Tips For Rapid Spiritual Growth

Ella S.

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I think it's similar to the debate over "works vs grace".

Speaking about my practice, it seems obvious to me that a regular practice of spiritual disciplines is not just beneficial in a general sense but also does something to drive a process. But said process, once in motion, or once it becomes evident (it might have been in motion before, unnoticed), has an autonomous quality to it, as well - it happens whether I like it or not. However, with awareness of the developmental process, I have to say it is much "better" - maybe faster, maybe smoother, maybe with more clarity, hard to pin-point - to be doing the practices than not, even if the process moves on regardless.

So yeah, ...

Oh, yes, I see what you mean.

As far as I understand Gnostic mysticism, and this probably isn't something that a lot of Gnostics agree with me on, it pretty much is all about grace. If we practice at all or learn to practice, that's thanks to Autogenes (or Logos) reaching out to Sophia within us.

We're supposed to see all of our progress as coming from beyond us, and therefore not necessarily fully within our control. We are blessed with the drive for spiritual growth and the methods to attain it, and it is Autogenes that determines how smooth or dramatic our progress is.

So, in a sense, I actually agree that the practices themselves are important and can help the process along. I just don't see the practices and the progress they generate as necessarily something we control.
 

Cino

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I just don't see the practices and the progress they generate as necessarily something we control.

All these relaxation techniques, stilling, quieting, - they help with relinquishing control, I feel. To me, "letting go" of control is at the heart of the thing we are discussing - all the deep words about "Thy will not mine", or "True Will", or "Brahman is the charioteer", or "cessation", or "surrender", or "submission". But it's a pesky matter, since "letting go" is not something to do actively, even if we use actions words, verbs, to talk about it.
 

Ella S.

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All these relaxation techniques, stilling, quieting, - they help with relinquishing control, I feel. To me, "letting go" of control is at the heart of the thing we are discussing - all the deep words about "Thy will not mine", or "True Will", or "Brahman is the charioteer", or "cessation", or "surrender", or "submission". But it's a pesky matter, since "letting go" is not something to do actively, even if we use actions words, verbs, to talk about it.

I agree, insofar as I'm able to speak for my own practices. I might go so far as to say that I feel true acceptance is a sort of equanimity gained from letting go of our need to change things. In early Christian mysticism, they called that apatheia, I believe, which I think is a term that they borrowed from the Stoics.
 

RabbiO

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Tip: Reducing our Preferences
When going to a cafe for something to drink, rather that ''I want a cappuccino,'' we can say ''Anything is fine.''
When buying apples in the greengrocer, choose the bruised apples so there are more good apples for others.
When the wife asks what we would like for dinner, the reply can be, ''O dear lady, your knowledge of what is best for us greatly surpasses mine. Please make what you know is right.''
I know that you live, or have lived, in China. I know that you are, or have been an English teacher there. Are you familiar with Charles Dickens' novel, David Copperfield?
 

RabbiO

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I'm all for asceticism and selfless humility, but I think there's a difference between asceticism and repression as well as between selflessness and self-destruction.
Rabbi Simcha Bunim, a Hasidic master of the late 18th, early 19th century, opined that a person should carry two pieces of paper, one in each pocket. On one it should be written,ואנוכי עפר ואפר "I am nothing but dust and ashes." On the other should be written, בשבילי נברא העולם "For my sake the world was created."

There are times and places when one or the other needs to be read. I don't think you need me to figure that out.
 

Cino

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There are times and places when one or the other needs to be read. I don't think you need me to figure that out.

Thanks, Rabbi!

This touches on another aspect which is important to me, which I like to think of as "There and back again", following a popular children's book. Sometimes the practice takes me to the place of ashes and dust, deconstructing, transcending, simplicity, truth, and so on. Sometimes it gets me down to earth, to the amazing smells and sights and colors and textures, the other people around me, with our wonderfully complex challenges and rewards. There exist a series of instructional pictures in Zen, the "Ten Bulls", which end with "return to society", and seem to portray a similar oscillation between transcendence and mundane concerns.
 

HugoZyl

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You seem to assume very rigid gender roles.

Peace and love to you, dear Cino. I thank you for your feedback; may it sharpen everyone's quest for Truth.

It was simply a humble example of reducing preferences. Three is a good amount of examples, but having written only 2, one more was needed. :-D

But to be honest, you are right that in the family life I have received, things are more traditional. The wife God gave me comes from a poor peasant family in rural China, so indeed there are more old-fashioned roles in this home. But accepting that is another example of reducing preferences.


General Question: what do you all think about the "rapid" in "rapid spiritual growth"?

You are certainly correct that this could be seen differently depending on one's Path. The instruction I have received does include Reincarnation. The tendencies of the mind are not lost when the body dies. So we can say that how much a man has grown spiritually in his current body is less important than the tendency he has developed in his mind to want to grow spiritually. For example; a man who only became spiritual late in his life, but with sincere zeal, is better off than a man born into spirituality but who never had any real fire in him. These are my humble thoughts.


Some of the examples feel a bit more like self-destructive repression and a bit less like selfless asceticism, but I suppose that might depend on the person.

Dear sister Ella S. May God's mercy ever follow you.

Could you please be so kind to share more on why you say the examples could be self-destructive? Do you mean the apples could be rotten? Then I agree that they should not be bought, but rather the market should be informed about it.


I'm not sure that spiritual growth can ever be said to be rapid or slow. It happens as it happens. It can't be forced to speed up or slow down by anyone's whims, you know?

My response to this thread originally had a remark about how I don't believe in "rapid" spiritual growth and how I feel like trying to speed up growth is, in itself, a grave mistake. I edited my response to delete that part because it came across a bit too snide and biting for me when that wasn't my intention.

These are quite big and serious statements. If ''it happens as it happens'', then would you say that it was just by chance that a person was born who was to become Lord Jesus, Lord Buddha, Lord Krishna, Prophet Muhammad, etc.? I would also like to inquire into ''trying to speed up growth is, in itself, a grave mistake.'' Could you please share the reasons you believe so?


"What if I train twice as hard, for twice as long, every day?" "Twenty years."

Dearest brother Thomas. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. God bless you.

We should consider carefully whether spirituality is a 'skill'. Many would say it is not, for a skill is related to body & mind, whereas spirituality is related to Soul & God. Practicing a skill is about doing more actions; practicing spirituality is about not noticing whether any action has taken place.

Joyful love to you


I know that you live, or have lived, in China. I know that you are, or have been an English teacher there. Are you familiar with Charles Dickens' novel, David Copperfield?

Shalom dear RabbiO. A pleasure to be in communication with you again.

You are correct, sir. God has put this body in China. The Lord also made me work as an English instructor before. Years ago, David Copperfield was read, indeed. Mr Charles Dickens certainly was a great writer, praise be to God.

Merciful One, be our God forever.


Tip: Let a Symbol or Picture of God be the First Thing you see in the Morning

If we consider God to be the purpose of our lives, then let God be the first thing we see when we open our eyes.
We can put a picture or symbol on the ceiling, or if that is not practical, we can put one on the bedstead.
If we often wake up while it is still dark, we can put a symbol over something we will touch when we get up, e.g. glasses, cellphone, alarm clock, etc.
 

RJM

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... the draw-cut, the coup, cleaning the blade, sheathing the blade.
Tip:
Don't get into a swordfight with this man, lol ...
 
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Thomas

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We should consider carefully whether spirituality is a 'skill'. Many would say it is not, for a skill is related to body & mind, whereas spirituality is related to Soul & God. Practicing a skill is about doing more actions; practicing spirituality is about not noticing whether any action has taken place.

OK. Perhaps we might highlight a distinction here. In the ancient Christian Tradition, and today in the Orthodox (not so much the Latin West), the distinction between 'religion' and 'spirituality' is artificial. They are one and the same thing. It's just in modern times 'spirituality' is often regarded as 'cool', whereas 'religion' is regarded as 'not cool'.

According to Christian Scriptures, we are exhorted to love God "with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind." Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27 & Matthew 22:37, although he does not include 'strength'). It's placing ourselves, our gifts and our skills at God's disposal.

So we would say practicing spirituality is the same as practicing religion, in that it should inform and illuminate everything we do, think, say, hope and pray for. It engages the whole person. How that skill declares itself is unique to each and every one of us. Its source is the same.

As I've said before, a monk's life is toil, that's what a monk is.

practicing spirituality is about not noticing whether any action has taken place.
As ever, one needs to tread carefully with aphorisms. Practicing spirituality is also about giving thanks to God.

I agree with you that spirituality is not 'goal oriented' and seeks no reward.
 

Ella S.

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Dear sister Ella S. May God's mercy ever follow you.

Could you please be so kind to share more on why you say the examples could be self-destructive? Do you mean the apples could be rotten? Then I agree that they should not be bought, but rather the market should be informed about it.


In general, I don't think you should put the needs of others before your own. Having a coffee that you find disgusting or being forced to eat a meal that you aren't in the mood for can put you in a place that's worse for wear.

When you end up in a poorer mood this way, it often comes out against other people. How many people say things like, "Don't talk to me until I've had my morning coffee," out of an awareness that they would respond less-than-pleasantly? You need to fill yourself up before you have enough to give others.

I do think that we should strive towards needing less so that we can give more, and be willing to sacrifice our needs for the needs of others when it's important, but constantly sacrificing our needs is not a healthy way to live for ourselves or for those who have to deal with us when we get crabby.


These are quite big and serious statements. If ''it happens as it happens'', then would you say that it was just by chance that a person was born who was to become Lord Jesus, Lord Buddha, Lord Krishna, Prophet Muhammad, etc.? I would also like to inquire into ''trying to speed up growth is, in itself, a grave mistake.'' Could you please share the reasons you believe so?


I don't attribute any sort of divinity to Yeshua bar Yosef, Siddhartha Guatama, Mohammad ibn Abdullah, or Krishna Vrishni. To me, they were all just people like you or me.

I think some of the posts above me summarizes why trying to speed up growth is a grave mistake better than I ever could. Essentially, growth has to come organically and a big part of that is letting go of our need for immediate gratification. By trying to speed it up, at best you slow it down and at worst you attain things that you were not properly prepared to deal with.
 

HugoZyl

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Dearest Brother Thomas; again I am very thankful that we can 'iron whets iron' together. I always appreciate your detailed timely responses.

OK. Perhaps we might highlight a distinction here. In the ancient Christian Tradition, and today in the Orthodox (not so much the Latin West), the distinction between 'religion' and 'spirituality' is artificial. They are one and the same thing. It's just in modern times 'spirituality' is often regarded as 'cool', whereas 'religion' is regarded as 'not cool'.

Here we are in complete agreement. Some second language English users do not like the word 'religion' as its original meaning is 'to tie securely'.

According to Christian Scriptures, we are exhorted to love God "with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind."

Certainly. I think spiritual growth is another way of saying ''improve in loving God with thy whole heart...''. The question we should ask ourselves is whether we are honestly interested in ''improve in loving God with thy whole heart...'', which is very easy to test: we ask ourselves how often do we lovingly think of God this year compared with 3 years ago.

So we would say practicing spirituality is the same as practicing religion, in that it should inform and illuminate everything we do, think, say, hope and pray for. It engages the whole person. How that skill declares itself is unique to each and every one of us. Its source is the same.

Perhaps just a word of caution for us all; statements like 'that is not for me', 'I am different', 'I think I should try something else', 'these people don't understand me', 'each person has his own way', etc., can very easily be our own egos cropping up, the influence of an evil spirit or just the fact that we are not sincerely interested in ''improve in loving God with thy whole heart...''.

May we all think soberly and humbly about ourselves; God graciously hear us.


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Which symbol/image do you use?

Dear Beloved Brother Cino. Your questions always cut to the chase. :-D

A mirror.


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Dear Sister Ella S.; I am greatly pleased we can share with each other in this humble way, and thank you for your detailed responses to my questions.

In general, I don't think you should put the needs of others before your own. Having a coffee that you find disgusting or being forced to eat a meal that you aren't in the mood for can put you in a place that's worse for wear.

We are talking about completely different things. In my humble opinion, putting the needs of others before yourself is a highly egotistical thing. Who am I to think I am so powerful that I can arrange the needs of sentient life-forms like some kind of God. I am dust under the Feet of God with not such powers.

Rather, the tip was to try to reduce our preferences. This point has to do with attachment to likes/dislikes. The Supreme Lord has no likes/dislikes, so we as God's children should follow our Divine Parent's footsteps in also not preferring one thing to another.


I don't attribute any sort of divinity to Yeshua bar Yosef, Siddhartha Guatama, Mohammad ibn Abdullah, or Krishna Vrishni. To me, they were all just people like you or me.

Excuse me, do you mean that yes, indeed, it was just by chance that They became what They are/were? Also, I feel it is not suitable to put yourself and me in the same category. You are my mother, shining like the sun. I am just an infant.


Essentially, growth has to come organically and a big part of that is letting go of our need for immediate gratification. By trying to speed it up, at best you slow it down and at worst you attain things that you were not properly prepared to deal with.

There is truth in these words. Thank you for sharing them. It could be that my desire of spiritual growth is no different than a CEO's desire for financial growth. God bless you.

One new question if you do not mind; why did you write the Names of the 4 religion founders in such an unusual way?

May peace and love ever lead you in all Truth


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Tip: Try to Stay Away From Situations or Jobs Where People Give us Titles

There is no spiritual harm in being the servant of other, but there can be great danger when others serve us.
It is better not to go to places where you are addressed as 'sir' or 'madam'. If the waiters in our cultures give us titles, better eat at home. If the sellers in shops do so, better buy from open markets.
Spiritual seekers should best not do titled jobs like doctors, religious leaders, or managerial positions.
If God gives us the job of being a teacher, for example, the first thing we can teach the students is to just call us 'John', or 'Mary'.
 

Cino

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A mirror.

Interesting. Thanks for sharing about your practice.

What do you associate sacredness with in mirrors? Amaterasu's mirror, reflecting the light of the sun? St. Paul's mirror, reflecting "darkly" a part of perfection? Or the White Queen's realm as in "Alice through the looking glass"?
 

wil

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In the ancient Christian Tradition, and today in the Orthodox (not so much the Latin West), the distinction
One (to me) is a manmade organization.

I see Jesus as spiritual and christianity as religion.

I don't see the cool and uncool aspect...i think religionists can be spiritual... And there are spiritual folks who are religious.

For me, I am a skimmer...not spent the time to delve deeply into any religion. I have spent much of my life enjoying it...contemplating it...but not so much it becomes my life.

It is interesting...how we can choose any path..any career...learning all about one thing can take a lifetime..
 

RabbiO

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Some second language English users do not like the word 'religion' as its original meaning is 'to tie securely''.
Actually, the etymology of the word “religion” remains unclear.
 

Ella S.

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One new question if you do not mind; why did you write the Names of the 4 religion founders in such an unusual way?

I don't think it's unusual. I was calling them by their full, proper names, like you would with any famous human. Tom Cruise? Mahatma Gandhi? Martin Luther King, Jr.? George Bush? Bob Ross? Samuel L Jackson?

I think it's more unusual to just call them by a heavily Anglicized version of their first names or, in Siddhartha Guatama's case, just their title.
 

Ella S.

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OK. Perhaps we might highlight a distinction here. In the ancient Christian Tradition, and today in the Orthodox (not so much the Latin West), the distinction between 'religion' and 'spirituality' is artificial. They are one and the same thing. It's just in modern times 'spirituality' is often regarded as 'cool', whereas 'religion' is regarded as 'not cool'.

I should point out that "religion" on its own often doesn't make a lot of sense as a word; its original use was by heresiologists trying to draw a distinction between various groups that disagreed with Church teaching and it tended to use really loose categories for everyone outside of Christianity, having one label for all Jewish denominations, one label for all Muslim denominations, and then one label for everyone else, usually "pagan" or "gentile" but later "Satanist."

However, numerous papers have been published on "religion vs. magic," "religion vs. mysticism," and "spiritual but not religious." Formal distinctions have been made by the field of anthropology and, to a degree, this is often what people are referring to. (Although, I agree, many times I'm not entirely sure what distinction people are making when they use these words.)

In these examples, religion specifically refers to the communal and organized aspects of religion. It refers to orthodox beliefs, group ceremonies, the role of the clergy, and so on. Magic is the use of private rituals to enact physical change through sympathy or contagion. Mysticism is the pursuit of altered states of consciousness through ascetic practices.

Spirituality, then, often refers to an individual's interior experience and self-growth. Someone who is "spiritual but not religious" does not identify with any religious community or organization, but often they feel connected to something greater than themselves and they may even engage in private spiritual practices like meditation (often a form of mysticism) or prayer (often a kind of magic).

Likewise, somebody can be religious without being spiritual. One of the terms for this in Catholicism is the "Chreaster;" somebody who only goes to church on Christmas and Easter but doesn't really practice any form of Christianity in their everyday lives.

This helps a lot as a frame of reference because there currently is no agreed-upon definition of religion. When I think "spiritual but not religious," I usually think of agnostics that feel ambiguously like "there's something out there" and New Agers who often reject any religious label but take from several traditions.
 

RJM

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In the Catholic Church the term 'The Religious' is mostly used in church missives and so on to include the clergy and the monastics with their habits and daily prayer routine and their vows -- as separate from the married householders and general laity ... I believe
 
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Thomas

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... numerous papers have been published on "religion vs. magic," "religion vs. mysticism," and "spiritual but not religious." Formal distinctions have been made by the field of anthropology and, to a degree, this is often what people are referring to. (Although, I agree, many times I'm not entirely sure what distinction people are making when they use these words.)
I read a comment somewhere that people who are 'spiritual but not religious' have been put off by people who are 'religious but not spiritual' :rolleyes:

In these examples, religion specifically refers to the communal and organized aspects of religion.
And, as ever, I wonder what 'disorganised religion' looks like?

I'm not disagreeing, just offering another pov.

Magic is the use of private rituals to enact physical change through sympathy or contagion.
But is there not a common aspect to its shape and form ... and I rather think many religious people are private within the communal aspect.

Mysticism is the pursuit of altered states of consciousness through ascetic practices.
I am critical of the pursuit of mysticism, as it's a pursuit of experience ... and the great mystics seem to be non-experiential. It's a big topic, but if you've comes across Denys Turner (for example), you know what I mean.

Spirituality, then, often refers to an individual's interior experience and self-growth. Someone who is "spiritual but not religious" does not identify with any religious community or organisation, but often they feel connected to something greater than themselves and they may even engage in private spiritual practices like meditation (often a form of mysticism) or prayer (often a kind of magic).
Indeed, and not knocking that, but it has given rise to shops selling fetishes and dream-catchers and trinkets ... and often the SBNR means 'I do my own thing" which is problematic from certain standpoints.

Suffice to say I see spirituality in the Orthodox sense, as "the everyday activity of life in communion with God." and the doing of it is religion.

So, perhaps, spirituality is the interior disposition, religion its outward form ... but to say SBNR too often means "I like to think of myself as ..."

As for the communal aspect.

There is no greater test of love of neighbour than going to Church! :D And having spoken to monastics about the nitty-gritty of living in community ... man, that is tough!

As ever, it's a big thing and as per my organic approach, it's never black-and-white, never just this-or-that.

Even Thomas Merton was told by his director that really, deep down, he wants to be a hermit in the middle of Times Square!
 
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