Is is Possible to Outgrow Practice?


Good day, good people!

I received an email the other day with an interesting question. I have pasted my reply below in case you
find it to be interesting as well.

Here was the question:

Do you think that people outgrow this particular practice? Sometimes when online and experiencing the
diverse teachers and practices, I am reminded of spirituality that excites me. Things like spirit guides, the
ways that energy can be directed and used by authenticity (I know what ego/conditioning can do to my
energy), so many aspects of yoga practices, the depth of intuition and awareness, etc.

And my reply:

It’s an interesting question, thank you. Of course, it’s difficult to imagine outgrowing practice in general. I
certainly have not, despite dedicating my life to practice these past 25 years, and I expect to practice
wholeheartedly—to need to practice, in fact, with dedication and courage—the remainder of my life.
Practice is the work of reuniting with our essential transcendent nature, and it is also the experience, or we
might say the embodiment, of that. So far in my case the experience has ever deepened over time, and I
don’t sense there is any bottom to it.

Is it possible to outgrow the particular form that we practice together? The answer there is a bit more
complex. The way I see it, our practice has two fundamental aspects. The first is what I was talking about
above: it is the essential work of directing the attention to the moment and simply being here, where we
are, united with our essence and with Life Unfolding, which are the same thing. This is the same effort
that all Buddhists engage in, I believe. The second is the employment of the psychological tools, the gift
of our teacher, that we use in order to see into the nature of our thinking and identify the patterns there.
This is the aspect in which we look into the nature of conditioned mind and let it go. The second aspect,
of course, supports the first: the more able we are to see the conditioned illusions we were taught to
believe in as children, the more we can let them go and simply be here, where we are and where Life is.

I can’t imagine that I at least will ever outgrow the first aspect, as I said in my first paragraph. Over time
we do outgrow the second, however. In the beginning, when someone has just discovered practice,
typically they have no idea how the mind works, and typically they are ignorant of the existence of
conditioned mind. In order to be fully present (which is the first aspect), they must learn to recognize and
let go of conditioned mind (which is the second). Over time, however, as we practice, and if our practice
is diligent and sincere, we see through all the tricks and stratagems within conditioned mind and get to a
point where (more or less) we don’t fall for the illusion. As that occurs we more and more need to let go
of the focus on conditioned mind and turn our attention instead simply to the moment and our natural
state of being. We must never discard our tools because conditioned mind, as we both know, is full of
devilish tricks and has a way of blinding us even when we feel we’re done with it. You never know when
you might need your tools, in other words, but we need not have them in our hands all the time. Instead,
once we’ve thoroughly learned how process works, it’s time to embrace the fruits of all our work over the
years and simply be the love, clarity, compassion, and goodness that we authentically are.

In terms of other sorts of spiritual practices: I think it’s helpful to explore all sorts of things as a way of
accessing different points of view on our practice and deepening our experience. It’s good to follow what
moves you and excites you. I would caution you against replacing practice with something that doesn’t
offer the transformation that a true and direct practice does, however. There are lots of things people are
doing out there that are not much more than spiritual forms of entertainment. Said another way, anything
can be helpful as long as it’s not used as a distraction or a diversion from the real work. You will not hit
water by digging lots of shallow holes; ultimately only one deep hole will do.

Thank you for the question! Be well, my friend.

In peace,