By Sophia Godkin PhD
Spiritual evolution is why we’re all here, alive at this time. And while geography, history, mathematics, and literature are emphasized heavily in our educational upbringing, no one ever taught us how to make sense of our past, feel our emotions, and love ourselves. They also rarely if ever told us what to expect on the road to spiritual evolution. And though your road will be unlike anyone else’s, there are certain pervasive experiences that you’re likely to have along the way. Here are just 8 of the experiences you can expect as you journey towards ever-greater spiritual evolution.
1. People won’t understand you. At least on the surface, it is easy for people to understand you when you talk, walk, look, think, and act like them. It is much more difficult for people to understand you when you deviate from their way of perceiving, doing, and being. As you continue along your spiritual path, there is no doubt that you will be moving further and further away from the status quo at every turn. This will in turn make it difficult for others to understand and relate to you. And because they don’t understand you, they may discourage you. Know that in their eyes and in their world, they are just trying to help. Your way of seeing the world and your way of life may appear peculiar, outlandish, or risky to them and so any attempts to dissuade you from your path will likely be coming from a place of care, albeit one that’s based in fear (otherwise they might be venturing into the unknown right alongside you, right?). This is a blessing, for every experience of being misunderstood will present for you yet another opportunity to strengthen your own trust and resolve in the path you are taking.
2. You won’t understand you. One thing that’s certain once you’re consciously on the path of spiritual evolution is that life will never again be dull. Just when you got used to a certain way of being comes an awareness that pulls the rug out from under you. It turns out you’re not who you thought you were. The self-identity you’ve worked so hard for decades to build starts to get shaky and loses its solidity. Maybe your interests and priorities drastically change. Maybe you realize, as you come to terms with your shadow, that you have the capacity to be selfish or dishonest. Maybe you recognize, from looking in the mirror that is the world and people around you, that you’re not as nice or considerate as you once tried or imagined yourself to be. Whatever it is, the ideals that once resonated with you no longer make sense. You no longer make sense. And in a way, it all makes sense.
3. You will hurt. Spirituality doesn’t preclude pain. If anything, it amplifies it – not because there’s actually more of it, but because you are finally willing to feel the pain that has been there all along. Anyone who says the spiritual journey is one of ever-present bliss probably isn’t being honest, or is simply themselves falling victim to #4. The journey of spiritual evolution, by its nature, is one of undoing all the conditioning of our childhood and of the world so that the true love and joy that always live within can be revealed. We do this by diving deep into any and every part of us, especially the quote unquote “negative” emotions that we’ve ignored, denied, or tried to hide or get rid of (which has kept them around in our mind, body, and being even longer). As we relate to these experiences just as any other experience we have by gently welcoming it in and being present to it, we validate it. As we give it a space in which to show up and be seen and felt, we allow it to move, change, and pass through us. And just like that, it loses its power over our words, actions, and life.
4. You will do it wrong. There really is no wrong way to evolve spiritually – every bit of experience you have is an essential part of your evolution. What I mean by “you will do it wrong” is that you will try to avoid #3 at all costs. More than likely, at some point, you will view spirituality as a means to create the exclusively blissful life you want. In so doing, you will use spirituality to detract and distract you from your feelings (something the experts call ‘spiritual bypassing’). You will prematurely practice gratitude for a negative experience, as a way to rush yourself past the present experience of hurt to the lessons contained within it. You will try to forgive someone before feeling the pain and suffering of their words and actions. You will cite a person’s thoughts and vibration as the reason for their unpleasant experience, forgetting to practice compassion and love altogether. You will force yourself into positive thinking and affirmation after affirmation, desperate to avoid the deeper issues, desperate to feel better.
5. Some people will leave your life, and new ones will enter. As you change, your relationships will undoubtedly change. Naturally, this will cause you to grow closer to some people and more distant from others. As you grow apart from those you once felt close to, perhaps maybe even inseparable from, you may be tempted to see it as a loss. If so, allow yourself to feel the feeling of loss or loneliness brought on by the inevitable cycle of change that is our lives. As much as you try, you can’t force connection- even if it was once there. You can’t force resonance. Whomever you have effortless connection and resonance with will stay, whether they’ve been around for a while or are a new encounter. You will yearn to be understood and to be encouraged to express your true self, as you are now. This too will draw to you new people who see, perceive, feel, and dream as you do. This is something to look forward to.
6. You will repeat familiar maladaptive cycles of thought and behavior. You will experience a glimpse of what it feels like to truly love yourself, then you will forget. You will blame yourself for failing at it. You will forcefully urge yourself to be better. You will judge yourself as not good enough. You will try to be more like him/her/them. You will forget that you ever learned self-compassion. You will forget who you are. Until you don’t. And that’s when you will truly have learned how to love yourself for who you really are and not who you wish you were.
7. You will think that you’re going crazy. You’re not. You’re just changing. You’re seeing things differently from the way you used to and differently from the way much of the world still does. You’re recognizing all that’s been false about your life and welcoming in Truth. Your heart and mind are more open than ever before. You’re more attuned to the voice of your intuition- which you may have ignored for many years as you listened closely to the messages of the conditioned culture and people around you. You’re familiarizing yourself with the suffering that exists in the world and developing greater compassion as you do so. You are experiencing many changes but you are not going crazy and you are definitely not alone. This is where your new tribe of people whom I, affectionately and humorously, call “my fellow crazies” (ie people who too are on the path, questioning their thoughts, beliefs, and the nature of the world around them, and seeking the true freedom that comes from within) comes in handy… a handful of people who understand you, as you are now, who when you call and ask “Am I going crazy?” assure you that you are not.
8. You will understand why it all had to happen the way it did in the end. As difficult, confusing, unsettling, uncertain, unfair, and outright awful as your experiences may be at times, and as sad, mad, scared, frustrated, and defeated as you may feel at times, it will all make sense in the end. As one stream of healing and transformation comes to its natural integration into your being, you will be able to look back and say “Oooo that’s why that had to happen… so I could experience xyz that would allow me to learn xyz that would in turn invite greater insight and transformation to allow me to xyz…” Even though we often do not see the order behind all things because we are operating from the perspective of our small mind, the Universe is maximally intelligent. You are always exactly where you are meant to be, even you do not think it’s where you should be. In retrospect, it will all make sense.
My hope is that by coming to know some of the experiences that you can expect on the road to spiritual evolution, that you will be able to continue on your journey with less fear and trepidation and more trust and love. Above all, my wish is that you always know that though we may each be on an individual path, we all journey together.