Do You Have A Sense of Progress in Your Walk?

Do You Have A Sense of Progress in Your Walk? June 15, 2024

For many of us, days pass by and we often find ourselves ‘going with the flow’. Sure, we might make plans for the future. We might even have plans about where we want to be financially in five years, or plans about our hobbies, and so on. But how many of us have a sense of progress and planning when it comes to our spiritual/contemplative path – or, when it comes to our development as a person?

By a ‘sense of progress’ what I mean is a sense that we are working on something – a project. This would be a sense that where we are today is hopefully going to be different than where we are in the future. I mean this in terms of our habits, our character traits, our knowledge, our wisdom, our kindness, our compassion, and more.

How is such progress made? Learning may be an important first step. Reading worthy materials, joining in discussions (not debates), talking with and asking questions of wise people, and thinking about all of these ideas are essential. But all of that is merely ‘data’. It is raw information resulting in nothing more than book knowledge, and as beneficial to your ‘soul’ as reading about exercise would be to your body. The real “project” is in what you do with that knowledge.

This is where practice comes in. Here we seek to apply those lessons in our lives. Practice doesn’t just mean specific practices with names, like: meditation, negative visualization, existential deliberation, and so on. It also means mindfully putting into practice the mindsets and ideas we read about as we go about our daily activities. More importantly, that by doing so, those become habitual to our character and natural inclinations.

These are things with which I still very much struggle. When people refer to me as knowing a lot about some philosophy or being a ‘something-ist’, I feel rather silly – because I know that all of the reading and writing I do on these topics is worthless. Only the degree to which ancient and modern wisdom is applied in our lives, and the degree to which they shape our character, matter. The rest is vanity.

The recognition that there is a natural-based, rational, and beneficial function to development of character habits and application of contemplative practices is what Spiritual Naturalism is all about. We may find that we fall out of these habits (wander off the path) many times. And when this happens, it is nothing to become upset about or blame yourself about. As with each breath in meditation – simply reset your intentions and take the next. Don’t let failure to be perfect deter you because, in the long run, no matter how long you have been off of a path, you can still get back on and make progress!


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