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Progress on the Path to Divine Love

Have you ever seen time-lapse photography of a budding seed? It reveals something very interesting about the nature of growth. The new plant doesn’t break out of the seed husk and then grow toward the light in one continuous motion. Rather there are starts and stops and even setbacks all along the way. There are forward steps and backward steps, all within the greater overall tendency for growth.

Imagine if plants got discouraged at each seeming setback, and thinking all was for naught, simply gave up altogether. It would be a tragedy for those particular plants, and a catastrophe for life as a whole on this planet.

Fortunately, as far as we know, plants don’t get discouraged, nor do they judge their progress. They really have no choice but to keep growing in the face of every involuntary movement and condition they encounter, and at some point the little seedling breaks through the surface of the earth and reaches for the sun.

It is the same story with every form of growth. And it is certainly true for human beings. The difference is that with our self-awareness, we do judge ourselves at every step. And this can be especially disheartening when it comes to our inner development and our quest to form a conscious connection with the Divine.

We start on the path with high hopes, but the farther we go, the more we see about ourselves that we don’t like. Or we try to gain control of some self-harming behavior, and see we can’t do it. One day we seem to make progress and we feel that all is right with the world. The next day we’re overcome by familiar feelings of self-doubt and self-recrimination.

In moments of weakness we may wonder what’s the use? Has it all been for nothing? Why not just give up?

At times like these it’s good to remember that this has been the experience of every spiritual aspirant from the beginning of time. And while it can seem painful, there can be great benefit for us.

Here is some wisdom passed down through the ages by the great sages. Their words show the universality of these feelings of uselessness that just keep us from seeing the great promise in these difficult moments:

Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180)

Be not disgusted, nor discouraged, nor dissatisfied, if you do not succeed in doing everything according to right principles, but when you fail, return back again, and be content if the greater part of what you do is consistent with man’s nature. Love this to which you return, and do not return to philosophy as if she were a master, but act like those who have tired eyes and apply a drenching with water. Then you will not fail to obey reason, and you will repose in it. — Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180)

Out of difficulties grow miracles. — Jean de La Bruyere (1645 – 1696)

Receive every inward and outward trouble, every disappointment, pain, uneasiness, temptation, darkness, and desolation, with both your hands, as a true opportunity and blessed occasion of dying to self, and entering into a fuller fellowship with your self-denying, suffering savior. Look at no inward or outward trouble in any other view; reject every other thought about it, and then every kind of trial and distress will become the blessed day of your prosperity. Be afraid of seeking or finding comfort in anything but God alone: For that which gives you comfort, takes so much of your heart from God. — William Law (1686 – 1761)

Simone Weil (1909 – 1943)

In general we must not wish for the disappearance of any of our troubles, but grace to transform them. — Simone Weil (1909 – 1943)

And it is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close to us for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure. — Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)

Vernon Howard Quotes

Don’t waste the works of the devil. Spiritual roots can grow deeper in adversity. Use the inner, raging storms. Have sight without flight or fight. Remain a seer. Nothing is too much. All storms are for growth. Remember, no exceptions! — Vernon Howard (1918 – 1992)

And finally, here are additional helpful thoughts from OneJourney founder Guy Finley:

Guy Finley (1949)

If you will proceed along the spiritual Path, even in the midst of feeling discouraged over your progress, you will make the glad discovery that no discouraging state has the power to keep up with any person who decides to put its dark company behind himself. — Guy Finley (1949)

Persist in Your Wish to Be Free

Guy Finley also tells us: As we persist with our wish to be free, braving what we must witness in ourselves… we will see, usually in degrees (because of the mercy of the Divine), alternating glimpses of heaven and of hell. These visions (interior glimpses of self) are natural and necessary, although greatly contested by the self that wants only glory.

The inner journey is not for the faint of heart. The self we’ve spent our lives building up and supporting and justifying is the very thing that has to go. We know we don’t want to continue on the way we’ve been, but the real change we want doesn’t come easily, and it doesn’t come overnight.

Never despair. If we will keep going in spite of all the setbacks we will have moments of clarity and new gifts of awareness that show us there really is another kind of life we can be living. And we are emboldened in our work when we realize all the great ones from time immemorial have undergone the same experiences and made the same shocking self-discoveries – and were all the stronger for it. Once we realize this we can go forward in our work, prepared for whatever the path may bring.

As a gift to you Guy has provided an excerpt from his classic work, The Secret of Letting Go that can give you needed inspiration in moments of discouragement. Click here to read the excerpt now >>

Best wishes,

Dr. Ellen Dickstein
The OneJourney Project

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