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Growing in Spiritual Power

I think the ultimate goal of spirituality is to be so attuned to reality around us that we can adjust to it for mutual benefit. The only way to do that is to achieve full relationship awareness. That means being aware of oneself within ones environment on a regular basis.

Balance extraversion and introversion

If you achieve full relationship awareness, then you can balance extraversion with introversion. Extraverts are engaged by their surroundings and other people, so they tend to talk more with people and explore more what is around them. Introverts are engaged by what is going on inside, so they tend to contemplate, notice their emotions and process experiences internally. Spiritual development includes a balance of both, where we take time to notice what is around us and take the time to experience how it affects us inside, if it affects us at all. This is true relationship awareness.

As we understand our relationship to our surroundings, we then achieve a new sense of power with it through nurturing our nature. Experts have debated nature versus nurture when it comes to human behavior. There is plenty of evidence to say there is influence on both sides. Underneath it all, though, is a question of how much these two aspects can blend together to create mutually supportive dynamics. Can we achieve power by simply communing with our surroundings and adapting as our surroundings change with us?

Growth, autonomy and cooperation

Think about growth from childhood to adulthood. As we grew we learned how to do more things and also desired more autonomy as a result. Of course, we wanted that autonomy to mean we could simply do as we pleased. However, as we grew, we learned more and more rules about how to behave with other people. We’ve had to learn courtesy and respect even though we have had the physical power to do things as we want to. This is just one simple aspect of how we must grow in our power, not just to accomplish tasks but to coordinate our actions in a complex system.

Model of spiritual power

The following is a model for our sense of power and how we behave. I’d like to think it is a first step toward understanding how we should grow in our spirituality, or relationship to life, that can be universal.

Defensive (the world is difficult and threatening)

When we feel powerless but not completely helpless, we are defensive. We tend to back away into our personal corner and lash out at any threat we perceive that approaches. We may build protective walls or hold a weapon tightly close to us, but we do not venture beyond what is safe. This is the least powerful and when we feel the world is against us.

Suspicious (there is more bad than good in the world)

When we feel capable but without hope, we become suspicious. We focus on the negative and question what goes on. We feel we can influence outcomes and take action when we want, but we also shy away from anything that seems risky. In this phase, we may venture into slightly new territory, but only if we have reason to believe all will work out well.

Curious (the world can provide good things)

When we are open from lack of experience or we are open because we feel confident in ourselves, we operate with curiosity. We know there are good things to experience in the world. We want to find out what those things are. We have adjusted to some level of risk or discomfort, but we are ready to push back and say no when we don’t like something. We’ve accepted a balance of openness and caution that allows us to try new things but also return to the things that we appreciate.

Communal (there is more good than bad in the world)

When we understand that our actions influence what we experience, we attempt to open up more and fend off anxiety or other feelings inside us that prevent us from experiencing something purely. We give more of a chance to new experiences and explore bad experiences more open as well as work with “bad” people we know have good inside them. We also like to try new experiences and expand our understanding, which propels us toward the final stage of openness.

Synergistic (we need only fulfill our potential)

When we realize that all bad is an extreme form of good, we develop into the kind of spiritual warrior that seeks to restore the good in what is bad. We face discomfort directly and accept it for what it is. We shun that which threatens balance and control only when it is no longer in control of itself. However, whenever possible, we foster and guide forces back into balance and appreciate things for their potential as much as for what they actually appear to be on the surface.

Growth, from youth to maturity

Growing up can be so difficult, because we face powerlessness or failure often. At least, it can feel that way so many times, when we can’t respond correctly or when other people get angry with us. Over time, we develop the skills and knowledge to avoid these experiences. Sometimes, that turns into becoming suspicious or even defensive. However, if we can come back to curiosity and mature into communal or even synergistic beings, we can achieve spiritual maturity and “power”. We can embrace growth as a constant process in our lives and realize all of our shortcomings are opportunities to become something more.