The Psyche and the Spirit
Psychological growth and spiritual liberation unfold separately and on a different continuum, but they can be mutually supportive. Meditation practice can be very beneficial for developing your ego. Likewise, a healthy ego helps with the frustration, uncertainty, and pain of spiritual practice and greatly aids in transforming humiliation into humility. And, at each step of your enlightenment, whether it comes all at once or gradually, you still have to integrate what you’ve learned into daily life, which requires a healthy ego with good boundaries.
Probably like many of you, I spent a fair amount of time on the spiritual path waiting for that earth-shattering moment when I would suddenly get zapped with eternal love, compassion, and infinite understanding, and when and all my problems with insecurity, fear and anxiety would disappear.
But it never happened. And despite hours of meditation, silent retreats and devouring self-help books, my problems didn’t go away.
Until I realized that I actually had no problems.
Until I realized that, as Phillip Moffitt states, psychological growth and spiritual liberation unfold separately. I had wanted to bypass all the psychological work and skip forward to a state without struggle.
I learned the hard way that enlightenment (whether it happens all at once or gradually) doesn’t mean that our lives are suddenly easy, that our memories of our childhoods are erased, that we never feel physical pain, or that we don’t experience loss, fear or sadness. I learned that these struggles and challenges are actually part of the journey. But facing ourselves isn’t easy and as we gradually wake up to more and more parts of ourselves, psychology can help us understand and cope with all that we discover.
So how can we practically integrate psychology and spirituality in our daily lives?
To begin with, I think it is beneficial to have a regular meditation practice. One thing I have found useful is what I call the “daily check-in”. I do this either in the morning or night before I begin my meditation practice. I take a few minutes to “check-in”, to ask myself how I am doing, how I am feeling, and if there are any issues that have recently surfaced. I accept whatever is happening as part of my personal journey and focus rather on my responses to life and how I feel about them.
Other helpful outlets for our thoughts and emotions are writing, dancing, or playing or listening to music. Even walking meditation can give us the opportunity to check in with how we are doing and how we are processing our thoughts and emotions.
And finally, if you feel the need, definitely seek outside help. Talk to a friend. Get the help or guidance of a spiritual teacher, life coach or psychologist.
Forgetting one’s psychological development is not reflection of one’s spiritual state. Both are important. In fact, this is how we grow. It’s designed that way. Not in denying, but in integrating.
I have included a “checking-in” meditation. I hope you find it beneficial.