That was the question I asked myself one winter evening, while sitting on my bed with my head resting in my palms.
Personal development didn’t seem to be what people said it was. Where was the change? Where was the positivity?
All I saw was more of what I didn’t like.
My bookshelf was filled with books on spirituality, self-growth, productivity, and even out of body experiences, but none of them seemed to do any good, or did they?
You see, the counter-intuitive (and funny) thing about embarking on the path of personal growth is that it’s not going to be all cakes and cookies.
Many give up when the well-paved road turns into a path in a dense, dark forest. But those that stick with it realize that this was never about always feeling good.
Many, or dare I say most, who get into personal development are in a hurry to get to a place where everything is perfect and problems do not exist.
The thinking might go something like this: I don’t want to feel what I’m feeling right now, so I’m going to go into personal development to feel better.
And in the beginning, there is nothing wrong with that. However, it tends to evolve into an avoidance of feeling certain emotions, or thinking some thoughts.
There’s something built into humans to avoid intense feelings and thoughts. Yet when you face these anyway, you discover that there was never anything to be afraid of.
On the surface, personal development seems innocuous, a way to be happy, but what they don’t tell you is that you have to face your inner demons to truly be free.
The deeper you dive into personal growth, the more lonely you can became, until you find a new group of like-minded people.
This is because few are ready to enter the dark forest with no path in sight. Yet that is where the metaphorical treasure is found.
This loneliness is part and parcel of the path. You learn to be independent. You don’t need anyone else to show you the way. You learn to listen to your inner guidance.
If you are earnest, aid will be delivered to you via books, sentences, people, videos, podcasts, or a random thought.
As old beliefs are uprooted, confusion ensues.
You may not even know who you are anymore, which is a blessing if you know how to work with it.
Embrace this confusion. Notice that it is the mind scrambling for certainty, but if you let go of thoughts, and rest without attaching, a certain peacefulness is uncovered.
This is an excellent time to notice how thinking creates the illusion of order and certainty.
Yet thoughts aren’t needed to live life. Sure, a small percentage of thoughts are practical, but most are opinions, ruminations, worries, and fears.
Don’t be afraid if you’re suddenly thrown into a whirlpool of confusion. See it as a sign that things are changing. All will be well if you relax.
If the above sounds dire, let me offer some contrast.
To go through the darkness within, alone, and completely confused is not without reward.
In fact, the more willing you are to face all of the above, the more freedom you will experience. You become less and less reactive to your thoughts.
You find that you’re not afraid of your feelings, which means you begin to tap into fearlessness, because what are we truly afraid of if not certain feelings?
In other words, if you’re afraid of failing, are you afraid of failure itself or of how it will feel? What if I told you that you would fail but you would feel uplifted, loved and ready to go, would you still be afraid of it?
So don’t let the previous points fool you. This path is well worth traveling.
And besides, if you’re on this path, and you’re diving deep, could you have chosen otherwise? This was always your path.
5. Inner GPS
With all the potential challenges you will face, it’s imperative to develop a connection to your intuition, inner gps, or heart.
When you don’t know what’s going on, or where to go, take a few deep breaths, and notice what feels magnetic. I’ve written about this extensively, so feel free to read more on this topic.
Sometimes you don’t know what feels magnetic, so you just feel everything. Feel the need to know. Feel the fear of uncertainty. Just feel.
You learn to trust, at least I did, because there was no other option.
6. Not Knowing
This is the other side of confusion.
What happens when you’re confused? You try to grab ahold of something familiar.
An idea. Chocolate. A book. A technique. Exercise. A teacher.
This is to be expected. Do your best to sit with the urge to distract, even if it’s just for a few seconds.
Eventually you will realize that you don’t have to know it all. In fact, you can’t. And that’s okay.
There’s a sweetness to surrendering the need to know, and resting in not knowing. Thoughts don’t know anything about life. Surrender them to wherever they came from, and let life live through you.
If you go deep enough, you may begin to notice shifts in identity.
Identity, or the self may even begin to fall away, which can be scary if you don’t know what’s going on.
The process is natural, and not to be feared. There’s nothing special about it. You are simply seeing through the illusion of doing.
I ended up here without knowing what was going on, which was difficult. I’ve written about it here.
I won’t go too deeply into it here in case it is not relevant. There’s no need to be afraid of this. If this happens, then it is what was always your path.
Those were the harsh truths I’ve encountered on this path.
They may seem scary, but I’d rather you know about them than be surprised.
If they pop up, there’s no need to run away from them. Instead, they are blessings in disguise.
At first, you will resist, but when you know that you can relax into it, the resistance will melt, the feelings will be integrated, and peace will emerge.
Trust the process.
All the best,
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