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by David Truman

Five ideas for your next spiritual step
Building a well balanced spiritual life
The ego can create in us a false sense of security if we ignore the downsides in our lives, and overemphasize the upsides. For example: A guy eats nothing but soda and salami -- and says he's on a fat-free, sugar-free diet: "I get the fat-free part from the soft drink, and the sugar-free part from the salami." Right? Wrong!
In reality, everything we do affects our happiness. Therefore, this article recommends a holistic approach to spiritual life, in which we allow NO poorly-handled area to undermine the benefits of other areas that are well-lived.
Every part of our lives impacts our consciousness, and either adds to or subtracts from our spiritual awareness.
It's a given that human beings rarely if ever develop in a perfectly balanced fashion. Everyone has some relatively advanced aspects in their development, and some that lag further behind. Nonetheless, it is important to realize every life is the sum of its parts. Every part of our lives impacts our consciousness, and either adds to or subtracts from our spiritual awareness. For that reason, we do well to consider the positive benefit of improving any part of our lives we can. Often, we get surprisingly great benefits from advancing parts we tend to ignore. Perhaps that's because the parts that lag behind can hold us back more than we realize.
The problem of spiritual leaks
We will never be happy if we only claim our assets and ignore our liabilities.
Of course, it's human nature to avoid looking at problems. But for happiness' sake, we can't afford NOT to. As a wise man said, "It's rarely your virtues that bite you in the ass -- it's your vices." For example, you could have a great meditation life, but at the same time have a lonely, conflictual personal life -- and you'd be unhappy. Or you could have a good marriage but a lousy relationship to your work -- and you'd be miserable. So we can't just claim our assets and overlook our liabilities. Any bad leak, anywhere, can sink a boat.
Five tips for lightening your spiritual load
How to reduce the factors that bring us -- or hold us -- down.
"Doctor, I don't feel well -- what's wrong with me?" In spiritual life, the problems that get us down or keep us down fall into five general categories. For each of these categories, here are practical remedies to cure whatever ails you:
1. Ball-and-chain problems. Ball-and-chain problems prevent good things from getting off the ground at all. Examples are lack of discipline, terribly low self-esteem, or excessive perfectionism.
TIP: If you have some serious progress-preventing problems, ask yourself, "Do I really want to soar, or do I feel safer anchored to the ground?" If you're ready to fly, find ways to kiss those problems good-bye!
2. Sudden-death problems. Life could be in full flight, at a high altitude, and then suddenly, we could be blown right out of the sky by sudden-death problems like a short temper, a habit of indulging in periodic black moods, or a tendency to freak out and run away in the face of emotional challenges.
TIP: We downplay the negative effects of our reactive tendencies because so often we feel our reactions are justified "under the circumstances." But no matter how much we rationalize them, our reactive tendencies cause great disturbance in our lives, so we'd be better off disciplining them than defending them.
3. Constant-drain problems. Like leaky pipes, constant-drain problems chronically drain our energy reserves and limit our forward progress. Examples are eating disorders, perverse tendencies such as procrastination, or addiction to toxic relationships.
TIP: Constant drain problems may appear small, but they take a big toll over time. Instead of thinking, "This problem is not too bad, why bother solving it?" think, "Being free of this problem in the future is well worth a little effort today," and do what you can to plug that nagging leak.
4. Rotating problems. With this pattern, as soon as you patch up one hole in your boat, you punch a new one. Yesterday it might have been low energy; today it's dissatisfaction at work; tomorrow it might be money worries. But whatever it is, there's got to be SOMETHING wrong.
TIP: When you see yourself reaching into the cookie jar for something new to worry about -- pull that hand right back! Then re-invest into a constructive activity the time you WERE about to spend in worry.
5. The lifesaver-in-a-whirlpool. It's typical of the ego to count our strengths and overlook our weaknesses -- and come out with a success formula that makes no sense at all. In the midst of a life that's generally problematic, we may proudly say, "I'm a member of this wonderful group," or "I do this technique." Your "saving grace" can't save you when it's only one step forward amid five steps back.
TIP: Don't fall for the ego's claim that a little bit of magic from one technique will solve EVERYTHING! The next section of this article offers five suggestions for a living holistic spiritual life that really works.
Five ideas for your next spiritual step
How to start living spiritual life to the fullest.
For lasting happiness, ask yourself, "Am I willing to DO what it takes -- and RESIST DOING what gets in the way -- in order to achieve stable happiness?" If you're not sure where to begin on making your spiritual life more integral, here are five ideas to consider:
1. Good health means, simply, not being sick. If you're tired of being stuck in muck, stop treating symptoms, and focus on how to be HEALTHY. Instead of resolving to be somewhat better, resolve not to be sick AT ALL. Then systematically eliminate ways of acting and thinking that sicken you, and replace them with habits that promote real well-being.
2. A good boat has few leaks, and they are minor. The enlightened state of living requires staying afloat in higher consciousness. Fortunately, maintaining spiritual "buoyancy" doesn't require perfection -- but, the leaks have to be FEW and SMALL. A healthy, holistic spiritual life -- in which no major leak is ignored -- will allow you to float above the waves of lower consciousness, conflict, discord, depression, and negativity.
3. A whole Harley works a lot better than a piece of a Harley. It is part of human nature to put too much faith in little techniques for miracle salvation. Sure, there may be a piece of power in every amulet, a value and validity in any practice or affiliation. But no single practice, by itself, is enough.
Again, it comes down to the wholeness issue: We're not going to get down the road very fast carrying the wheel of a Harley. In fact, we can't get down the road very fast if we are missing ANY essential piece of a Harley. Everything we do counts. A truly spiritual life is a well integrated whole, because life IS a whole.
4. For your spiritual practice, pick pieces that FIT. Each element of your spiritual life should be tailored to your individual needs and level of development. Let's say you wish to include STUDY in your spiritual practice, in order to reinforce your spiritual values and aspirations. Then choose materials that are moderately challenging, but not discouraging or out of reach. For example, simply reading your daily horoscope may not be uplifting enough to elevate your consciousness appreciably. On the other hand, if you choose to read the most esoteric scripture you can find, it is unlikely that you will even understand it, let alone make good use of it. The better the fit, the greater the boost.
5. The motive behind the use of spiritual disciplines must be spiritually appropriate. Using spiritual techniques to achieve personal power or status? Praying to win a contest? Asking God or a spiritual guide to solve a business problem? True spiritual development is not about becoming a GRAND master, or winning worldly rewards. True spiritual practice is about releasing self-orientation, not about benefiting or protecting self. It is about developing REAL spiritual qualities -- flexibility of thought, compassion, commitment, devotion. Spiritual practices, no matter what they may be, are properly applied only when put to a use that is truly spiritual, not egotistical.
Building a well balanced spiritual life
The bottom line? For fastest spiritual progress, you need a well-integrated life, a life whose parts function in harmony. Each part should support and resonate with all others. Nothing truly essential should be overlooked. Any serious problems should be faced and solved.
Bringing your life into proper balance won't happen overnight, but it's a goal that's well worth working for. And every bit of progress in that direction will make a significant difference.

by David Truman

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