I've been thinking about the concept of spiritual maturity or spiritual adulthood a lot lately.
I've been actively walking the spiritual path since my 20s, with the pace picking up over the years as more and more baggage drops away. But I noticed a shift a few years back, before or around the time I started writing this blog. And I guess that's when you might say I started making the transition from spiritual adolescence or young adulthood into spiritual adulthood.
And let me preface this all by saying that maybe I'm still a spiritual infant and don't know that because I don't have the perspective of seeing that yet. And I might still exhibit some adolescent behavior. So I don't want to pretend I'm all high and mighty or anything. But what I'm trying to express is that I've crossed some sort of chasm in my journey and, looking back, I see a lot of people stuck in cycles they are largely in denial of and, therefore, do not want to stop repeating.
Some of these people don't seem to really care about growing or stretching. Some are steadily working towards growing and stretching. And some consider themselves very spiritually advanced, yet exhibit spiritually adolescent behaviors and seem stuck in a vortex they can't break free of. This last group seems to justify their own adolescent behaviors, while criticizing that same behavior in others. I can honestly say, I've been each of these things in my lifetime.
But a few years back, as I said, I broke free of that vortex and crossed over into something else. And it was not easy. It meant giving up certain behaviors (and even certain friendships) that made me a hypocrite. It meant practicing what I preached, which is not easy and, for some reason, really raises the ire in others...haha.
So anyway, what I've been thinking about most recently is this—what makes the difference between the spiritual adolescent and the spiritual adult? And this is what I came up with.
First, I think a key to any spiritual growth is self awareness. By this, I mean the ability to see yourself, your actions and your motivations as objectively as possible, and usually in the context of the ego...that part of us that cares what others think. A self-aware person asks themselves why an argument broke out and a non-self aware person is certain it's all someone else's fault. Self awareness comes when you're ready to take an honest look within, see what part of a dynamic you bring to the table, and understand yourself well enough that you are no longer ruled by habit, but by choice.
Self awareness is important, because without it, you can't take personal responsibility, which is also required for spiritual adulthood. The self aware and responsible person says, "I can see where my sensitivities were triggered when you called me a stupid whore, and my saying "fuck you" exacerbated an already tense situation." The un self aware person says, "Yeah, you really got heated. You need to learn how to chill out. Anyway, I accept your apology."
But you can be self aware and take personal responsibility and still not achieve spiritual adulthood. For that, you need one more thing to complete the tri-fecta. You need to break free of the vortices you spin around in...the vortices that keep you from crossing the chasm. The drama. The revenge. The resentment. The hate. The lies. The fear. The neediness. The gossip. Etc. You need to let go of your desire to spin in those circles anymore. And that often means you need to let go of the individuals and groups that are caught up in those vortices...not with resentment, but with a genuine "fare thee well."
You have to practice what you preach and be aware and honest enough to see when you're being a hypocrite and take personal responsibility for that. And you have to allow space for those who don't practice what they preach because they're just not there yet. And that's OK.
None of it is easy. And you may even find it lonely at times, because you're definitely choosing to become part of the minority. It takes devotion to the spiritual path and, hey, we're all here for different reasons with different sets of challenges to overcome. I think most people set the intention to leave the world a little better for them having been here and most accomplish that, imo. And that's a beautiful thing. And it's enough. So I'm not saying everyone needs to make these choices. Only the willing.
Spiritual adulthood also doesn't mean you don't still have loads to work on, because you do. You still have healing and learning to accomplish. I have obvious issues, in fact, that probably won't end up getting a huge chunk bitten out of them in this lifetime because they are lower on my priority list. It also doesn't mean you can't get pulled back into an adolescent vortex from time to time. Because, man, those vortexes are strong.
But I do think it means you've made a leap in devoting your "humanhood" to the development of your "spirithood" or "soulhood". It means that you can really no longer lie to yourself or deny your intentions...at least not for long. And I believe that means that when your soul returns to earth in the next life, it will come with a lot less baggage attached—a lighter spirit, perhaps...an "old, old soul"...someone with an inherent talent for Zen. I also think it means you get to catch glimpses of that lighter soul in this life more often.
There's always a human pay off to everything we do, even if we're doing it for the good of our everlasting souls. And that's my payoff...getting to experience life, if even for a second, through eyes closer to soul level than human level. When you're tethered to so many vortices, it's much harder to see the wisdom of everything. There's more fear and stress dragging you down and keeping you from getting the loft you need to see and choose and advise from a higher place. So you have to recognize and cut the ties to things that keep you caught in adolescent cycles. A few years ago, I never would have used a Bible quote in a blog post, for example. Now look at me...loving the message instead of judging the messenger. :) The further we move away from the attachments that limit us and keep us small, the higher we're able to soar.