunctional as we have become slaves to our minds.
Our minds are wonderful tools which can help us solve problems and navigate the challenges of daily life. They become dysfunctional when they are polluted with negative thinking and taken over by the inner critic. The inner critic is that voice in your head that tells you that you are not good enough and will never achieve what you set out to do. We all have this voice in our head and it is programmed in our subconscious mind from early childhood.
This is the voice that keeps us locked in fear and keeps us from achieving our highest potential. Eckhart Tolle says that we must become deeply rooted in the present moment in order to transcend our negative thinking. Once we do this, we become aware of a deeper essence of our true nature, also known as consciousness. This is a higher level of awareness which is far more powerful than thought. It can only be realized by being deeply present. This does not mean that we do not use our mind and our faculty of thinking but we only use it when it is necessary and we do not let it control us.
Once we are able to be deeply present and transcend our thinking, we come into contact with consciousness, which is the highest level of awareness and who we truly are. When we are able to realize this as our true nature, we can then redefine who we truly are as beyond our thoughts, emotions, life stories, roles we play and physical bodies. It is only when we discover our true nature that we realize our magnificence and oneness with others, nature and the universe.
This realization of our true nature and oneness with all is the start of self-compassion and compassion for others and nature. This then becomes the true measure of our spiritual growth.
Therefore, if you are on the spiritual path, the most important questions you can ask yourself are how deeply present you are and, thus, not caught up in your own mental noise and do you truly love yourself. This is how you will be able to track your progress on your spiritual path.
If you do not like your answers to these questions then do not let this deter you because the spiritual path is the most important journey you will ever take in your physical incarnation on this planet. It is up to you to answer this call to adventure, which has been whispering to you from the time you were born and will continue long after you die, as death is only a transition to the next stage of your spiritual growth.
Dr. Nauman Naeem