And this is Growth

In the world of self development, the term “growth” is casually used to encourage feeling lighter and easier in our way of life.  This implies that the process is one way, and usually upward, reaching for a lighter reality! We seldom understand the real impulse of our desire for growth.

I often encounter a general misconception, supported by popular culture, that growth equates pain relief. We all want to feel good – who doesn`t - life is no bed of roses, and it`s no wonder that the media is constantly selling us and bombarding us with adds telling us  to ` take the pain away`. We are encouraged to approach our doctors, mentors or therapist with the expectation, that they will remove what is unwanted and leave us what is desirable. This common view can be a band aid, we are seldom encouraged to learn tools that distinguish our unique way of healing and growing.

The deeper end of the pool

Our desire for growth usually comes to us from a deep yearning or need. This sense of need is not always easy to describe. It may or may not be painful, yet is usually uncomfortable.  The nature of this yearning is an internal process that is often unnameable, yet is persistent in revealing itself. This internal process may feel greater than us, and acts upon us as a primal force helping to transform what is potentially stagnant into something useful.

Thomas Moore writes of this internal movement when he says: “people talk lightly about personal growth, as if they know what it means and that it is positive, progressive development. They don’t realize that the soul’s progress is both deep and dark and requires a descent as well as an ascent.”

Here he points out a general lack of realization that journeys in self development can and usually take us into deep waters, requiring that we cultivate awareness of our deeper questions and issues. He also makes the link between self development and that deep connection referring to it as the souls progress. Referring to a quality that is spiritual in nature,  this deep connection offering us the opportunity to engage this journey just a little or a lot, regardless it would best be done with sensitivity, skill, preparation and kindness, for the type of medicine required when we follow those deep impulses is often not obvious to us, and requires that we search, feel and groap around in the dark – sometimes what is revealed is not always easy, pleasant or fixable.

I describe here common passages I see people go through when looking to capture the self acceptance and grounding needed for self development. These passages can occur simultaneously, or distinctively.

Beyond assessment

 Growth at any level requires awakening of consciousness and an altering of our sense of self. For this to happen there is usually a force that acts upon us causing  a catalytist for movement. Sometimes we know where the impulse came from,  but sometimes there is no apparent influence. All we know is that there is disharmony. Maybe we are not feeling so secure, or physically well. We may dismiss the first signals thinking that “it will all be o.k. if I focus on something else”. When we  come to  accept  that we don`t know how to help ourselves,  we are already into a process of assessment, an evaluation that is part of our descent and movement with what is unconsciously moving us.

The nature of being human is an organic process, we are continuously adapting  to accommodate the passages of time and the biological changes in the body. . . self development naturally engages us to have awareness as we  move towards self correction and greater understanding of who we are.  This enquiry leads to the recognition that the nature of self is fluid, constantly shifting and changing. The deeper the enquiry the deeper this understanding. The interesting thing is, many people come to this place of awareness, and it shocks them to realize that there is much more going on underneath, and that their present way of engaging doesn`t feel adequate enough to entertain all this awareness. They haven`t acquired the tools or the confidence to move through their lives with so much happening. This often leaves us feeling overwhelmed and can lead us in search of more sophisticated ways of adapting, otherwise it`s just too much, and we`ll do better to  just keep looking for the  fix.


One way to help ourselves when gravitating towards becoming more aware, is to use an ageless way of using the mind. A simple way that traditional spiritual trainings call observation. I describe this as a slight and gentle distancing from what we are feeling or focussed on. This distancing is not a removal, its a subtle pulling back - just a little bit – to gain an overview. This is like opening the lens of your awareness to help get a greater picture of the situation. A state of observation is a little more delicate and a less definitive way of looking, since it has a quality of removal while remaining connected. This state allows us to not be overridden by one thing or everything that is going on, and supports more stability.

Assessment is what we usually is our usual way of evaluating things and is a more fundamental outlook -  I like it or don`t like it – and promotes us to fall into one category or the other. In doing this, it is difficult to entertain that we may have  more than one viewpoint, opinion  or feeling going on at once, causing us to feel conflicted with the way we think it should be - that we should have only one thing going at a time!

Observing offers that little bit of distance, and helps remove us from judging so harshly, allowing for whatever is there, to just be there. It connects the good and bad, the comforting and the uncomfortable, giving ground for both to exist. Through this, a kindness and patience develops, allowing for the mind to release its grasp on needing to have things one way. There is a mystery to observing since it allows for the re- arranging of experience and enables  a way of natural balance, and self -correction.


Surprisingly many people don’t know how to feel. Poet E.E. Cummings describes this well when he says about feeling... "may sound easy.  It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling".

Feeling requires that we reclaim a sense of stability and trust in our perceptions and in our bodies. Feelings have a reason for being – they are the language of the felt senses, and help provide the way with the body towards harmony and health. If you are someone who feels too much and gets bogged down by feeling, developing a stronger observer can help since there is an emphasis on creating a little bit of distance. For someone who doesn`t have a developed felt sense or connection with feelings, there may be a  need to allow time for reorganising and getting to know your personal  world in a more honest and caring way.

Regardless, listening to our bodies language and emotional sensitivities is an ongoing  process in self development that initially requires  the building of bridges, new languaging and understanding.

Feeling is a direct link with our body, and  is usually limited by the values and morals of our upbringing. Limited by what we were taught by  others. Deciphering how we feel versus what we were taught to feel, pushes us to accept and understand our own delicate coding system, and how we relate with ourselves.

Feeling is a deep resource. A resource is something useful from which we can create. As adults we have the responsibility to present ourselves in the world with maturity and uniqueness. This uniqueness is our life tapestry, woven with patterns of experience, textures and colors giving us distinctiveness,  we are one of a kind. To honour this, is to appreciate that some patterns have really dark tones, and some lighter. To pay attention to a select part of the tapestry of our life  or to blot out a segment is a great loss to the whole – a disservice to the beauty of our individuality.  Yet this is what we do, and the more familiar the pattern, the easier it is to repeat it. The repetition of patterns creates boredom and lifelessless, and blocks the flow of lifeforce and creativity. The more selective we are about what we will feel and what we won`t the more difficult life becomes, the more energy we spend controlling this part of us  and the more stress we feel.

Sometimes I hear people say: who wants to feel the hard stuff! This natural response, to push away what is unpleasant, comes to us as a  means of selection because we haven`t been taught to develop the internal mechanism to observe, navigate and work with painful stimulation. So commonly we have to put things on hold – but this material doesn`t just go away. It accumulates and narrows the pathways of consciousness and flow with ourselves, our relationships and environment.

Allowing feeling with observation, sensitively links us with the myriad of emotions coursing through us. Registering and touching on imprints deeply held within the complex system of nerves in the body – our tapestry. This is a sophisticated system that has the task of guiding us, moving us into action and of taking care of us. This links our state of mind with felt sense, reveals our deeper desires and needs, as well as our distinctiveness.

Self development opens our curiosity, teaches us to discover what motivates us, what fuels our actions. To follow our course of life and not know what we are really feeling – causes life to stagnate and deprives us of our true substance. The process of feeling distinguishes us, details our personal tapestry with sensitive hues, tones and sets us into a flow with natural presence, natural beauty, strengths and weaknesses. For growth to occur naturally and effortlessly the deepening of the skills of observation and feeling are intricate keys for actively informing us, and moving us into creating and changing.


Let go and up we go!

In accepting the awakening,  observing  and deepening of our ability to feel, there  may be an experience of ``cleansing”. This is where the obsolete ways of managing ourselves begins to shift, move and let go. Letting go is sometimes tougher than it seems since it requires a faith in the unknown. Sometimes there is a feeling of relief and increased energy, and sometimes this letting go can be experienced as increased  emotion and heaviness in body symptoms. Sometimes all this happens at the same time. Increased feeling is also increased presence and awareness, more of us is felt and visible, we can be immersed in felt qualities. In other words, a passage of cleansing can awaken a sense of confusion, and we may think things are getting  worse.

Remember, that patterning is built on years of repetition and conditioning,  so trusting the bodies wisdom to reveal itself  is the greatest practice. We can build expectations of what the outcome should be, but this only blocks the sensitive untangling and we forget to savour the process of learning -  what is real and happening right now! This practice is teaching us to be in present time, and teaches us that we are complex beings, reminds us that we be mindful of not setting ourselves up with how things should be. Projections block our way. They are created by our desire and need to have control, to have full reign on the outcome. Having a vision of health is simply that...a vision. How we get to know health is through deep listening and experiencing...and following the wisdom of the journey. A process of healing is experienced differently for each individual. So holding the vision too strongly can inhibit and influence the choices we make.  Following the flow is a way of savouring the process through it`s natural cycle.

Observing, feeling, and letting go – this allows us to live fluidly. Giving ourselves permission to respond, and to act in full accordance with the deep wisdom that is guiding us – this is self authorization. This promotes our wellbeing, with clarity. Respectfully we are stepping outside the box – unlearning and moving within the tapestry of  our creation - this enlivens, revitalizes and inspires us. This is a natural ascent and is marked and cultivated by a joy, and wonder in a more natural ability to exist.

Copyright Denise Richard