Teaching to Learn
February 1, 2009

Where to Start on Your Path of Personal Growth

You’re on the path of personal growth. There are so many things to improve, so many leads. How do you start? What’s most important? How do you avoid overwhelm?

The universe is an infinitely complex place. Your mind wants to understand it so that it can feel safe. In fact, what it can’t understand, it would generally prefer just not to look at. To begin growing, though, you need to move outside the comfortable area of what you already know and peer into the chasm of the infinite. If I’m being melodramatic, I’m sorry, but you’ll probably get what I’m alluding to: this feeling of vertigo that comes from seeing just how small you are. Most people build their entire lives around strategies to avoid looking into this chasm. The happier and freer you want to be, however, the more you will need to learn to transcend this discomfort and turn it into something positive — exhilaration.

The place you don’t want to be is in dreamland, where maybe 95% of the world lives, a place where you never challenge your boundaries even a little — because you’d prefer to imagine that there is nothing to improve. Some people call it the “comfort zone”. I’m not sure about that. It is not COMFORTABLE to live there. It is not COMFORTABLE to work a slave-job or to endure the low-level torture of consistent touch deprivation. But because all of the alternatives are imagined (emphasis imagined) worse, a perverse balance is formed and hibernation is initiated. This usually happens within the first few years of a child’s life, depending how strong-minded they are.

When you start looking out of your dream into the world of possibilities, they tend to be scary ones, because fear of possibilities is what held you there in the first place. It’s the decision to stand and face your fears and stop running from them that brings you to leave the dream zone. As you vanquish your fears, though, you realise that they were not as bad as you thought — that nothing is ever as bad as you think.

When you stop imagining that you have complete control over your life, and start looking at these imaginary fears which you were previously running from, you feel very uncomfortable. Fear makes all the things that you want to change press in on all sides. You’ll be tempted to stop looking at them and go back to sleep. This is overwhelm.

To overcome this the best thing to do is to do nothing. Go for a walk, listen to music, or meditate. Don’t have time? Yes you do. You always have time. Car about to explode? You have time. Take a deep breath and walk slowly away from the car at about 25 miles per hour.

Seriously though. Most things that seem “urgent” really aren’t that urgent. If you live in an environment where you are made to run around like a headless chicken all day, then leave it. Other people can do what they want, but don’t encourage their behaviour by imitating them.

In the field of your own growth it is the same. Maybe you’re still imagining a phantom teacher standing behind you with a whip telling you that if you don’t get it done on time they’ll torture you with social ostracism. Just slow down! You’re not there anymore! The teacher’s gone and good, warm love is available to you whenever you need it (email me if you like… I know what it’s like to think there’s no-one you can talk to).

Sit down, meditate, start to notice the world you are really in and dissolve the shadowy fearful world you imagine yourself to be in.



Give yourself half an hour of letting your problems just be there while you get out of your head. Relax. Rest. Find a place of peace from which to work. There’s no light without dark, and there is no action without rest.

This will help you with

Regaining perspective

What are your real priorities? That which doesn’t go away if you look deep into the starry sky and feel your own smallness and mortality in every cell of your body.

A more concrete test is to leave things off. This might sound crazy but think about it a minute. If you have left it off for a day and it still comes back to your consciousness, then it’s probably important. If you forget about it after a day, then it isn’t. We have too many distractions in our modern lifestyle. Ignore them.

I usually let my problems “digest” for a while. I don’t try to solve them immediately. They need to find a place in my priorities. Remember, you can never do more than one thing at a time. Most people think they can circumvent this problem by alternating between one, two, three things at the same time while simultaneously worrying about the rest. This doesn’t work. I don’t even listen to music while I write. If you’re trying to get something done, heck, if you’re trying to enjoy something, you need focus, and for that, you need to know the one thing that is most important for you in the present moment. One.

I’d like to emphasize now that to be able to do step two, step one is essential. Without a clear mind, prioritising is impossible.

Time management

I like to sit down with my journal and just feel through the goals I have for the day, week, month or year. Some things need to be planned. I like to keep things as free as possible though: most things that I need to do just come to me. I’m sitting in my room and it’s dirty so I start to clean it. I’m at my computer and an idea comes to me, and I start writing. If you make space in your life, then things can fall into place.

Stop panicking. Stop feeling so important. Nothing’s important. You’re still a child. Enthusiasm, yes. More than enthusiasm, I live for the moments when a dazzling thunderbolt is running through my body, out, into the world. But you don’t need to beat yourself up over anything. No reward is worth those means.

Relax. To get a flow in your life you need a really radical faith, an ability to let down your guard totally even though your mind is still imagining dark arrows of fear flying through the air around you. Those arrows won’t disappear until you take the leap of faith and let your guard down. And relax. Just relax, do what you can, and let the universe take care of what you can’t. Relax. Go out with some friends. See some nature. This isn’t “weekend” or “free time” stuff. This is whenever you need it. You can’t work if you are so disturbed internally that you can’t even see what is worth working for and why!

Trust in the universe is a whole book’s reading and a whole year’s meditation, but it’s only a constant reminder of what you already know. It’s perspective. It’s what the stars have to tell us, that silent song that plays above us, ignored for so long — but it is eternal, and our little games pass away so quickly, so it will be heard in the end. Have trust that you will learn to trust! 🙂

Overcoming overwhelm

Where to start on your exploration of life? All I can advise is just to trust that what you have now is what you need. I believe that the universe isn’t so uncaring as all that, and that we are being guided by an intelligence with our best interests in mind. I don’t know what you believe, but see if my words have any practical value to you. That is the real test for truth — if it enhances your life.

Follow what your attention is drawn to, not what you think you “should” study or do or want, and trust in that intelligence. Have concern when necessary but don’t worry. Just start exploring! You are safe! Pick the road that feels best, and trust your die to land showing the number that you most need. It does. It’s so incredible! It’s exactly what you’d love to believe! And, best of all, it’s true! But you’ll have to find that out for yourself.


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Humbleness in the search for truth

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