The Steps of Progress

The Steps of Progress

Progress Bar by Rob Enslin
Progress Bar by Rob Enslin

Often, we have the idea we should be constantly moving forward towards our goals. However, life is cyclic and seasonal. Sometimes, its the season for progress, and sometimes the season for rest.

We see these patterns in many areas of life. A health issue can mean a focus on self-care, for example. Or raising young children means everything else is secondary.

Or in our spiritual development. In a micro way, we see the steps of progress in meditation. Meditation works by taking us deep within. That rest allows the body to throw off unprocessed experiences. And that creates activity in the body and mind, which brings us back out. The we turn within again.

Or more broadly, we have periods of time where inner work is dominant and other periods that are more an outward stroke. For example, I spent much of my 20’s devoted to spiritual practice and study. And then a strong outward stroke happened. Marriage, family, career… and then the inner became prominent again and I saw how much grounding and integration had happened during the outward period. (Not to mention clearing karma.) On that platform, awakening unfolded.

The story of Siddhartha has a somewhat similar pattern.

The difficulties of life would have been much more challenging had I tried to fight these trends. Although I certainly resisted at times.

As we complete certain “chapters” of karma, the need for the current circumstances can fall away. We may see relationships, careers, or living arrangements dissolve. This is actually a good thing as it means some major karma has completed. If we allow life to take us where it wants to go, we’ll find what flowers out of these changes is often an upgrade.

And if our life is stable and balanced, that’s good too. 🙂

Life proceeds in steps and cycles. Enjoy the journey.

Note: I’m describing features of someone on a spiritual path.

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  1. Kerri Heffernan

    I agree whole heartedly with this. My seeking slowed way down for the past year. The end of last year it started to rev up again. Its like a “pull” so to speak. I am processing a lot of deep work again now with Malika and Andrew. These times are so special yet so much work.

  2. George Robinson

    The knowledge of this one post is a profound gift to anyone on-path. When an “outward” period comes into play in the course of a life, and we are pulled from our inner work to any degree, a colossal guilt can arise for not being as attentive to our spiritual progress as we might be otherwise. We can’t see our “outward” work as being part of our journey, only that we’re not 100% involved in our “inner” work. This guilt, which is born of incomplete understanding, can be so destructive as to ruin any outward work we are called to do. As a result, it can happen that nothing gets done, inner or outer. Your simple, common sense explanation here, David, could have salvaged many lives from false turmoil. Thank you for this priceless gift of comprehensive understanding.

    1. Agreed, George. We tend to think of progress in a linear way but it’s all cyclic. We always make more progress when we go with the flow of life rather than resisting what is arising.

      I can recall the time when a major outer stroke was ending. I was surprised to realize how much grounding and integration had taken place and how much deeper I’d gone, even though I was largely oblivious to this during.

      But yes, I’ve also struggled with this. I can recall a conversation with author Constance Kellough (who was Tolle’s publisher). She’d spoken of inward and outward strokes. In our conversation, she said a larger outward stroke can set the stage for a deeper inward stroke. She called this process The Leap. It certainly worked out to be true here.

  3. Peter Goodman

    Thank you David for a very clear and concise explanation of the steps of progress as we normalize our nervous system. On our way to Awakening. Phenomenal insight into a the infinite effects of activity and stored “unprocessed experiences” as the Bhagavad Gita explains to us through Maharishi’s commentary.

  4. Gui

    Hi David!! I couldnt agree more on your perspective on progress and its cyclical nature. However I have a question for you about another subject, and that is physical healing of our vessels. Do you think that we are living on a time where complete healing of what nowadays we consider “permanent damage”, such as growth of lost teeth, herniated disks and even growth of lost limbs etc through manifestation are possible? And would you say that everyone can do it or only highly awakened individuals like you could manifest such healing? Thank you for service and sorry for the bad english.

    1. Hi Gui
      I wouldn’t say manifestation but yes, we’re in a time when energy healing is developing rapidly. At some point, we’ll be able to trigger the natural mechanisms for restoring damaged tissues, etc. You see occasional examples, like growing a new set of teeth and restoring hair and colour after a specialized type of cleanse.

      Awakening is on the level of consciousness. While such people tend to have fewer impediments, healing is on a different level and is a skill rather than stage of development. It’s likely not everyone could do all of it but we’d go see experts who can when we need it ourselves.

      Your English is fine. Your skill is much better than I have in any other language. 🙂

      1. I should mention a key detail. On the causal (celestial) level are what might be called templates, idea forms that guide the structure of life forms. Activating the appropriate one is one key way the body can be reminded of its ideal form.

  5. Jalal

    Wonderful, wonderful, as always. Your comment about the need for the current circumstances falling away reminds me of something I sometimes wonder, and now I wonder what you think of it; do you think completing those chapters entails simply going through those circumstances and all that they bring, and just bearing that completes the necessary return of karma, or do you think there is some lesson necessary to be learned, and only after realizing some specific truth out of that situation would we consider that karma completed?

    1. Hi Jalal

      Good question. I’d say it varies. Sometimes, it’s simply completing an unfinished experience. Sometimes, there is learning. And that learning can be things like learning to be patient or to allow what is arising in experience. (Here I don’t mean don’t do anything about it, I mean don’t resist the experience but rather act to make changes if required.) But learning can also be life lessons, like the nature of karma or purpose. And it can be all of these together.

      Karma tends to come with a shadow quality so we’re not seeing it clearly. It’s a good sign it’s almost done when we gain insight about it. It means the shadow is lifting.

      This is distinct from dharma or why we’re here/ what we have to offer. For some, it’s clear from an early age. Others have talents that are not supported – those may be a fun hobby but are not what we’re called to do to support the world. And for others, we’re a late bloomer. We work through a bunch of karma, then dharma becomes clear. 🙂

  6. Olli

    I definitely feel like it all goes in cycles. Bigger and smaller sub-cycles. Personally I think that I’ve been on an inward-diving spiritually-oriented cycle for about 10 years now and it feels like it’s slowly going towards a more extroverted and materially-oriented cycle. At least everyday life matters seem to have gained much more importance yet again.

    You’ve mentioned sometimes that our awakening is also affected by the needs of the collective. That in itself does away with a lot of the “MY awakening”-way of thinking. Yet there’s also the individual with their own cycles and everything. So it’s interesting to think about how and why one makes progress and what is really at play when further shifts happen. Is it all for the benefit of all, even if it’s seemingly thanks to the individuals efforts for their own growth?

    I’m rambling a bit here, but I hope you get what I’m after here, heh.

    1. Hi Olli
      It feels like a more outward cycle starting here too – we’ll see.

      The key word there is seemingly. There is a point of consciousness experiencing it’s unique perspective, but that’s for its contribution to the whole and it’s never apart from the whole. The experience of being an individual only happens because we’ve forgotten our wholeness. When that’s restored, it quite overshadows our personhood. We’re so much more cosmically than we are individually.

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