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Tien Shan Chi Kung


What is Spiritual Growth?

Many of the people who talk about spiritual growth, spirituality, or spiritual will often draw a blank when you try to pin them down for a definition of it.  I was one of them.  I used to think it had something to do with miraculous happenings, telepathy, synchronicity, a feeling of oneness with god/universe/spirit, etc.  Then I heard the best definition of spiritual growth and intuitively realized it was correct.

The definition is this:  Spiritual growth is emotional growth, being spiritually advanced is being emotionally mature.

Emotional maturity is normaly dictated by a person's native character and is the result of parental influence.  The emotional growth due to parental influence usually stop before a person reaches adulthood.  It seems that any additional spiritual growth or emotional growth after that point is the result of meditation and here I will try to describe how meditation works to cause this growth.


Left brain, right brain, patience and tolerance

Meditation has been shown scientifically to make the left brain side more dominant than the right and this makes people more patient.  People who are more right side brain dominant have more of a tendancy to react with anger to a situation in which left brain side dominant people will have more of a tendancy to be patient.  

It has been said that the opposite of love is impatience and this has a ring of truth to it, unfortunately, since in our stressfull society which is so full of appointments and deadlines, it is sometimes difficult to be patient.


Thinking versus awareness

When we are constantly thinking, which is what the untrained mind does, we are separating ourselves from reality.  The thinking either prevents some perception or, if we think about what we perceived, we distort it with the thought.  This is because thinking is done with words and words are a shallow substitute for a real experience.  This is why it is said that thinking separates us from reality.

Since thinking tends to obstruct our ability to observe things we find that essentially thinking and awareness are mutually exclusive.  The more a person thinks, the less aware they are, the less they think, the more aware they are.


Introspection

Meditation causes emotional growth due to the introspection it causes.  In many systems meditation means thinking about things, but in Taoism meditation means not thinking.  We are supposed to not think and either focus on the feeling of energy in the body or remain totally blank.  Stopping thinking is very difficult and anyone who tries will quickly discover this.  It takes many years, and little by little the spaces between thoughts grows longer.

As we go through this process of trying to stop thinking but not succeeded we end up reviewing our past actions.  Things we said to people or things they said to us, things we are thinking of saying to someone or things we want to do or things we have done, the list seems endless.  Sometimes the same thought will occur over and over and over and that in itself can be quite annoying when we are trying to stop thinking but it's best to bear with it and keep at it because the results of meditation are truly worth the effort.

A lot of people don't spend much time examining their lives because they are too busy; or, if they don't want to examine their lives they see to it that they become too busy.  Consumerism is an escape from reality in this sense.

It seems that everyone has some emotional responses which they learned in childhood which may have served them well when they were children, but tend to result in self sabotage when they are adults.  In short, almost everyone experiences some emotional pain from time to time, therefore they have an emotional problem.  Having an emotional problem doesn't mean a person is crazy, it's just that if some action or reaction that we habitually have results in emotional pain then it's a problem, an emotional problem. The common pre meditation reaction is to blame the other person.


Facing your worst enemy

The increased awareness caused by meditation also extends to our emotions and as we meditate more an interesting thing happens.  Some emotional difficulty that we were having previously will seem to get worse.  This is probably most likely due to two reasons, the first being that before we didn't want to think about it, we wanted to avoid it, and the second is that we become more sensitive.  So whatever emotional difficulty we were having will become worse and more annoying, more upsetting, and more infuriating.

When this happens then there are a couple of possible outcomes.  The most common is that the person will realize that it is due to their meditation so they take the easy way out and quit.  The other is that they will continue to meditate but the increased annoyance due to the problem will cause more self examination.  This self examination results in us realizing what we are doing that is causing the problem, we realize the original motivations for it and we realize why it's not working.

It seems to me that the most important thing that happens is that the increased annoyance provides the motivation to fix the problem.  Very little happens without motivation.

In a nutshell, meditation causes emotional growth because it will make an emotional problem seem worse and that motivates us to fix the problem.  It's really as simple as that, but it takes bravery and persistence.  There is an analogy in the many myths of spiritual growth that tell of a person going into a dark cave to face their worse fears.  The hero or heroine conquers the fear by entering the cave.  There is some kind of epic battle in the cave, and if the person wins then  when they come out of the cave they are changed people.  More mature, leaders, at peace, things like that.

So meditation includes a process, likened to entering a fearful cave, where we get to do the scariest thing of all, to face our own worst enemy.

Please note: By no means is meditation always this white knuckle battle with our dark side, most of the time it is a peaceful and rewarding experience in it's own right.  It's just that when this oportunity for emotional growth presents itself it's good to know what is happening and to be prepared.


When you blend increased overall awareness with increased calmness and the increased motivation to avoid emotional pain combined with the awareness of what is causing us emotional pain then the end result is that we end up with emotional growth, which is also spiritual growth.

There are many other aspects of meditation which include energy work, strengthening, posture, bliss, breathing, etc.

Taking it to the end, the Taoist path of the Immortal.

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