Talk about getting to the bottom line. This is a great question.
There are many reasons why spiritual growth is difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain.
Let take a look at what I think are the top two reasons for spiritual backsliding.
Reason #1 – We try to consciously change by using force of will.
This is probably one of the most common mistakes early travelers on the path to authentic spiritual growth often make. This is a lot like making a New Year’s resolution.
The moment we forget about the resolution, which our busy undisciplined minds will do very quickly, the unconscious primitive ego of our inner-child will quietly regain control of our psyche. The next time we become self-aware, we will realize that we have once again experienced a spiritual back-slide.
To achieve a sustainable spiritual growth requires “knowing” that virtually every adult human in the world is unconsciously controlled by their inner-child’s primitive ego…especially when they are stressed.
And that includes you and me.
When we learn to awaken or pay attention every time our primitive ego has a reactive “knee-jerk” response to stimuli from world around us, it won’t be long before the conscious part of us will recognize that these negative “knee-jerk” responses are not helpful. In fact, they almost always end up “shooting us in the foot”.
When that insight becomes fully conscious, not unlike a snake that sheds its old skin so it can continue growing, our old behaviors will begin to change.
Changes in behavior that emerge from spiritual growth are always the result of our hard earned ability to awaken and pay conscious attention to the energy we are sending into the world……not from a temporary force of will.
Reason #2 – The lack of a supportive community.
Authentic spiritual growth is hard work. It requires a conscious, lifetime commitment to change. Unfortunately, the primitive ego of our inner-child, like any child, tends to be impatient. It wants what it wants…..”right now”.
The desire for genuine spiritual transformation and the evolution of an enlightened consciousness is best nurtured in a supportive community of people who are themselves committed and dedicated to their own spiritual growth.
It is very easy to get discouraged when we find ourselves back sliding. So when we experience setbacks, it’s important to have people around us that can support and encourage us on our spiritual journey. They can help us recognize and celebrate our spiritual accomplishments.
Our growth may be as basic as learning to listen to others more carefully, or as subtle as simply letting a few seconds pass before we respond to another person’s comments.
Because growth on the spiritual path is often subtle, it can be a challenge for us to see the changes we are making. Thus, a supportive spiritual community can often provide the “nurturing mirror” we need keep faith with the journey.
Despite the inevitable set backs, if we are able to keep faith with our commitment to grow, the energy we send into the world “will” become more positive and compassionate.
Joining a supportive community and learning to pay conscious attention to the energy we send into the world are two of the more important spiritual practices we need to embrace when the goal is an authentic evolution and awakening of our consciousness.
The illusion of rugged individualism, and using “force of will” to change our behaviors, will almost always shoot us in the spiritual foot.