Seven Roadblocks to Avoid on Your Spiritual Path

The pathways to spiritual growth have never been wider or included more avenues of exploration.

The modern spiritual seeker has a myriad of resources and information: gurus, teachers, therapy, self-growth, spirituality, religion, yoga, mindfulness training, meditation; the list is seemingly endless and there’s a path for everyone.

Spiritual connection can help people find their center, a connection to God or the Divine, greater wisdom in their daily lives and greater capacity towards love and compassion.

However, there are still many pitfalls on any spiritual path that encourage us to be even more deeply invested in the destructive force of ego, fear or addictive habits.

Here are the seven most common roadblocks you may encounter on your spiritual path:

Spiritual Competition:

If spiritual growth becomes a contest about who can do the most advanced Asanas in the priciest designer yoga pants, who did more seminar hours with a celebrity Guru, who knows the most Scriptures or who is the most in-touch-with-Higher-Self So and So on the block, then it’s ego’s competition game. If your Spiritual path makes you feel holier than thou, superior to others, or if you feel an overwhelming need to prove to others just how enlightened you are or how you’re doing everything right, then your spiritual path is feeding your ego instead of your soul. Remember that when you are truly connecting to your spiritual self/path you feel whole and that need to be “best” disappears in the worth you see in yourself and others.

Spiritual Exclusion:

Spiritual growth leads us to find other people who are on a similar spiritual path to our own. But if we’re not careful, spiritual community can turn into exclusive members-only club. Those who aren’t just like us seem like outsiders and we try to figure out ways to distance ourselves from those who don’t fall in line with our spiritual stories. It might be something as innocent as not wanting to hang out with someone who doesn’t get it the way you do, or even rejecting people who are negative  and don’t know the secret handshake about how to be “spiritual” But before you build your clubhouse, don’t forget that beliefs, judgments and condemnations wearing a disguise of spirituality or religion are still ego, division and fear. The worst actions of oppression and judgment in human history have worn that same disguise. Spiritual growth should help us INCLUDE instead of exclude and to have a greater reach into our community and the world at large with assistance, compassion and love.

The Magic Bullet:

Our modern world is pretty awesome. We can press a button and have instant anything. It’s no wonder that our mindset of have it now has infiltrated our spiritual lives and some of us expect prayers to be answered, miracles delivered, and instant healing to occur immediately in the same way Google spits out search results or our Keurig machines spit out coffee. We search for the speedy cure to what ails us and our culture touts the magical super-powers of positive thought, prayer or intention (Law of Attraction for example) that are supposed to manifest what we want or need. We read the latest book about self-growth or attend a weekend spiritual retreat or meditation seminar and wonder, “OK. Why aren’t all my wounds healed, and why isn’t everything fixed?”     Spiritual growth can cause transformation and healing but it’s not about having everything we want when we want it, or even, perhaps, about having prayers answered. The best spiritual tool is the faith and strength to change our choices where we can, but also to accept and cope with what we have.

Spiritual Escape:

Just as some people are searching for a magic bullet to fix their lives, others are addicted to spiritual searching itself. They devour self-help books, tapes, and methodologies. They read wise words and think, “Wow that’s so true!” but fail to put it into practice in their lives. They might even become zealous about their path and fling themselves into being ready disciples but always feel that something is missing and are soon on the hunt for another spiritual path, therapy or healing. This is not the same as someone dedicating themselves into a spiritual path or becoming a monk, or seeker who finds peace and Divine connection in the exercise; this is the person for whom the search never ends and never gives fulfillment no matter how radical or dedicated they get. If you find yourself changing your spiritual path more often than some people change shoes, or if your spiritual path always makes you feel like “something is missing” then you might be addicted to the search instead of coming to peace with your spiritual core or using the spiritual answers you get.

The Illusion of Perfection:

Spiritual traditions include stories of perfection, oneness, wholeness and enlightenment. Spiritual buzzwords of our modern era are about holding “positive thoughts” and “positive intentions” and just how perfect, positive and LIGHT we truly can be. It’s a worthy endeavor to understand concepts like God’s grace or unconditional love, but all this sparkling positivity and LIGHT has a dark side too. It’s impossible to live in a state of graceful perfection all the time in real life. You’re going to have a bad day, a difficult emotion, a NON-POSITIVE thought (or many!), you’re going to say unkind things and you’ll make mistakes or judge others. Spirituality gives us tools to work with our imperfect and flawed selves instead of eradicating anything that falls outside of the light. Spiritual ideologies that limit people to being Light, positive and perfect all the time pressure, guilt and create a sense of disconnection. True spiritual balance embraces both the light and dark elements of our nature. Making mistakes is not always wrong – it’s part of growth and individual and unique paths. (Yes, EVEN if you hit every single roadblock on this list.)

The Trap of Certainty:

Spiritual growth can give us awareness, knowledge and perspective; a way to view life and a philosophical frame. Where knowledge is power, certainty can be stupidity. Erich Fromm said, “The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” Nothing squashes the spiritual aspect of intention to learn like certainty. If you think you know it all, you’ll stop looking for information, you’ll stop trying to understand new things and other people. Your comfortable story will become a trap that prevents new insights. Even if there is a perfect, unassailable or true path for you, then you still must have an open mind to learn more about it, to let it breathe and live in your life, to understand new things. After all, faith requires a little uncertainty, and knowledge an open mind.

Hero Worship:

Today there are a lot of spiritual authors, teachers, gurus, therapists, healers, and self-help specialists. With so many people saying “I have a light for the path” it’s sometimes hard to remember that even though we may value what they say, all these spiritual guides and Teachers are HUMAN. Relationship writers get divorced, spiritual teachers have egos. Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that he does not consider himself enlightened and notes, “Occasionally I lose my temper. If someone says they never lose their temper – I’m skeptical.” – Looking up to someone to the extent that you think they’re better and more perfect than you can be a trap. Some people look to Teachers and guides instead of relying on their own wisdom and their own spiritual intelligence and depend on leaders to tell them what to believe, what to do, and what will happen to them. Most true Masters want us to take responsibility for walking our own path and to be stewards of that knowledge. They guide us to incorporate knowledge with our own wisdom instead of relying solely on them.

Do you have questions about your spiritual path? Feel free to ask questions.

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