Especially for those on a path of internal growth, I feel this is an important checkpoint to think about: How do I know if I’m growing? I’ve personally found myself asking this again and again in my own mind. How do I know if I’m growing? How do I know if I’m doing a good job? And how do I know if I’m doing it “right?”
We as humans live our lives to seek more value and meaning to our existence on Earth. We want to succeed and buy nice cars and big houses because those are material validations from society that we’re worth something. So naturally, people equate possessing bigger and nicer things with their place in society being recognized as more valuable by others, thereby making us superficially feel good about ourselves.
But, for any practitioner, we know that true value does not lie in material success. Everyday we each work diligently on ourselves in our own way to get to an ideal place we hold in our minds. Within your own search for the goal you want: how can you check if you’re growing well inside when inner growth is not a tangible or visible phenomena that others can acknowledge easily?
From my own experience, the answer that has stood many tests of trial and error is that growth can be concretely measured in how you treat and hold relationships with others. The real marker shows through when we have to deal with other humans who seem to be doing nothing else but adding to our problems. What do we do then? How do we treat this person who brings stress?
When such a person stands before you as your obstacle, do you greet them with a smile? Or does your heart race as you find yourself breathing faster prepared to fight? Are you the one to say sorry first when you two fight? Or do you quickly try to find reasons and ways to cut that person out of your life? These people are precious gems whom we can use to truly check our consciousness and how far we’ve come.
I’ve realized that ultimately, no matter how many books you read and how many gurus you study under or even how many years you’ve been working on yourself, the true measure of growth shines through your grace in relating with others in the world.
The more I think about this question, the closer I come to the conclusion that the ultimate goal in this human experience of life is to become best friends with our inner selves. This inner self I’m talking about is the voice inside of you that talks to you all the time and makes you feel something at every moment wherever you go with everything you take in with your five senses. It’s the person that lives inside of your skin. Some might call it the mind, some might call it consciousness, some might call it heart, and some might even call it the soul. Whatever your name for it is–this is the person whom your goal is to befriend and keep in the highest regard with the kindest words, actions, and thoughts as your most precious and irreplaceable, one and only, ride or die person in your life.
It is to become that someone who supports you through all of your disappointments, fuck ups, and ugliness, yet still wants to be your friend and thinks you’re worthy. Someone who tends to your sadness. Someone who listens to your needs. Someone who picks you up when you can’t walk. Someone who doesn’t hate you when you hate yourself.
The first step is to get on your own team. Don’t stand in your own way against the tide. Being on the same team means working together for a common destination and purpose. Looking back on how I’ve lived, I arrived at the realization that I had left that inner voice inside of me behind for most of my life. From a young age I’ve always felt so much in my heart that my head found my inner voice useless and unhelpful in “getting ahead” and becoming successful under society’s terms. I regarded my inner self as a distraction that shouldn’t be listened to because it only made me feel, and feelings didn’t make anyone successful (this is what I used to believe so strongly). I developed this idea as a means of survival. I clearly see now that the only end point in leaving your inner self behind is burden, constant fights, resistance, chaos, struggle, and self-loathing. The realities of life already are filled with suffering and pain. If you yourself don’t have your back through it all–then who will?
Grab your heart, and don’t let go. The journey to your own heart is the greatest love song the universe can hear. You are your beginning and your end–your alpha and omega.
The path to self-love starts with forgiveness. Forgiveness of who? And for what? Forgiveness of myself from me.
Forgiving myself for the times I let myself cry alone in the dark. Forgiving the years of subconscious self-abuse I caused in my mind from my unrealistic expectations of perfection. Forgiving myself for choking my well-being to suffocate in a life of fear and anxiety. Forgiving myself for letting my anger spiral me out of control. Forgiving myself for not expressing my truth. Forgiving myself for isolating my heart for the sake of protection from an outside “threat” that never existed. Forgiving myself for leaving my heart to dry when its been thirsting for connection all this time. Forgiving myself for feeling lonely when my heart has been by my side all this time–keeping me company. Forgiving myself for all of the things I’ve done to me physically, emotionally, and psychologically that I’d apologize for if I did the same thing to another person.
You are a human being like anyone else. Earnest introspection into self-forgiveness brought me to my knees to see just how much I have been suffering deep inside in the darkest shadows of my mind and heart. This deep, secret, and raw suffering is something that we all carry within. Like the First Noble Truth of the Buddha–“Life is Suffering.” How much does it hurt to be alone in your pain? How much have you suffered? How long?
Vow to never let another feel the same heart-aching pain that you’ve been in. I believe this is the real seed of compassion–the seed of ultimate, honest, everlasting love. Forgive yourself. Forgiveness is love. The antithesis of forgiveness is resentment, which is the opposite of love. As long as I am not able to forgive myself, I cannot love myself deeply. People say they crave a love so deep that the oceans would be jealous, but most don’t know where to start to feel that sort of immense love. Start with forgiveness. Sincere, deep, and utter forgiveness of yourself. Forgive, forgive, and forgive again. You are doing your best.
People love to express their personal creativity. I would say that all people to a degree have some desires to express their own creativity in one way or another. Artistic modes of expressing creativity can take on many forms that we all know of like singing, dancing, painting, writing, speaking etc. I’ve felt from myself that this desire for me comes from a deep subconscious place at the pit of my being. If you, too, also feel this desire from the base of your heart, then what do you think “creative expression” means for us all as sentient beings?
They say that we are not humans having a spiritual experience, but rather, spiritual beings having a human experience. I wholeheartedly agree with this as the Truth that beyond the lives that we know ourselves as in our physical bodies, we are free souls that channel the divine. Creative expression happens when we channel that divine line of energy in our human form and give birth to it in this 3-dimensional world. This divine energy in other words is the Creator that lives within each and every life form on Earth.
“Creative expression” means honoring that Creator inside by first knowing that you are worthy of this Truth, and then, next, living out that life of the Creator that you are. There is an ultimate Creator who lives and breathes in your own psyche who creates your every thought, emotion, cell, energy, vibration within you. It is these things that make up your every second, every minute, every day, and every year until your last breath. Our entire existence is founded on the idea of continuous creation. Literally in every second of everything you do, you are in the motion of creation.
This is not by mistake. This is because you are the Creator. This desire for creative expression is just your heart wanting to be yourself–who you’ve always been and who you’ll always be. You are worthy of this expression right now. You are enough exactly the way you are to create something at this very moment in your life. Expressing your creativity turns everything that you do into magic of the universe and is the highest expression of the sacred being that you are.
YOU ARE MAGIC.
From my own experience of personal wandering and endless self-doubt, I feel that this is a question that I have asked myself over and over again to exhaustion. I know that especially people around my age in their 20’s or 30’s who want to establish a firm direction in life want to hear so badly that clear and loud voice that assures them that everything is right with a resounding YES. This question is very popular in our minds and also, “Did I make the right choice?”
Although there are a million and one ways to overly complicate your answer to this fundamental question (like everything else in life), I have discovered within my own experience an easy solution to use as a standard for seeing where I’m at at any point in my life in relation to this question.
You are going in the right direction and have made the right choice if–by living out your daily life from the consequences of your choices–you are genuinely liking more and more the person you are becoming. The key words are “genuinely like” because what I mean here is a deep sense of pride and respect for yourself beyond a surface feeling of thinking you’re a cool person to hang out with.
The right path in my interpretation is one that will brighten my mind. Yes, although technically everything in my life is the “right path” because life unfolds exactly as it should, I think there are “wrong” ways to live and those are the ways that dim the light of my being to make my mind dark. For most of my life until about 4 years ago, I really hated everything about the person that I was. It took years of dedicated internal work for me to finally be at a place now where I can confidently say to myself and to anyone for absolute certain that I am truly liking the person that I’ve so long waited to become and am still becoming. The guiding compass that finally lulled my voices to rest and lit the path to a seat of internal stability and calm was that single standard that in whatever path or choice I took, I went with the one that would make me feel better about the person I was. This standard proved to be the single best guide to knowing exactly how I was doing wherever I was in my journey.
The Buddha once said, “Wherever you go, there are you are.” I think the secret to everything we want to have and feel in life is to genuinely like yourself as a person because you have to take yourself with you wherever you go and even to sleep! Can you imagine always being with someone you hate and sleeping with your enemy? There’s no greater suffering than that.