The art of growth By Tino Faithful
growth and the spiritual path When it comes to walking the spiritual path, it is essential that we slow down and approach things with an honest, open mind. This involves questioning the ideas we are presented with. The questioning of the idea of spirituality, in particular, constitutes a fundamental aspect of the spiritual path. While spirituality is hard to define, there are important ideas that need to be addressed on our journey.
A key concept, with regard to the spiritual path, is growth. Growth is something that takes place all the time around us. If we observe our natural environment, we will notice that everything is subject to natural cycles of growth and decay. Those cycles are mostly out of our control, though.
Learning to let go
Spiritual growth implies some kind of involvement on our part. Curiously, the driving force behind our involvement with the spiritual path is often rooted in our confusion. We are often guided by the sense that something fundamental needs to change in our lives. In this sense, confusion is an amazing catalyst for change. It’s a great way to get started!
Once we are on the path, there are many challenges ahead of us. One of the key hurdles is learning to let go. Unlike other things in life, growth cannot be achieved through will power. It is common for people to approach the spiritual path with a goal-oriented mentality. Thus, we may think: ‘what is the best strategy to apply so growth can take place?’, ‘how can I achieve specific states of consciousness?’ or ‘how can I be a more spiritual person?’
This kind of thinking doesn’t apply on the spiritual path. Growth, specifically, is not something that can be ‘done’. In fact, the mindset of striving and achievement is what usually impedes it. Thus, the more we try and achieve specific results, the further away we move from genuine growth. Ultimately, what keeps growth at bay is the relentlessness of our mental processes.
Moving away from the mindset of achievement
The mindset of achievement is deeply ingrained in the materialistic world we live in. In this sense, it is hardly surprising that we are inclined to approach the spiritual path with such a mindset. We think we can scheme our way to enlightenement! Unfortunately, this approach to spirituality only adds to our confusion and moves us further and further away from growth.
If growth cannot be planned out or achieved, what is left for us to do?
First, we need to step back mentally and stop trying to control the spiritual path by setting ourselves specific goals and outcomes—as we do! We need to recognise that the spiritual path is fundamentally open-ended. Let’s face the fact that we don’t really know where we’re going. This can be difficult if we’re used to controlling every aspect of our lives, though.
The mindset of achievement keeps us locked in the future. Somehow, we convince ourselves that everything will be better at a later time—when we buy that new house, when we manage to develop that particular skill or when we are more spiritual. We are desperately running away from the present and from the pain we subconsciously associate with it.
growth is now
However, growth only happens in the now—not later, not next year, not even tomorrow. As long as we try and escape the now, there can be no growth. If we don’t do anything about this situation, we will almost certainly remain trapped in the mindset of achievement for the rest of our lives.
So, growth cannot be achieved through doing; but, at the same time, growth won’t happen through not doing anything. It seems like there’s no way out of this dilemma… Or is there? Of course, there is.
As often, the solution lies in the middle. We need to find the right balance between doing and non-doing. While growth cannot be aimed for too directly, we can set the right conditions for it to take place. What impedes growth is lack of mental space. Too many thoughts, emotions, mental processes close the gaps in our mind. Those gaps are our best friends on the spiritual path (they are good gaps). We need to allow those gaps to open up as they provide the basis for connecting with the now.
cultivation of awareness
How do we create more mental space? How do we allow our mind to expand? This is done through cultivation of awareness. The more we cultivate awareness, the more the gaps in our mind open. As a result, we become more and more connected to the present moment. This is how growth takes place.
On a practical level, cultivation of awareness allows us to strike the perfect balance between doing and non-doing. In this particulat context, ‘cultivation’ should be understood in direct opposition to striving. It’s not too specific and doesn’t involve strong mental determination. We’re only following through that feeling that set us on the spiritual path in the first place.
Ultimately, what we’re cultivating is our whole-hearted commitment to openness, our genuine aspiration to allow the mind to unfold. This aspiration constitutes the very core of the spiritual path.
listening for the gaps
The ideal setting for cultivation of awareness—in the beginning, at least—is quiet, still meditation. The idea is simple: as we sit, we observe whatever takes place on the level of mind without labelling it. At first, this will feel almost impossible. However, if we persevere, we start noticing small gaps opening in the seemingly impenetrable wall of mental activity.
We just keep listening for those gaps, in a very passive, detached manner; they will keep expanding. This is the essence of ‘doing without doing’.
It is within those gaps that growth takes place. The mind gradually settles and we reach a state of greater emotional balance. At first, those changes are short-lived. Through daily practice, the changes become integrated into our psyche and start manifesting outwardly. There is no sense of achievement, though—ever.
Growth is a constant work in progress. No ulterior motives can be assigned to it and there is no endgame beyond its own unfolding. Growth wants to take place; and, ultimately, it’s all about whether we allow it to.
Tino will be teaching a 2 day workshop with us at the studio in Feb 2018 for more details see here
Over the last decade, Tino has travelled the world to study and teach the spiritual arts. He has taught in several different countries—including America, France, Great Britain, Portugal, Sweden and Thailand.
Tino recently set up his own school, xindao, which focuses on spiritual growth. Through his school, Tino teaches a number of disciplines—including meditation, neigong and taijiquan—in order to foster growth and promote awareness.
Visit the website to Tino’s school: www.xin-dao.net.