Spiritual Growth Is Growth For Grownups

For most people, the bulk of our growth ends when we’re around twenty and we reach our adult height. Until that point, your whole life revolves around growing – you not only get taller, you get new bodies – your baby body morphs into a completely different little kid body, then you get a big kid body, then it starts growing hair and taking on new contours and having urges and cycles. You proudly identify yourself by advancing grade levels, and years and half years; your handwriting changes; you study new or more advanced subjects; you move from tricycle to bicycle to car – this year you need a learner’s permit, next year you can drive on your own. You take on more abilities; you develop talents. All the adults in your life are monitoring your growth, comparing pictures of how you’ve changed from one year to another.  Your shoe size gets bigger. Each year you are literally a new person, there’s this constant flow of change… until one day it all stops.

You’re a grownup. You’re fully grown. In other words, that ever-expanding, constant motion that gave us our identity for the first twenty or so years of our life, suddenly skids to a halt. We get a job and start going to work. We watch our kids grow instead of ourselves. Sure, we get the occasional promotion at work, but it doesn’t happen at the rate that we used to change shoe size. We read, we incorporate a few new ideas here and there. We change our hair color, we buy new clothes, get a new look. But let’s face it, nothing compares to the excitement of actual growth from within, that feeling of expansion orchestrated by some force more powerful than ourselves. There’s no substitute for the joy of feeling life being lived through us, knowing we won’t be the same person next year that we were this year. Knowing we’ll be a new and unique version of ourselves.

To spiritually grow is another version of that same magical ride we were on throughout childhood. It’s growth for grownups. There are differences from the kiddie version, of course. The main one is that while grownup growth can happen at that same exciting pace, it’s mainly happening on the inside. You’re the main one who perceives it. There aren’t really any measuring sticks; if you want somebody else to know you’ve grown spiritually, you usually have to tell them. And most of the time, they can’t understand what you’re babbling about.

The words used to describe spiritual growth are so abstract that it’s like describing the air on this side of the room compared to the air over there. Even if your visible life begins to change, most people who see the changes would never connect them with your inner growth. The only ones who’ll partially get it are those who are living through their own version, which is never exactly the same as anyone else’s. But the fact is that the elusive nature is part of the game of this sort of growth. The fact that only you and the Absolute know what’s really going on inside of you, the details of your evolution, is what makes it “spiritual” growth.

The other basic difference is, unlike kiddie growth, it doesn’t have to happen. You can choose to grow or not. To choose not to grow, we simply take the world around us at face value. We say, What I see around me, in my neighborhood, on my tv, the way things appear to play out, is pretty much the full story of reality.

When we choose to grow spiritually, we take on the ability to see a parallel world within ourselves. It’s like getting the key to the engine room where all the control panels are kept. At first, we just look around at the machinery, covered with dust and clutter. It’s amazing to get access to such an engine room when we thought our body and the world it walks through made up the whole story. After taking a look at all the equipment and levers and lights and buzzers, we gradually begin to observe how things work in there. We take on practices such as meditation and prayer that clear the debris and make it easier to see what’s going on.

Eventually, we start noticing the connections between what happens in the engine room and what happens in the outer world around us. We gradually start watching both worlds simultaneously, the outer and the inner. We start getting insights about how to operate the control panels. We notice how the outside changes whenever the inside gets calmer, more harmonious, more loving. We see some of the machinery is rusted and stuck. We notice that making different choices in situations in the outer world can unstick them. By that time we’re on the path. Growth is happening.