The Misunderstanding of Spiritual Enlightenment


A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.

Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.

Therefore the stiff and unbending is the way of death.
The gentle and yielding is the way of life.

Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.

The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.

-Tao Te Ching Verse 76

We seem to have this false belief that once we obtain some spiritual goal that we can sit back and coast. Being stagnant,  not growing, not moving, not exchanging and not changing are all signs of death.  To live is to experience life anew, to change,  to clean, to release that which no longer serves us.

As living beings, we eat, we heal, we grow and, well, we also exhale carbon dioxide and we produce excrement, too. Afterall, everybody poops, right?! In living, there is always going to be a process of cleaning and releasing involved. In “being eternally positive,” we often want to focus on the input and not the output.  In so doing, we short-change ourselves.

By only seeing the positive, we block the path to a higher self-realization. The parts of us that we see as being negative show us where we most need to travel. These shadows are where we have chosen to block our own light, where we have turned away from loving ourselves. We chose to focus on that which is “good and clean,” and we ignore that which needs love the most: the “bad, hurt and unclean.” What if we only cleaned the tiles in our shower that were clean, would not the dirty tiles only become more dirty?

“You only need to floss the teeth that you want to keep.” My Dentist

As such, a spiritual teacher who acts as if they were perfect, without flaws, and with the ability to coast without the need for continued self-awareness, is one who is dangerous. That person is a guide to your own demise. This person is either lying to you as well as to the world and him/herself or is dead inside – maybe even both.

To live is to expand, grow, change. To die is to stop moving, stop being and to stagnate.


Photo Courtesy of Evgeni Dinev @

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