What Does It Mean To Grow Spiritually?

September 27, 2010 by  

(Photo credit)
As I wrote in Spiritual Development Paradox, I have had a growing doubt in what we call “spiritual development” or “spiritual growth”. We’ll get down to the point zero today :) (As always, my spirit guides helped me figure this out, but I am writing in my regular style rather than jotting down our conversation like I did in the linked articled above.)

So what do you think spiritual growth is all about?

Christian view

I did a little research to make sure I cover the ground. On the internet, most of the top sites on spiritual growth are Christian sites. By reading them, I figure Jesus himself said nothing about growth or development. It’s Peter and Paul who made big deal about it. Look at the glaring contrast here:

Jesus: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Peter: Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (emphasis by Akemi)

Jesus didn’t put down sinners. If anything, he comforted them to feel better again. (Too many anecdotes to quote here, such as the woman who was about to be stoned or the tax collectors.) But his followers twisted his teaching and changed it to a moral system that encourages effort, control, and perseverance — in short, “spiritual development”.

What is there to improve?

A common understanding of spiritual growth is “to be a better person (spiritually)” or “to be the best person I can be”.

As noble as they may sound, these statements (just as St Peter’s quote above) assume one preposition, that there are good (better, best) qualities. As opposed to bad.

In other words, they are all based on judgments.

And in my opinion, judgments are the first and last thing you want to be free of in your spirituality.

Judgments are made by the mind. When we judge one quality as good, others automatically become bad. And we start worrying, afraid and anxious, with the sense of guilt and shame, like Adam and Eve after eating the fruit that made them tell good from evil.

From there, all human dramas and agonies arise. One tiny seed (or a bite) of judgment growing to dramas of the minds, reinforcing the illusion of separation more and more.

To me, spirituality means to be free from all these craps. Spirit over mind. So calm the mind and be free from the compulsive thinking.

Who are we, to begin with? We come from the Source and are already connected to the Source. We are beyond good. If anything, we want to remember this original state.

There is something fundamentally silly about trying to improve something that is already complete and perfect. I also sense hypocrisy — to get followers, religious teachers had to make people believe there is something wrong with them.

Spiritual hierarchy?

When you buy into this judgmental thinking, you get caught up with hierarchical thinking. I am telling you from experience. Sure, I intended to be kind and fair to everyone, but as long as I believed in any of the judgment calls such as “awakened souls” “ higher vibration”, I had to gage where I stand in the measurement, resulting to either feeling superior or inferior to others. This could be a very subtle or even unconscious process, but it’s there. You cannot be free of self-judgment when you make any judgments.

So your personal relationship gets tainted with all kinds of judgments. No one is quite your equal — they are either ahead of you or behind you. You are hardly facing the person — you are facing your judgment of the person.

And now I say — forget it. Spirituality is about seeing divinity in ALL people and things. Zero exceptions. The homeless guy, your mean boss at work, the teenager with tattoos and pierces all over … everyone.

And isn’t it a wonderful feeling! Life feels so full of love, finally. (Speaking of love, do you sense love in Peter’s quote, even though he mentions it? Do you feel love in Jesus’ quote?) (By the way, I am not putting down St Peter. No personal agenda here. I just want you to see the difference for yourself and he offers such a great point of reference.)

Joy, joy, joy!

To be completely honest with you, I am not 100% free of judgments — yet. It’s a process, and those sneaky little bits of judgments creep back now and then. And when it does, my mind wants to notice and condemn it. In other words, it wants to play the game of judgments. Whew.

Even now, however, I can attest how light, free, and joyous life feels these days! It doesn’t matter what I am doing. It’s all “good”– the kind of good that has no opposite. It just is. It’s not weighed down with any meanings or attachments. And everyone I meet is interesting and kind — or so it feels. They just are who they are.

I don’t care any more if I achieve more Ascension or astral projection or whatever. If something comes along, great. If not, great. I just live it.

I am convinced life is meant to be lived this way because it feels so wonderful. I want to skip around like a little kid! Gee, wish I could still do somersault. Or how about dancing like Shiva?

Undisciplined? Lazy?

Some of you may be thinking this way of free and complete acceptance is just a lazy way of life. We need to beat ourselves up to succeed, right?

To that I say, f*** it. Successes, just as failures, are just illusions in this virtual reality life game. There is another chunk of hypocrisy about driving people to deny the joy that is right here and now in the name of future success. Many personal development teachers use this hypocrisy.

I am so happy to be “nobody”.

Spiritual remembering

You are a spiritual being having physical life. As a soul, you are already complete and perfect. If growing spiritually means anything, it is about remembering this truth. So it’s not really about “growth” — you might call it “spiritual remembering”. (Thanks to Stacey Mathews for joining the discussion on FB and suggesting the term.)

When you remember, you also remember the unconditional love, the same quality of love God has for us. It frees you from the hierarchical world view and enables you to see people, things, and events just as they are, only to find they are wonderful.

Spiritual growth is not about strife, guilt trip, avoiding punishment, and all other nonsense we have been led to believe. Or, to put it in a way that may sound paradoxical, all the spiritual growth / development leads to the realization there is nothing wrong to begin with. This has been my experience (I was so serious about personal development for many years) and I believe it is the path for many.

Related post: If you like this article, you might also like Enlightenment Is Not.

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Please check About page to learn more about this blog and the author, Akemi Gaines.


22 Responses to “What Does It Mean To Grow Spiritually?”

  1. Michele on September 27th, 2010 9:28 am

    Hi Akemi,
    This is my first time to make a comment on your blog.
    Firstly, I’d like to say that I enjoy your careful choices of photograph to go with each of your posts. The photos are usually especially eye-catching and interesting.
    Secondly, I enjoy reading your writing. I know that English is not your first language, but you are very good with expressing yourself in English. (And sometimes your “mistakes” are very endearing.)
    Thirdly, although at times I think you are pretty much floating in la-la land ;-) with some of your concepts and beliefs, I respect your sincerity about holding those beliefs and in discussing ideas with other people. You come across as someone who is open-minded and mature enough to admit that you don’t know everything, even when it comes to your own life, and that is great.
    Fourthly, some of your posts have cheered me up or given me new things to think about, and overall your blog gives off a feeling of warmth and gentleness. Due to that, I return from time to time, even though I am not a daily reader and I do not ascribe to all of the beliefs that you hold.
    Fifthly, I would like to comment on this particular post. I don’t follow all your writings, so I’m not sure what the background to this post was (I did read your previous article that was mentioned in the first paragraph). However, I am confused by this stance that everyone is already perfect and there is no self-development (spiritual — or perhaps you mean of any type?) to be done, when I think I recall your saying that we are living/reincarnated in order to learn lessons etc. etc. If no one had any development to do or any lessons to learn, what is the point of life, especially of multiple lifetimes? You also stress that some people (or people’s souls, anyway) are “starseeds” who have come to try to help earth/change universal history/get people to change — but if everyone on earth is already spiritually perfect, what’s the point of that? I don’t quite remember how you feel about good and evil – I know you have posted about darkworkers etc. but I forget what your opinion was… but I think that your stance may have been that there IS really some bad, some negative forces out there, which are within and operating from certain people (maybe I am wrong in that blind assumption about your stance, though) — if that is what you do believe (there is some evil/bad, and some people choose to act evilly or are forced to), how does this square up with the idea that everyone is already spiritually whole and has no development to do?
    Sixthly, I think in this post that you are combining and equating two ideas that I think are slightly different and should not be equated.
    One of the ideas is that there may be a hierarchy of souls, with some more enlightened/better, and some less englightened/worse, and that we can place ourselves in a ranking, and need to always be assessing where other people stand in that ranking so we can know our own place — it’s like a race to get higher in the rankings, to be a special person. You have decided to see others as spiritually equal to yourself — everyone is equal — there is no race to be the most enlightened — you can’t know what’s really going on inside a person anyway and what his or her real trials and tribulations in life, or what his/her honest, deep feelings and spiritual choices and conundrums, really are. I fully agree with your current take on this (seeing people as equal), and I have always felt this way. It is foreign to me to think about ranking people and trying to race ahead of others so I can stand out ethically or spiritually (or financially or popularity-wise or appearance-wise or anything… although I do admit that I have often been competitive academically, but that is more about the challenge of doing the best possible and trying to get close to a perfect grade for my own sake, and it’s not about coming higher or lower than other people – whether everyone in the class got an “A”, or only I got an “A” and everyone else got a lower grade, what I was trying to do was work hard to achieve a good grade for myself – if I’d been the only student in the class, I would have felt the same about whatever grade I got, because the ranking of myself on a scale with others was unimportant to me), or feeling left behind and low in rank if I feel that I compare badly to others. I am simply not a comparative or envious person, and actually that makes other people, especially other women, suspicious of me — ha ha!
    However, the other idea that I think is quite separate from that first idea, but that you seem to be intertwining, is that everyone is spiritually already perfect and there is no development to do, nothing to work on, no spiritual problems or mistakes with how people have acted in their past or are acting in the present. I am not a Christian so I cannot talk much about Jesus and the saints or quote from the Bible, but I would guess that while Jesus was very forgiving and loving, he didn’t think that everyone’s spirit was already perfect and completely evolved and free of evil influences/poor choices/cowardice. He was just very forgiving and helped people to be stronger, to be more enthusiastic about being “good”, to make up for their mistakes of the past by living correctly in their present lives. I think that everyone living has some development that they could do, and would be glad for after they’ve done it, in many realms of life – work, family, spiritual, health, environmental caretaking, and so on. It’s not a contest with other people or a giant ranking list in the sky with everyone’s name on it, but a personal challenge to do a little better than you did before, be a little stronger than you were in your times of weakness, gain more wisdom and more fitness and more ability to live well and mindfully in this gorgeous, complex world. I think that saying that everyone is already perfect gives some people the feeling that they can treat people any way they want to, and it’s the other people’s fault if they get injured or feel pain from that treatment. I have seen this occur. I’ve had this said to me. And it’s nonsense, to my mind. I think that people actually are responsible for how they treat others, how they live their lives. A baby is not at fault for being abused, for example. It is the abuser of the child who is at fault — that abuser is not already perfect spiritually. A river is not at fault for being polluted and becoming toxic — it is the community living around the river which has done this to it. There is bad in the world, there is evil. Saying that all creatures, especially humans, are spiritually neutral or spiritually perfect gives a great protection and armor to Evil to do what it wants and not face censure. I understand the popular idea of Karma and how if something bad happens to a person, maybe that person “deserved” it and maybe the person who did the bad thing was “forced” to be bad to clear that person’s karma (I also know that the idea of Karma is actually more complex and differs amongst several ancient and modern religions – but this is the American popular idea of what it means). I don’t know whether karma exists – maybe it does – maybe it’s very different from the popular idea of it — but I do think that we have some small amount of free will and it is a true, authentic, good thing to strive internally to be ever more courageous, helpful, loving, strong, thoughtful, acting with “good” behavior, enlightened, even if it would be easier to just act “on instinct” or as if we were already a “god” and spiritually perfect and do whatever was easiest and personally satisfying at the time (whether or not it hurt others) and say that this is just the way things work out and maybe due to other people’s karma they deserved it. It’s not a contest with other people to be seen and ranked publicly as a good and/or enlightened soul, it’s a personal test, within, that can only be known to yourself and God (or other spirits you believe in), and it’s fulfilling and healthy to try to get better at these things, for your own development. Obviously, one shouldn’t put oneself down, or dwell on any supposed “failings”, or berate oneself for past misbehavior. One has to extend forgiveness, love, and multiple chances to oneself. You can’t really know who anyone else is, how anyone else sees life, what is really going on in someone’s world and mind and heart. You can only know, and then just partially, what your own experience of living is, and struggle to move some way forward with your character, morality, and deeds, and that is enough of a challenge without trying to win a spiritual “beauty contest” as compared to other people’s apparent outward accomplishments in that area — it is definitely the case that appearances are not the whole story (I recall that you once wrote in a post that “darkworkers” sometimes take “lightworking” types of jobs in order to have a good disguise to get easier access to unprotected people, and I personally have seen that happen).
    Yes, things are not always as they seem, and the woman who is a toilet cleaner at a hospital might have been a top physician in her own country but cannot get a work permit in her new country and still needs to feed her child so she does a lowly-appearing job, or the man who is homeless and emaciated might be Buddha, or (to use one of your metaphors), the glob of goo that is inside a cocoon might actually be turning into a butterfly and should by no means be discounted as worthless or ugly. Therefore, the only logical, as well as the only loving, way to approach anyone or any creature is to assume that they are at least equal to ourselves, despite momentary appearances, and whether they are an angel or a devil or just an ordinary human, it is incumbent upon us to treat them decently and kindly (though to protect oneself from being a victim of malevolent forces) and to worry about our own soul more than anyone else’s.
    But this does not mean that a person should relax and think that anything goes, that everything is already finalized, that people are spiritually perfect when they are born, so he/she should not try to grow and challenge him/herself and take inspiration from good examples and to work at creating an ever-more-spiritually-beautiful personal character and approach to life.
    Well, I’ve certainly written a lot here – I’m sorry for such a large comment and hope that it doesn’t hog the comments area and put others off from responding to your post. I also may have completely misunderstood you, and do not mean to criticize you; just wanted to express my thoughts. I don’t fit into any religious group or creed (that I’ve been able to find!) so these are just my individual musings, and could well be 100% wrong.
    Wishing you good luck and lots of lavender! :-)

  2. Merry on September 27th, 2010 9:41 am

    I honestly think this is the best post you’ve ever written! It really speaks volumes, and I want to thank-you for sharing this with us. Your posts have really helped me realize things about myself.

    Thanks again!


  3. kayte on September 27th, 2010 10:01 am

    this is my first comment on your blog. i had a reading from you a while ago and have been checking your posts from time to time. i have to admit that this is *your* best and *my* all time favourite post. there is not one single word in this post that is not true..not one word. much love to you.

  4. Tisha Morris on September 27th, 2010 11:30 am

    Very well said! I think so often those on the spiritual path judge others that are not — which is the exact thing that being spiritual is about. I have certainly been guilty of this before, especially living in the South where spirituality and Christianity oftentimes clash in belief systems. As you’ve stated, spirituality is about finding the oneness in everything – not the separateness. And whatever label one puts onto themselves, it is really irrelevant to the ultimate goal of experiencing oneness while here on Earth.

  5. Akemi on September 27th, 2010 12:03 pm


    Thank you for reading my blog so carefully. As you say, you don’t need to believe in everything I say, and I am happy if my writings helped you to reflect on any topic.

    Regarding your questions. It’s basically what I wrote in the last paragraph. We are all already perfect but we may need to work through to remember this. Life lessons are one of such learning processes.

    In other words, if you already know you are one with God, there is no more learning. But at this point, quite many of us still don’t have that realization. Some people might THINK so, but that is just mind level understanding, not real realization.

    Regarding negative souls / evil. First, I never called or viewed negative souls as the source of evils. I wrote my understanding of evil in these two articles, which are, by the way, the only times I used the word “evil”

    My understanding of negative souls are they are driving the wrong way — often because they don’t know so. Driving the wrong way can be dangerous both for them and others, but it’s more about errors than about evilness.

    About your last point. I see your concern. Words are very limiting and I could foresee some people would think the way you do when they hear “We are all already perfect” Let me think how I can put this in other ways. I know from experience there is no contradiction, but it’s a bit challenging to explain. . .

    Or, maybe, some other commenters can explain better than I do. :)

  6. Akemi on September 27th, 2010 12:07 pm

    Merry and Kayte,

    Thanks. It took me two and a half years of blogging to get to this post.


    I lived in Nashville suburb for three years — I can relate :) Environments do affect our thoughts and feelings. So I respect you being so open and level-headed despite your location ;)

  7. Nathalie on September 27th, 2010 12:46 pm

    It’s funny, but somehow your recent posts exactly pintpointed my own evolutions/realizations on these topics, either health/diet or spirituality. You just again expressed it into words better than I could. :-)

    I recently abandonned the whole idea of development as well and rather focusing on being more present in what I am doing, living in the now. Not only it helps me becoming more effective, happy, compassionate and grateful, I also feel more connected with my deeper (spiritual) self (which is just the reflection of my deeper connection to the whole universe really).

    I find that the harder thing is to disidentify with the mind chitchat. It’s just of a matter of keeping on realizing that I got caught up in the mind talk and come back into the present (sometimes it is a tiring process ;)

  8. Melissa on September 27th, 2010 12:58 pm

    Akemi, I, too, have been reading your blog for a while, but have never felt compelled to respond with a comment before today. And my response is simply: Yes. In fact, about 2-3 weeks ago I had a revelation similar to what you describe here–that enlightenment is not something to work toward or “try” to achieve; it simply is, and it’s as available as the air we breathe. It’s about dropping illusion, not picking up practices or methods or beliefs. Thanks for affirming this revelation and for articulating it in such a beautiful way. This is one I’ll come back to and read again and again.


  9. Akemi on September 28th, 2010 6:45 am


    Maybe something is in the air we breathe, you know :)
    Feeling of connection, yes, definitely. To everything. And it’s wonderful.
    I also relate to the mind chatter (compulsive thinking) coming back repeatedly, and it’s a process.


    Thanks! Enlightenment is simply — is. I like that.

  10. ~ bern ~ on September 30th, 2010 6:17 pm

    Trying to improve creates trying times and stressful circumstances. One never lives Up to expectations. One surrenders to what Is to find Peace in All.

    When we have to prove anything, we create doubt….enter separation…..and lose faith in ourselves. This is fine, but it creates suffering.

    When we learn to see perfection in the unfolding process of all life…..we ease Up on ourselves, where the earth too begins to relax and circulates fresh air for all to enjoy.

  11. Stacey on October 1st, 2010 12:25 pm


    It was so sweet of you to include me in this post, I am glad that my reflection spoke to you.

    You bring up so many beautiful points in this post that I feel are truth. How can we be part of source and say that we need to “improve” to get back to source? It no longer make sense to me, I believe that we are truely perfect beings, and always totally connected to the source. It is as simple as we are enjoying our experiences here now, and some of us are enjoying the experience of remembering our whole truth.

    All paths are perfectly fine, because they are all experiences. Often as humans we outgrow one path so that we can try/experince another. It is all a very interesting process, I always wonder why exactly we decided to be the Human experience. Just to do it I suppose.

    At this point in my human experience, I quite prefer to be the path of remembering instead of “growth”. I no longer believe I am lacking anything, I am a whole beautiful being. I am just remembering all of what I am. Thank you for the beautiful post!

  12. Akemi on October 3rd, 2010 4:03 pm

    Bern and Stacey,

    Good to see you guys here!
    I myself am still on the verge of seeing all this (a lot of of my writing comes from my spirit guides… I am not really this smart), I sometimes slip off, sometimes I see it again…that’s where I am now.

  13. ~ bern ~ on October 3rd, 2010 5:35 pm

    Akemi, have you ever considered that your spirit guides are a greater aspect of your true self? And if this is true, perhaps you can invite them to stay and to allow their perspective to shine through your eyes here on earth 24 hours a day?

    If you value their perspective…..then invite such a perspective to stay with you. ?

    Any feelings about this?

    ~ b ~

  14. Akemi on October 4th, 2010 8:13 am

    Well, we are ultimately one with God and with all beings, so in that sense, my spirit guides are me. And of course, whatever I think, my spirit guides are with me always. It’s just a matter if I open up.

  15. Lisa (mommymystic) on October 4th, 2010 8:34 am

    Akemi – love the Shiva picture, the post, and the comments. I love everything everything you’ve written here, especially “Spirituality is about seeing divinity in ALL people and things.” And the trap of judgment and hierarchy is such a tough one to see through at times, especially in spiritual thinking. I have had to do (and still do) a lot of work on that. Especially if we are teaching or mentoring in any way – it’s part of our job to assess where someone is at in their journey, and what might help them. But doing that without judgment is the key. And then at the issue of ideas, I think it’s OK to debate, to feel strongly that some ideas are more useful that others, again, as long as we can keep an absolutism or hierarchical judgment out of it. Love and Light, Lisa

  16. Akemi on October 5th, 2010 7:55 am


    I hear you. It’s an ongoing thing for me, too, to not be judgmental — starseeds, earth souls, positive souls, negative souls — each of us has a special place.

  17. Durga on October 5th, 2010 1:15 pm

    I’m not a spiritual teacher, but I have been a prof for a few years.

    I’ve learned that an egalitarian approach in relationships whether personal, professional, or student/teacher is important in facilitating change, as the other person is receptive if he or she feels respected.

    Of course as humans we judge, the trick is to become self-aware enough not to let it show or impact an interaction.

    Making a judgment in a teaching capacity is not the same as being judgmental. Once a line is crossed into being judgmental, a dynamic of superiority/inferiority is created.

    I could say if I see someone acting superior they have ego issues. But, I have found that people often lack the communication skills to be assertive using logic without falling into the hierarchical trap most of us were raised in.

    ~ Durga

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  20. leya on March 31st, 2011 12:07 am

    thank u..

  21. Ron Chandler on May 22nd, 2011 2:19 pm

    The difference between God and Lucifer has nothing to do with truth. Lucifer knows the truth better than any of us. The difference is simple; God is totally selfless and Lucifer is totaly selfish. Spiritual growth is about reflecting Gods nature and that is harder than it sounds. You try being totaly selfless 24/7. It takes a lot of effort to grow spiritually, a lot. So who do we reflect more right now, God or Lucifer?

    You might like to ask yourself this question. What is the purpose of having this relatively short duration of life in the physical world when our true home where we will spend the rest of eternity is in the spiritiual world? One answer which I have come to understand is that it is here we have the opportunity to create ourself and therefore stand as a cocreator along side God. It is here that change and the development of heart takes place. It is here where spiritual development (growth) takes place as we strive to create within ourself the heart of God.

  22. Jan Pearce on May 24th, 2011 9:58 am

    Ron, funny you should say that! For the past five years or so I have been reading around the subject of why we are here etc. and coming up with all sorts of hypotheses. A few days ago I woke up with the word ‘co-creator’ in my mind. It wasn’t the result of a book recently read or a programme watched or listened to – it seemed to come out of nowhere.

    I felt good about it somehow and tried to think it through. It seems to me that we all have the power to create, in many different ways, and I like the notion that we are able to change the energy around us by our behaviour and intent and thereby create a different situation or outcome. A spiritual experience I had many years ago has confirmed, for me, that we are all on a journey of responsibility and development and the end result – many aeons away – is a merging with the Godhead.

    I believe that the time we spend on this earth is immensely important and we have all arrived here with an agenda, specifically designed for each one of us. We are all of equal importance and beauty, there is no hierarchy and yet we are all striving to become the best we can be. There is never-ending diversity and that is the glory of it all. The more we can create positively the more we are all enriched.

    Some will achieve their goals with the help of a particular religion, others will find expansion through the New Age movement and yet more will p;ough their own furrow through life looking for their own answers. None is more relevant or correct than any other, indeed some souls will try all of the above routes throughout one lifetime creating yet another pattern. We are all contributing so long as we strive to live the lives we have been given with honour, authenticity and love. So simple yet so difficult.