What is personal growth and how should we measure it? The comic image of a man pulling his hair in an attempt to make himself taller comes to mind. Amusing as this may be the question is of valid concern. What is it and how might we measure a gain or loss of stature?
To answer this question we must first ask what is eternal? Personal growth addresses who you are on the inside –your spirit. Scriptures tell us that the fruits of a mature spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faith. That is quite a long list and if it were up to us to make these qualities manifest in our lives we would be very much like the man pulling at this hair in an attempt to increase his stature.
Substituting Buddhist developmental guidelines for Christian scripture we are advised instead to cultivate right view, right intention, and right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
At first glance the Buddhist approach, though incorporating eight injunctions rather than seven qualities may seem more do-able for in fact the Eight Fold Path is intended as guidance for action. Action is much more appealing to the western mind. We are doers. Tell me what to do so that I might attain the Kingdom of Heaven or freedom from suffering as this is the overt offering of the Buddhist path.
But the Seven qualities of Christian scripture seem to point to the actual place one would wish to have arrived. While the Eight Buddhist injunctions are the path rather than the destination. Or, the map rather than the territory.
So we have answered our first question. Believing as many do that the spirit of a man is eternal then we are free to conclude that the measure of our maturity, our progress along the path of spiritual growth is the degree to which love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faith. flow from us effortlessly the level to which we embody these qualities.
How do we accomplish this? The eight fold path is not a bad place to start. However there may be a short cut. The seven qualities of maturity are those of the Master Teacher. Scripture tell us that as we behold Him we become like Him. To simply want to be like The Teacher will result in a reward identical to your request. You will be allowed to want to be like your teacher –until you figure out your mistake. This is the essence of successful visualization to view our perfect teacher in a non grasping way is to merge our spirit with His. Look on that which you aspire too with appreciation.
Learn to meditate. A pure meditative discipline frees us from the imaginary world and releases us into emotional and mental freedom! With the aid of contemplative prayer practices, learn to meditate from your spiritual heart, for out of it flow the true issues of life. The value of this last sentence close brush with the scripture that it is, should not be underestimated. Think on this.
Many find the discipline of journaling to be freeing. Just be careful to be conscious of what you are writing. Like the careless painter you could find that you have painted/written yourself into a corner. An example of this is to write about your worries, your wants, your hurts and fears and to do this with such talent and clarity that in the end these problems are just that more vivid in your mind. Instead, allow your spirit to soar as you write. Write your way to freedom with the right view and right intention.
The activity known as Master Minding as it is called is a modern outgrowth of group prayer. Jewish practitioners have always emphasized the importance of praying in a group of at least ten persons, recognizing the phenomenon of non linear multiplication. However you must be careful with this activity. To join with other is to become entangled in their spirits as they with yours,
So finally with this consideration of entanglement in mind do not be in a hurry. Do not be in a hurry to grow. Do not be in a hurry to join with others in an effort to accelerate your growth. Look for… pray for a meeting with persons of like mind. love the people you pray with. This love is paramount in the development and preservation of the purity in your prayers. The prayer of a surrendered heart is the purest, most powerful of prayer all.
More could be written. But for now let us be content with a final thought. You are not responsible for growing up, you just have to do the work. That’s a paradox and offered at this point as a bit of humor. Never the less, it is true. That which has prompted you to grow is The Divine Him and Herself, ultimately, the Divine Oneness. You have already been called. Your only job now, is to remain willing to follow. A very good word for this is surrender as mentioned above. As you surrender to the call you will grow.
But it is not a contest. Do not compare yourself with others. The Lover of your heart thinks you are the most beautiful of all creatures. Fix your eyes on the Divine Lover and in so doing melt into that heart, allowing it’s goodness power and beauty to infuse your whole being. This is personal growth. All else is vanity, entertainment and distraction.
And so, May all beings be happy. May all beings be loved and well fed with all the nutrients required to promote their true and everlasting growth…especially you.
Tom Carroll has offered these words to guide, instruct and bring comfort as you grow in love and service.
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