There's No Need to Put the Cart (Behavior) Before the Horse (Shift)
If I was Queen of All Things Spiritual I would decree that no one could have access to spiritual teachings that were more advanced than they were ready to understand, practice, or accept. I say this because students (and this once included me) do so much harm to themselves reading things that they are not ready to understand or attempting practices that do not come naturally to them. In their guilt they judge themselves as failing because they do not measure up to what they study. And what they study they can only try to understand through the limitations of what they’ve already experienced and this leads to distortions. I spend a lot of time reassuring readers and clients that they are not failing because they have not yet attained in understanding or practice what someone more advanced has attained. They are in a process and judge against themselves for being in a process. I also spend a lot of time clarifying experiences that they have not yet had but that the ego has distorted or struggles to understand.
It is true that some teachers add to a student’s sense of guilt because they seem to forget that they
went through a process to reach their level of understanding and of practice. (I try not to do this myself, but it is difficult to not teach from where you are). Teachers engage in practices that come naturally to them at their current level of awareness, forgetting that internal shifts led to these practices; the practices did not lead to the shifts. The practices that come naturally to them now are not what came naturally to them two, five, ten years ago.
For example, for years I tried the Buddhist practice of observing the body’s breathing as a way to quiet and center my mind. This went nowhere for me. But now when I rest in the Quiet in my mind observing the body’s breathing occurs naturally because there is nothing else to do. It is the bare minimum awareness of the universe of form. I do not have to work at this. It just happens. It makes me wonder if others attained this practice naturally and then turned around and taught it to others, forgetting that the practice is an effect that occurs naturally at a certain point. The practice did not lead to the awareness.
Another example is simply observing the personal thought system (ego), which you cannot do until you are able to come from the perspective of the Awareness of Truth (Holy Spirit). You have to observe the personal thought system from somewhere and you are not going to do it when you are in the midst of it. First you have to grow your awareness of Truth. Then observing not-Truth will come naturally.
There can be some benefit in attempting these practices to see if you can do them or if you learn something from the attempt. But you have not failed if you cannot do them. You simply are not yet at a stage where they come naturally. For example, I attempted to live in the present with Truth many times before I was able. What I learned was that I was uncomfortable in the present. I had to accept this. So instead I practiced bringing my mind into the present with Truth several times a day and then I let it wander off again as it would. Only after I had undone my belief in inherent guilt in my mind was I able to live in the present with Truth. The discomfort I had felt before was due to the unconscious guilt that was right below the surface of my conscious awareness when I tried to be present. My mind had to scoot off to the future (mostly), the past (occasionally), or just elsewhere (often). Anywhere but here with the guilt I unconsciously believed was real!
Wherever you are on the path of growing your awareness of Truth useful practices will unfold for you naturally. Any effort that you make should be natural because you are motivated and willing. Any sense of force indicates that you are not yet ready and you are trying to make something happen yourself. I know that it is very difficult in the beginning because you are very undisciplined and you feel that you are going nowhere and that you are not doing enough. You doubt yourself and you fear your commitment is not adequate. But really the only part you have to play is to invite Truth into your awareness. Once you have that experience your part is over. The rest will happen of itself. Being initially undisciplined and unwilling are part of the process. Eventually you will have enough of that and the motivation and willingness for discipline will come naturally.
Learn about the books The ACIM Mentor Articles, The Plain Language A Course in Miracles, 4 Habits for Inner Peace, and Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace at www.acimmentor.com.