Frustration with a Spiritual Path

Frustration with a Spiritual Path

BEcoming by RosiePOPz
BEcoming by RosiePOPz

It’s quite common to become frustrated with our spiritual progress. Especially if we’re not seeing obvious results while we see others awaken or have fancy experiences. We may regret we didn’t do “the right thing” or find “the right teacher” soon enough. Or feel concern we’re not good enough or not pure enough.

Those who begin a conscious spiritual journey often feel a deep inner calling to “return home” or find peace. We may have spent some time trying to find the right path. At one time, finding a teacher could be an arduous journey. Now, we can bring teachers into our homes via the Internet, but that availability means we need more care in choice. Do we resonate with them? Do they have awake people around them? Are they open to feedback and have peer support or a tradition?

Perhaps we found what seems an excellent path but have become frustrated at our seeming lack of progress. The trick is, our path often asks us to go deeper into life experiences to work through them. For example, I spent some years moving away from a spiritual focus and into very challenging work circumstances. As that period wound down, spirituality returned to the fore and it soon became apparent the stage had been set for awakening. Some karma had been resolved plus integration completed, so the ground was ready. But that’s not so easy to see when we’re in the middle of it.

We all have an ego that is defending our status quo, trying to manage and control life for safety and security. It wants to understand and control our unfolding.

The friction between control and letting go can also create frustration. Our desire to awaken can conflict with a desire to control the outcome.

But it’s not the me that becomes enlightened. We wake up From the me. It is the cosmic Self that wakes up to itself through this body-mind. This doesn’t happen when we want, it happens when it’s best for the whole. It happens through grace.

There is profound intelligence in the world, organizing our karma, learning, and unfolding very systematically. Again, that can be hard to see when we’re in the middle of it.

From our limited perspective, it can feel like the opposite. We don’t feel I am getting what I want. How do we trust what we can’t control? Trust comes from the experience of our deeper nature.

Sometimes we find an inner push for change. Is this a calling from the deeper flows of life? Or is this our frustration bubbling to the surface in destructive ways? Maybe we just need to go for a run and work off the energy.

We also have a physiology to adapt, gradually infusing what we need to support the shifts. If we move too fast, the process can get quite bumpy.

We’re also in a very challenging time for the collective, where a lot is being pushed up for processing. This can amplify what we’ve been trying to resist. Many are venting by acting out.

Enlightenment itself isn’t a destination. It’s not a personal fulfilment. Rather, it’s a stage of development that allows a fuller experience of life. It’s something to be lived. Life is a journey. Learning to find joy in the process helps to support it.

Certainly, there can be joy in having this or achieving that. Yet such joy is always fleeting, a passing milestone on the journey. It is life itself that is joy. Bliss is in the living and the doing and the being. It’s not somewhere or somewhen else. It is here and now.

Don’t resist the frustration when it arises. Otherwise it will just build until it expresses, leaking out or exploding in awkward ways. Better to find healthy ways to express the energy. And maintain a decent practice and a reasonably balanced life.

Then, with a bit of patience, spirituality will flower and these challenges will ease. The sooner we learn this, the better. Otherwise, frustration will drag us away from what we seek.

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  1. K

    Hi David,

    As usual, this is timely. A few years ago, during the course of my regular praying, I thought that “I can keep praying regularly but I am not going to be called to the major leagues and enlightenment is not for types like me. It is for others. ” I expressed it – not with the idea that it would change – but it was more a small complaint – like the complaint of someone who works regularly at their job but knows no body thinks of them for a promotion. Boy, soon after, I got quite sick and had what I see in retrospect was a karma shedding. There was not much unhappiness despite the significant illness. Progress happened. I wonder if things would have moved if I had not expressed my complaint. I did not think my complaint would have any effect – and was surprised when things started happening. I think that’s why they say “Be careful what you wish for…”

    1. Hi K
      I’d suggest the complaint was more a response to the feel of life that then unfolded. It wasn’t a cause. Dissatisfaction lowers our quality of life and can lead to poor choices. But it’s not causal in itself. Emotions can be used as a gauge of our energy state.

      We have profound power, but the local mind only has power over our mood and acceptance. You have to go deeper to cause change. Or act.

  2. Jacques

    Hi David –
    I very much relate, at times, to a feeling of frustration. What do you mean when you write “don’t resist the frustration when it arises”? A bit like “Keep calm and carry on”? (Are we, or some of us, taking our ‘quest’ too seriously?)
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Jacques
      One of the keys to raising our quality of life is learning to complete whatever arises in our experience. If we don’t, those experiences remain like shadows, waiting for an opportunity to arise in our experience again and complete. Our past haunts us.

      The energy of these we experience as emotions like frustration, anger, fear, etc.

      And yet the habit we’ve mostly learned in our culture is to resist experiencing those emotions we don’t want to experience. As a result, we mostly collect these shadows. They tend to build up and leak out in irrational behaviour, etc.

      A practice like effortless meditation really helps clear a lot of that up. But most people have some habits of resistance that require a little more direct attention. Becoming more conscious of our emotions and learning to digest them effectively (don’t resist) shifts the trends.

      I’ve written a number of articles on this, like:

      Another word for these shadows? Karma.

      It’s not so much taking the quest too seriously as trying to control what we’re experiencing. This is an effect of ego identification. So healing can be very helpful for awakening.

  3. harrison

    Great point David about the role of dissatisfaction. I believe it can lower our quality of life. At the same time it can be a force that keeps me from being complacent or indulging in blame. My biggest challenge is ” myself” – not life or others or circumstances or karma. Can I take myself on and be responsible for everything that is showing up in my inner and outer space? Its ironic that the path of transcending our small self identification and letting it go requires – imho – bringing to awareness the small self parts that need integration. Always a good question to ask when dissatisfied with someone or something – what is my part here that is feeding this dissatisfaction?

    1. Agreed Harrison. In many ways, it’s less about what happens and more about how we respond to it, even to the frustration arising. (laughs) Yes, the small self is the vehicle for this to be lived through so we still have to take care of it. And as you mention, take some responsibility, even if that seems illusory. Recognizing what we’re bringing to the experience can be surprising as it often differs from the stories our ego has been regurgitating…

  4. It’s worth mentioning that frustration can arise from comparing ourselves to others or seeking experiences. Don’t forget that experiences are the content of consciousness, not consciousness itself. We don’t wake up through content but through consciousness itself recognizing itself.

    Many long practitioners have few “spiritual experiences” and yet if you discuss it with them, a deep silence has been established. They may think they’re making little progress and yet they’ve infused silence into their daily life.

    Being absent of content, silence has no meaning for the mind. But it means everything to awakening. Well established, it’s also ordinary so may not even be noticed. We notice mainly through contrast but silence just is.

  5. Another note: we feel frustrated because it’s important to us. And because we’re wanting a certain result. But as the Bhagavad Gita reminds us, we have control over action, never over results. Sometimes, results come when we let go of wanting them to be a certain way…

  6. Guru

    Namaste. I have been following your blogs religiously. Parallely, I studied esoteric science where there is spirit-soul_body system. kindly help me in understanding these terms in terms of system you have been writing regularly. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Guru
      There are various models to map the structure of reality. A common one is a “3-worlds” model such as body-mind-consciousness or body-soul-spirit.

      Body is obvious. The similar term to soul is jiva, which I’ve touched on in various articles. This arises from the point value of consciousness. Spirit is the universal value of that. Some would say purusha or consciousness.

      I use a “7 worlds” model, the koshas.
      Soul, as a point value of consciousness is in the field of consciousness.

      It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Western esoteric material but much of it is based on the philosophies of India.

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