I may rustle a few feathers with this!
It is not enough to focus on an individual practice of personal and spiritual development alone! We need to also practice opening our hearts, listening to, following and communicating from our hearts in relationship to others.
We can only evolve from a disconnected, heady, materialistic, individuated society to a connected, heart-centred, compassionate, abundant community when we actually are that in relation to each other, face-to-face in real life!
We can only shift from a state of half-awake (half-trapped) satisfaction to a state of expansive, joyful, vibrant aliveness if we feel free to be fully ourselves in life, in relation to and while being witnessed by others.
Your presence, simply being you and expressing your true self in the now is absolutely enough, and so the practice is not being and becoming that alone, but it is being and becoming that in the presence and with the support of others, in the messiness of life, in the face of apathy, abandon, adversity or applause.
We rarely learn or practice this at school, at home, in the workplace or in our individual practice. Therefore, we need to start practicing this together so that we can start to shift gear from just sharing inspiring quotes on facebook, to actually connecting through real, heart-inspired words and action face-to-face!
The limitations of individual practice
I imagine you are someone who has been interested in your own personal growth and development for some time. Perhaps you have a regular personal practice like yoga, meditation, Qi Gong or tapping (EFT). You look after your body through exercise, massage and healthy food. You believe in the law of attraction and you are taking responsibility for your life, your health and your happiness. You are basically doing your best to be and become the best version of You and to enjoy life. I love this about you!
Most personal and spiritual development practices focus on You, knowing your Self and connecting to your own divinity…… alone (at least at first). You need to know and love yourself before you can truly love another. If someone triggers you, you can work more on you, etc.
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Indeed I believe strongly that we still need more emphasis on personal responsibility. My own journey with yoga, bodywork, shamanism, stalking nature, astrology, the law of attraction, human design and so forth, is hugely enriching and essential for me, every day. It brings me energy, safety, peace, joy, clarity and dare I say, inspired wisdom! I admit that this is also more my comfort zone.
This kind of personal practice is, however, solely vertical. You connect to your body, your energy, your emotions and ultimately your higher Self or a sense of oneness with all. The risk therefore is that we check-out or reject the human level or parts of it to avoid pain, hurt and the messiness of being human – this is the “spiritual by-pass”. I know this one. I have definitely gone for the spiritual by-pass at times!
A true yoga practice, one that really follows the ancient yogic philosophy, brings yoga off the mat and into life. Yoga, and in particular the Tantra lineage, is in fact the art of living and embodying our divinity. The Yamas and Niyamas (which I have written lots about in the past) are all about being true and authentic in relation to self, first, and then others. But it is not enough for these to be known concepts, they must be practiced…… with others!
Without a conscious practice with others you will likely at some point feel like you are stuck, that there is still something holding you back, that your relationships are not thriving, that abundance is not flowing, that there are too many downs, triggers and difficult emotions, and that your joy is limited.
Sound familiar? So what solution?
We need to complement our individual practices with conscious group practice; that is to complement our vertical practice with a horizontal practice.
We are not islands. We cannot do this alone. We are communal beings and conscious community is the path to massive transformation and accelerated awakening!
Why we need others to move toward our personal joy
The primary goal of life is to enjoy it, to experience it, to feel vibrantly joyfully alive. Simple, right?! So what holds us back?
You and I know that it is an illusion to seek joy outside of ourselves, through others, through doing or acquiring material things. But even when we turn to find the joy within, we get tripped up. We might blame our thoughts, our limiting beliefs, unconscious conditioning etc.
The root cause is actually something that we all have. It’s called core unworthiness.
As you reach for your joy you confront the part of yourself that feels unworthy to let all that joy in. You feel unworthy to show up that bright, that great, that successful, that much loved, and that happy. Thus you hold back and limit your joy, freedom and expansion, consciously or unconsciously with all sorts of clever strategies.
Your core unworthiness is created at a very young age. No baby or very young child seeks to hurt, wound or traumatise itself intentionally. The primary disconnect from your light, your innate goodness and greatness happened due to experiences with others, when you were made wrong or lesser, or you were hurt, abandoned, betrayed, rejected or violated, whether that was intentional or not, whether your interpretation was correct or not. It may have been in relation to your parents, siblings, schoolmates, teachers, religious figures, and so forth.
Since others were involved in your disconnection, others are critical to your reconnection.
It is so easy to get caught up in trying to hide or fix or remove your core unworthiness, or to focus on the past, and this is where we usually get stuck in ‘old school’ personal development and in an individual practice. It is not possible or even desirable to fix or get rid of it.
Here lies the power of group because these shadows will come up for you the more you dare to claim your joy, witnessed by others, just as you are in life. The key is to become aware of your core unworthiness as it comes to the surface and work through it, in the presence of and with the support of others. You then create new positive, healthy experiences and memories for your mind and body in relation to others, and you get to consciously choose your path in life, no longer controlled by the limiting beliefs. And yes, this becomes a practice, for the rest of your life!
Many people shy away from group because it feels scary. I keep hearing things like, “I am not ready for group work. I need to do some more work on myself!” But of course you can’t get ready for group work alone!! It is in group that you learn to navigate group dynamics, just like it is in life that you learn to live. It’s just not possible to work with these type of shadows and feelings of core unworthiness alone – you will stay stuck with them until they can be seen, claimed, loved and digested.
As we focus on our joy and learn to use the group to overcome fears, doubts and limiting beliefs, we can harness the power of the collective to literally propel us toward our joy and our fullness. As Christian Pankhurst, the founder of the Heart IQ™ Method says, “it is like flying to Beijing instead of walking to Beijing,” the difference is that big to doing this alone.
After spending hundreds of hours this past year in heart-centred group practice, to complement my personal practices, I can say that I have no doubt whatsoever that we need each other to come into our joy and our greatness. I am blown away at the power of circle every single time and how this practice helps me to expand my awareness of myself and my true nature so that I can experience more freedom, joy and connection.
Whether you believe we are human beings having a spiritual experience, or spiritual beings having a human experience, we need to combine the two, and celebrate both! At this meeting point we reveal charisma and depth; authenticity and empathy; embodiment and stillness; wisdom and creativity; safety and belonging; love and JOY!
Join me for heart-centred group practice!!
In sharing this post I would like to acknowledge Christian Pankhurst for the inspiration, mentoring and training on joy and group practice through the Heart IQ™ Method.