No matter what the practice or teaching, ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate spirituality for its own survival and gain.
– Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
Spiritual growth is an experience we all go through once we have experienced the spiritual awakening process. As we begin to awaken to the truth of who we are, we develop a connection to our authentic essence, higher nature or Soul.
As we progressively advance on our paths, our spiritual essence begins to blossom like a luminous flower deep in our heart. And the more we clear away the dead, gnarled and overgrown beliefs, perspectives, and emotional baggage within us, the more clearly we feel our divine essence. When we maintain our inner garden, we feel more and more love, wisdom, peace, and wholeness as our True Nature is revealed slowly to us.
Yet, like any garden, our metaphorical inner landscapes can be consumed by weeds, plagues, and forms of pollution that strangle anything beautiful we have been nurturing. Sometimes, we even sabotage the growth occurring within us ourselves, without knowing it.
What is Spiritual Growth?
Spiritual growth is the process of awakening to your true nature, purpose, and potential. When you undergo spiritual growth you experience an expansion in awareness and insight, also known as higher consciousness. All spiritual growth has one objective: to help you embody your Soul, Higher Self or Atman. Once you are able to unite with your Soul, you will experience what is understood as enlightenment, “heaven,” Oneness or moksha.
11 Traps that Sabotage Your Spiritual Growth
This isn’t a journey about becoming something. This is about unbecoming who we are not. – Adyashanti, The End of Your World
The problem with the spiritual journey is that it is often laden with traps of many kinds. These traps are not physical, but they are instead mental and are often referred to as anti-awakening forces.
As we process life primarily through the mind, we also tend to approach spirituality with the mind. The issue with this is that spirituality cannot be contained by the limitations of thought. Once spirituality is captured within a thought, it ceases to maintain its true essence and instead becomes a constricting belief or dogma. In other words, spirituality loses its alive, ever-flowing essence once it is compartmentalized within the mind.
Think about it this way: have you ever felt immense awe and wonder in the presence of something beautiful and enchanting like a sunrise? The moment you stop immersing yourself in the feeling of the sunrise, and start taking a photo of it or describing it in a text message, is the moment you are no longer truly present with the sunrise. Instead, you are filtering it through your thoughts or through a lens of some kind. The same can be said with spirituality.
The more we use the mind to approach our Soul, the further our Soul feels. But the moment we drop our thoughts and allow ourselves to purely feel our Soul, suddenly we feel at home once again. Think of it like this: when you chase the sun on the horizon thinking you will reach it, you never will, because it is an illusion. But when you stop and feel the sun’s presence shining on your skin already, you will no longer chase anything.
It is difficult for us, as mind-oriented beings, to become conscious of our thoughts, as we have been conditioned to identify with them since a young age. But once we can observe our thoughts and how they tend to sabotage our happiness, we will experience true spiritual growth.
Below I want to share with you eleven of the most common traps that we fall into on the spiritual path. I have personally experienced these pitfalls many times, and they have resulted in a lot of pain and struggle. See how many of these traps you can identify with:
1. The trap of spiritual bypassing
Spiritual bypassing is the practice of using spirituality to avoid, suppress or escape from certain emotions or situations in life. Common types of spiritual bypassing include:
- numbing one’s emotions through “spiritualized” repression and avoidance
- unhealthy obsession and attachment to the positive (e.g. positive thinking) and adopting a passive-aggressive “nice” mask
- debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow self
- weak personal boundaries
- blind or excessively tolerant compassion (to the detriment of oneself and the other)
- forcefully trying to “kill” the ego and condemning it as “bad/evil”
- getting stuck in theoretical spirituality and dogmatic beliefs about “truth”
- denial of self-responsibility by placing it on another higher being (e.g. spirit guide, angel)
- delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being
- using spiritual practices to escape unpleasant emotions; for example, using meditation to dissociate from emotions, rather than transmute them