Personal development and spirituality

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Personal development and spirituality

Postby Erik » Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:25 pm

For all my life I have been focused on personal development: Improving my health, intelligence, creativity, social relationships, etc. But this last year I have discovered a deeper truth in my existence through spiritual teachers (ET, Alan Watts, Anthony de Mello), and it has radically changed my view on life. There is however a problem that keeps bugging me, and I'm interested in hearing others' opinions on it: Every time when I focus on personal development, there is a little voice in my head that says: "You shouldn't be focusing on this, for it is completely based on the illusion of the Ego, and it only strengthens the illusion".

I think the voice is right from a certain point of view, because personal development is completely based on the illusion of the Ego, and on creating 'things' to which it can hold itself on to (good health, a nice partner, money, social approval, etc). From this point of view, spirituality is exactly the opposite of personal development, because spirituality is based on seeing through the illusion of the Ego and the illusion of separateness, instead of strengthening it and 'feeding' it. So from this point of view personal development would be an obstacle for spiritual development/awakening. I don't think an enlightened person would be interested at all in personal development.

However, from another point of view spiritual development is the product of personal development: I am able to understand the concepts of spirituality and the teachings of spiritual gurus as a result of my intelligence, and I am intelligent as a result of my education, and I've had an education as a result of money/social support/good health/etc. Isn't spiritual enlightenment much more accessible for a healthy, intelligent person than for a mentally retarded person, or for a person who has an IQ of 50 and who can't read/write? I think so. I even think that in theory it would possible for an enlightened person to have an accident, a stroke for example (thanks to an unhealthy lifestyle maybe), and as a result return to an 'unaware' state. His ability to see through the illusions of the Ego and of separateness is therefore dependent on his health and intelligence.

So as a summary of my question:
Is personal development an important part of spiritual development (awakening), or rather an obstacle for spiritual development?
By personal development I mean: Physical development (health), mental development (psychological health, intelligence, creativity, etc.), and social development (relationships, work, finances, etc).
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby tod » Fri Aug 02, 2013 7:15 am

Every time when I focus on personal development, there is a little voice in my head that says: "You shouldn't be focusing on this, for it is completely based on the illusion of the Ego, and it only strengthens the illusion".


Just watched a Mooji video and the questioner is talking of something similar to this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shnP8Xef0MA
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby rachMiel » Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:50 pm

tod wrote:Just watched a Mooji video and the questioner is talking of something similar to this.

Mooji ... yum. Just hearing the name makes me sit back and relax. :-)
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby rachMiel » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:04 pm

Erik wrote:So as a summary of my question:
Is personal development an important part of spiritual development (awakening), or rather an obstacle for spiritual development?
By personal development I mean: Physical development (health), mental development (psychological health, intelligence, creativity, etc.), and social development (relationships, work, finances, etc).

My take on this is that personal development is often beneficial in the kickstarting phase of spiritual development, along the lines you mention in your original posting. A strong healthy body-mind is good soil for spiritual growth.

At some point in the process, a turning point perhaps, spiritual development becomes the main engine, and personal development takes on a new meaning, due to one's deeper understanding of the self/personal.

So I guess the moral is: Keep working on your spiritual development and the rest (of pretty much everything) will take care of itself.
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby rideforever » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:18 pm

It is very good that you can specifically frame your question, that shows a great deal of intelligence - which is very useful.

At the moment you are aware of one domain -personal development- and a second domain -spirituality-.

You can collapse the dichotomy between these 2 by investigating them further.

For instance, what is occurring within you with personal development ? What changes within you ? Is one part getting stronger ? Is another part getting 'emphasised' ? What does it really mean, 'personal development' ? And is that different to spirituality ? What happens in 'spirituality' ?

Another inquiry is, you talk of seeing the 'illusion' of the ego.

But HOW does the 'illusion' work ? Actually look at it in operation. How is it working ? What is occurring ? What creates the illusion ? And what is being mislead ?

And more deeply, what is the purpose of it working like this ? What is the reason ? Are there benefits to illusion ?

You see ... by asking yourself these questions and investigating how you are operating internally ... you gain knowledge. And then there is no more THIS and THAT ... you just 'understand' what is occurring.

You collapse the question, through knowledge gained through experience.

Gained through investigation.

[ you make further assumptions, and you ask others questions ... but it is only when you have knowledge gained through your own experience that you will proceed ... until that time it's all talk ]
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby jimmyrich » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:27 am

I can only offer my own personal experience here. :)

At about 19, I was originally introduced to the Hindu concepts and teachings of Advaita and Paul Brunton by a man who had been to India in his youth. I was supposed to learn meditation and answer the Question: What am I? but I had so many unhealed and unresolved emotional wounds from a bad childhood that I left my first Guru to join the Army, believing I was not qualified to go on the Quest or would never make it anyway. Many, many years later I nearly crashed due to my unhealed childhood wounds and trauma and had to go into Emotional Recovery work in 12 step programs to salvage my damaged ego and rebuild my corrupted beliefs and behaviors which Spirituality had NEVER ADDRESSED! Spirituality wanted me to believe that all my weird emotional and mental problems were about: Karma, sin, bad past lives, evil spirits, bad luck, stupidity, genes and on and on BUT NEVER about the real truth = BAD PARENTING! Thankfully, I found the answers to my life long mental/emotional issues and the solutions within Psychology - NOT spirituality although 12 step programs embrace a Higher Power and some forms of spirituality. I have since come to see why spirituality avoids putting the blame where it belongs - on BAD PARENTING and prefers convenient scape goats (Karma, sin, genes) to avoid the painfully obvious issues surrounding BAD PARENTING that most 12 step and other self help programs tackle head on. I found enormous healing in Recovery work and continue to do it along with my ET and other spiritual studies. I discovered that I had to understand and then FIX my very damaged ego before I could go ahead with finding out who/what I am - above, beyond, around and under my little egoic, limited, temporary self. I had to find self love, improved self esteem, confidence and self respect to then go ahead with the work of looking and moving BEYOND my now "repaired" ego. What's funny about all of this is that I have recently discovered that BAD PARENTING might be the only thing that could have forced or inspired me to look for a Real Self or Something above and beyond my MISERABLE self so, maybe being damaged and hurt is a good way to need salvation and solutions when one's life is not worth living any more. I won't say my "unconscious" parents did me a favor but maybe my misery was a blessing in disguise if it ultimately forced me to look for REAL answers beyond just a comfortable ego.

[quote="Erik"]For all my life I have been focused on personal development: Improving my health, intelligence, creativity, social relationships, etc.
>> Why? Did you have a bad childhood, inadequate parenting, early problems, emotional conflicts, etc.? Why did you NEED to work on your self at all?

re: There is however a problem that keeps bugging me, and I'm interested in hearing others' opinions on it: Every time when I focus on personal development, there is a little voice in my head that says: "You shouldn't be focusing on this, for it is completely based on the illusion of the Ego, and it only strengthens the illusion".
>>> Is it possible to DO BOTH?

re: I don't think an enlightened person would be interested at all in personal development.
>> Probably not but an emotionally damaged person might.

re: However, from another point of view spiritual development is the product of personal development: I am able to understand the concepts of spirituality and the teachings of spiritual gurus as a result of my intelligence, and I am intelligent as a result of my education, and I've had an education as a result of money/social support/good health/etc.
>> And I have good health and a steady income because of overcoming my early childhood emotional damages with therapy, counseling and other PERSONAL egoic processes. The "personal work" I did has led to my spiritual development now.

re: Isn't spiritual enlightenment much more accessible for a healthy, intelligent person than for a mentally retarded person, or for a person who has an IQ of 50 and who can't read/write? I think so.
>> It was for me! When introduced to all of this Advaita teaching in my teens, I was just too messed up to go ahead with any of it! Finding the Over-Self was just too far beyond me at that time!

re: I even think that in theory it would possible for an enlightened person to have an accident, a stroke for example (thanks to an unhealthy lifestyle maybe), and as a result return to an 'unaware' state. His ability to see through the illusions of the Ego and of separateness is therefore dependent on his health and intelligence.
>>> That makes perfect sense to me and I have long suspected that some Sages fall because they have never dealt with their own early childhood, buried and hidden emotional issues, pain and damaged feelings but covered them up with SPIRITUAL bandages.

So as a summary of my question:
Is personal development an important part of spiritual development (awakening), or rather an obstacle for spiritual development?
By personal development I mean: Physical development (health), mental development (psychological health, intelligence, creativity, etc.), and social development (relationships, work, finances, etc).
>> Due to my early childhood emotional damages and hidden painful feelings, I had to work on fixing that FIRST and then go on to spiritual things. I could not have calmly observed or witnessed my horribly damaged thoughts/feelings and separated from them UNTIL they were healed and thus reduced in number and strength. I may have had a few "enlightening" experiences back then BUT my unhealed inner wounds would NOT stay quiet and out of the picture. They came after me with a vengeance in my late 40s and would not back down UNTIL I faced and finally healed at least some of them so now, I am emotionally free to go ahead with finding my REAL SELF. IMO, nobody can actually abandon or DENY their damaged inner stuff in favor of some spiritual highs because the damaged inner stuff WILL NOT ALLOW IT! Many psychologists have spoken about how "spiritual" ppl can often use spirituality as a convenient DENIAL SYSTEM to protect them from facing and dealing with their own hidden and repressed childhood wounds and how the inner damages will finally come to the surface to be faced and resolved - OR ELSE! Spirituality may want to believe that early childhood damages are an illusion of an illusionary ego but, when I tackled my "illusory" damaged feelings, it was NO JOKE and I had to do a lot of work to heal the illusionary damages! Real or not, it hurt a lot and I am damned glad I went to work on my self back then to finally find a little peace and freedom even if it's not the ultimate Spiritual destination.
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby Erik » Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:16 pm

Thanks for your replies everyone. The question is still bothering me, but I'll just keep working on things and maybe one day I will be able to see things clearer.
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby Erik » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:58 pm

Hi everyone, thanks again for your replies. I've been thinking a lot about my question, and I feel like I've come to understand everything a lot better.

In my first post I said that I didn't think that an enlightened person would be interested at all in personal development, but I've come to realize that that's not true. I've found an ET quote which explains it very well:
"There is nothing wrong with managing your life trying to achieve things, that's all wonderful. But it's a game, it's a play of form. You have to participate in the play of form while you're here, so you might as well play that game well, as well as you can, but it's no more than a game. And it's only when you're connected with that dimension in you that you can enjoy the game of life. Realizing that you cannot expect it to bring you true satisfaction or a sense of completion because true satisfaction or a sense of having arrived, being at home, fully in the here and now can only be fully achieved by going within and realizing who you are in your essence. And then you see you're not the stuff of your mind.
Then when you no longer expect the game of life to bring you lasting satisfaction you can enjoy creating things, participating, doing something, without being dependent on some end result which may or may not come. So you're not dependent anymore on the fruit of your action."
- Eckhart Tolle

Realizing this has made the little voice that criticized me every time I was focusing on personal development disappear. Personal development is not an obstacle for spiritual development.

Furthermore I've come to realize that I cannot turn "spiritual development" or "reaching enlightenment" into a goal in my life, because it can only be realized in the present moment. If you make a goal out of spiritual development or reaching enlightenment it shows that you don't understand, and that's what's withholding you from seeing it.

So spiritual development is no longer a goal in my life. Making it into a goal doesn't make any sense. And personal development is no more than a game which I don't expect to bring me lasting satisfaction or happiness, and whose "result" has no importance. So personal development is not really a goal either, but is more like a dance, or a symphony, and instead of focusing on some kind of end result I should sing and dance while the music is being played.
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby TemporalDissonance » Wed Sep 25, 2013 5:29 am

Erik wrote:So as a summary of my question:
Is personal development an important part of spiritual development (awakening), or rather an obstacle for spiritual development?
By personal development I mean: Physical development (health), mental development (psychological health, intelligence, creativity, etc.), and social development (relationships, work, finances, etc).


A little late to this thread, but what you quoted of Eckhart resonated. : )

Personal development is like developing one's chess playing skills while spiritual development is like knowing and being the person who is playing the chess game.
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby magicbutterfly » Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:43 am

It brings to mind Maslov's hierarchy of needs although there is no spirituality on that chart:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s ... y_of_needs
"As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease." Ekhart Tolle, The Power of Now
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby ashleywells2417 » Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:55 am

Maybe you have a lack of concentration every time you do things. Try to have a motivation on every things you do and in your daily life.
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Re: Personal development and spirituality

Postby Erik » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:39 pm

Since this topic is still on the first page and people are still reading it, I'm going to reply to my own questions from about a year ago, because I feel that I've learned a lot and it might help other people who read it.

Erik wrote:There is however a problem that keeps bugging me, and I'm interested in hearing others' opinions on it: Every time when I focus on personal development, there is a little voice in my head that says: "You shouldn't be focusing on this, for it is completely based on the illusion of the Ego, and it only strengthens the illusion".

This voice is Ego-activity itself. (If I could give myself from about a year ago advice it would be: Inquire into where the voice is coming from. Who is saying this?)

Erik wrote:I think the voice is right from a certain point of view, because personal development is completely based on the illusion of the Ego, and on creating 'things' to which it can hold itself on to (good health, a nice partner, money, social approval, etc). From this point of view, spirituality is exactly the opposite of personal development, because spirituality is based on seeing through the illusion of the Ego and the illusion of separateness, instead of strengthening it and 'feeding' it. So from this point of view personal development would be an obstacle for spiritual development/awakening. I don't think an enlightened person would be interested at all in personal development.

It's not so much that focusing on personal development is an obstacle to spiritual awakening or that it feeds the illusion of Ego, but focusing on personal development arises from the illusion of Ego. Stopping focusing on personal development in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment arises from the same illusion, and won't get you anywhere.
It's not so much that personal development is no longer interesting after enlightenment, but it loses importance, it becomes more like a game.

Erik wrote:However, from another point of view spiritual development is the product of personal development: I am able to understand the concepts of spirituality and the teachings of spiritual gurus as a result of my intelligence, and I am intelligent as a result of my education, and I've had an education as a result of money/social support/good health/etc. Isn't spiritual enlightenment much more accessible for a healthy, intelligent person than for a mentally retarded person, or for a person who has an IQ of 50 and who can't read/write? I think so. I even think that in theory it would possible for an enlightened person to have an accident, a stroke for example (thanks to an unhealthy lifestyle maybe), and as a result return to an 'unaware' state. His ability to see through the illusions of the Ego and of separateness is therefore dependent on his health and intelligence.

So as a summary of my question:
Is personal development an important part of spiritual development (awakening), or rather an obstacle for spiritual development?
By personal development I mean: Physical development (health), mental development (psychological health, intelligence, creativity, etc.), and social development (relationships, work, finances, etc).

I think the answer is that personal development is an important part of spiritual development and not an obstacle. A good analogy might be that personal development is like a raft that takes you to the other side of the river (spiritual enlightenment), and when you get there you abandon the raft, you don't take it with you.
From the perspective of the individual it might seem unfair that some people are blessed with spiritual enlightenment and that others have to suffer their whole life not realizing that they don't have to because it's all basically an illusion. But from the perspective of truth all is one and everything is well. From the perspective of truth both the spiritual enlightened being and the unenlightened suffering being, are the same limitless one.
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