Growth is not finite. The very meaning of growth is to be in the process of growing, all the way until God-realisation. People tend to measure their growth with various yardsticks, like their feelings or their state of mind. However, a feeling could be fleeting or infrequent, and the state of mind could be short lived.
Adding to this is the danger of the subtle ego getting inflated when you feel you have grown spiritually. A rise in ego can cause a rapid downfall in your spiritual level. The best yardstick is to check if you are on the right track is to see if you are adhering to some very basic principles of spirituality. It is this that ensures that “the process of continual growth” is actively alive.
Spiritual Principles That Aid Your Growth
1. Going From Many Paths To One
People today find quick relief in variety. It helps distract the mind and successfully deflects you from being focused. Just as “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” in spirituality, if you like to flit from one path to another, then you cannot dig deep enough to make your spiritual practice develop into a meaningful experience. Success comes when we stick to one particular path – a wisely selected, spiritual practice. So, you know you are growing spiritually when you stop reading scores of books of various paths and instead choose one path and start the actual spiritual practice.
2. Subtlety In Connection With God
Sometimes, we find that we are going through all the motions of externally worshiping God (as per your path/religion/culture), but strangely, our mind can be far away. It might be focusing on the fact that something needs to be done at the bank or in the kitchen or we may be thinking about a situation at work. So, in reality, we are worshiping only with our body but not with our hearts.
If, on the other hand, you find that while at work, you have feelings of longing for God in your heart, or if you are at a party surrounded by many people but you still seek to be in communion with the God within, then you will be able to realize that you are now moving from tangible forms of making contact with God to a more sublime way of being in communion with God.
So, you know you are growing spiritually when ritualistic forms or outer expressions of worshiping God no longer interest you. However, internally, you are drawing deeply from being connected to the divine. No matter where your body is, your mind is with God.
3. Sticking To Your Level
Many a time, we perceive a situation in either black or white. We take an extreme stance and do not realize that between black and white there are various shades of gray. Likewise, a person cannot be judged as being either spiritual or worldly. Each of us can be at either end of this color spectrum or most likely somewhere in-between.
Spiritual growth occurs, from one level to the next, when we are able to move out of our comfort zone and take up the spiritual practice of higher stage than where we are at. However, most people who have grown due to doing spiritual practice at one level do not move to the next stage and do the spiritual practice of the next level. You cannot hope to graduate from college if you are determined on studying a course that was meant to get you through high school. So, you know you are growing spiritually when you are alert and eager to do the spiritual practice of the next level.
4. Keeping Up With The Current Times
In the past, switching on the light would have meant laboriously chopping wood and lighting it – a far cry from having to just lift a finger and turn on a switch. In bygone times, being a skilled driver meant you were good with animals and knew how to get the best out of them when riding a carriage – very different from those who now drive Ferraris or maneuver heavy vehicles on the road. Likewise, as the rate of spiritual pollution increases worldwide and the spiritual capacity of people has diminished due to the demands of the modern lifestyle, so too must the type of spiritual practice change to be effective in the current environment.
Each era had its specific means for spiritual growth, be it the path of knowledge, the path of meditation, or the path of ritualistic worship. The spiritual practice recommended for the current “era of strife” is the path of chanting. So, you know you are growing spiritually if you actually begin repeating God’s name. Then, you are able to invoke divine energy and if used correctly, this results in spiritual growth.
5. Each Person’s Path Is Unique
A trip to the North pole can be made from America, Asia, or Europe. There is no one route to get there. Likewise, you grow spiritually just by having an innate feeling that each one of us is on our way home and that there are as many paths to God as there are people on earth. No two human beings are alike and each one of us makes contact with God in our own unique way, and we must respect this. Just as your diet would not suit the body type or pallet of every human on earth, neither can your medicine be given for every ailment, as well as your spiritual path cannot be recommended to all.
Getting guidance from a true spiritual master gives you direction so as to make rapid spiritual progress. Growth is not something that can be carved in stone. There can be fluctuations in your growth graph. You may stagnate or simply reach a plateau. Following the above principles ensures that the growth process is in the right direction. The speed at which you grow depends on your yearning to adhere to the principles of spirituality.