You probably don’t need me to tell you that spirituality isn’t all about feeling positive or uplifted. The enlightenment path requires us to sacrifice things that hold us back and keep us from making progress, and maybe this is where the notion of religious sacrifice was created.
Most religious sacrifices throughout history have been unnecessarily violent and wicked, but maybe the idea of religious sacrifice originally came from the external (and even internal) sacrifices we have to make on the enlightenment path.
Why do we have to make these sacrifices? Because there are a lot of things here on Earth that stop us from making genuine spiritual progress and we have to avoid these things if we want to elevate our consciousness or awaken others.
The purpose of self-sacrifice isn’t to boss ourselves around or give up things we cherish, unless they cause serious damage – it’s to detach from things that are destructive so we can make room for more wholesome things that accelerate our evolution.
Here, I’ll list four things we’ll want to give up if our goal is to walk the spiritual path without falling back into limiting habits or mindsets. Ridding ourselves of them right now will allow us to forge ahead with strength, and they’ll eventually stop influencing us and fade away.
1. Negative or toxic people
I’m sure we all know someone who seems overly negative or constantly upset with life, and we’ll want to keep our distance from them for the sake of our spiritual growth. When we’re around other people, we tend to be subconsciously influenced by their expressions and, sometimes, their outbursts, and if we aren’t careful, we could end up repeating their behavior.
We could end up frustrated with life or with the people around us, and we won’t even realize we were influenced by someone else’s negativity. We’re all subconsciously connected, and the words and actions of people we’re close with can affect us in a deeper way than we realize.
With all of this said, we should remember that the issue isn’t always black and white. We might have a loved one who means a lot to us but tends to have random or not so random outbursts (or their opinion on any issue is just too negative to take), and we won’t just want to abandon them.
We don’t want to abandon our family or people we’re close with just because of their negativity, so we’ll have to find some kind of middle ground. We don’t want to spend so much time with them that they start to influence us, but we don’t want to avoid them just because we don’t like how they express themselves.
We’ll want to stay balanced and listen to our intuition when we’re met with any difficult circumstances. Our intuition will help us make the best and most helpful decisions, and we can spend time with an angry loved one while finding some way to stay impervious to their negativity.
2. Sugary, artificial, GMO foods
It’s no secret that our modern society is filled with cheap, fake foods that make big food corporations money while slowly poisoning us and ensuring that we’ll be sick when we’re older. These foods don’t just hurt our physical health – they’re a detriment to our spiritual health as well because mind, body and spirit are one.
What we put into our bodies affects us deeply on a mental, emotional and spiritual level, and if we want to be clearheaded as we go throughout our day or we want our meditations to be more potent, then clean, healthy and preferably organic food is our best bet.
I’m not trying to be one of those food snobs who tells you how to live your life, and while I try to be healthy, I tend to eat as much fake, sugary food as anyone else.
I’ve felt firsthand the difference between healthy and unhealthy food, and the first choice gives us energy, clarity, vitality and an enhanced sense of passion while the latter pleases our taste buds before making us feel lazy, tired and awful.
We’ll also want to avoid unhealthy eating habits, like eating too much or too late at night. We don’t realize how this affects us when we’re doing it, but the effects will make themselves known at a later time when we feel terrible and we can’t understand why.
3. Too much television or technological stimulation
Watching television is one of the most destructive things a spiritual seeker can do. Again, I don’t want to tell you how to live, but a lot of things on this world (including TV) seem designed to keep people unhealthy and, for lack of a better word, stupid.
Television dumbs us down while keeping us fixed on an artificial reality that’s usually violent, hypersexual or just plain juvenile, and intelligent people aren’t the only ones who might want to avoid it.
Spiritual seekers would benefit just as much from avoiding TV or any other kind of technological stimulation, but there’ll always be times when we have to use technology.
Most of my work is done on a computer, but when I’m done working for the day, I can always get outside, go to a nature spot, ride my bicycle and generally detach from technology.
It’s important to reconnect with nature, which technology can prevent, because it’s our true home and it’s provided everything we’ll ever need for survival or leisure.
We can’t reconnect with nature if we’re too busy staring into the TV, our smartphones or any other gadget that distracts us from life, so we’ll want to put these things down sometimes and rediscover reality.
4. Laziness or fatigue
I know that fatigue is sometimes unavoidable, and we never want to feel it when it comes along. However, there are driving factors, like laziness, that we’ll want to be on the lookout for if we don’t want fatigue to bring us down.
While the advice we’ve been given from various spiritual teachers to ‘become nothing’ is helpful on the path, I think we should be active in the midst of all of our spiritual practices that reconnect us with nothingness.
I don’t see anything wrong with exercising a little each day, and I’d imagine it can boost our meditation and make those higher vibes easier to feel.
Not to mention that being active can help us find a sense of purpose, and once we find what we want to do in life, we can enthusiastically pursue it with an active, awake perspective instead of sitting down on the couch to be entertained by whatever reality TV show is on.
I think being active is an important part of spiritual evolution, and laziness or fatigue won’t go away until we remove ourselves from them. It might require us to step outside of our comfort zone, but we’ll see that it was worth it when we feel better and the good vibes can flow in without restriction.
5. Suppressing negativity or avoiding the ‘shadow self’
We all have a ‘shadow self’, which is the aspect of our personality that’s constantly negative, hurtful, narcissistic, etc. Contrary to what you might think, I’m not encouraging us to give it up.
I’m encouraging us to give up trying to suppress it, because it’s a crucial part of us that we’ll want to embrace, heal and release.
In embracing the shadow self, we’ll also want to stop avoiding the negative situations we have to deal with in life. No matter how hard we try to stay ‘happy’ or aligned with our higher consciousness, we’re going to have to deal with negative situations that we’d rather sweep under the rug.
How we handle them is our choice entirely, and we can do it with grace, patience, and most importantly, centeredness. We have to stay centered when we deal with these kinds of situations, and leaving our center can cause us to lose ourselves in the emotional fray.
The destructive tendency to suppress negative situations or even the negativity we carry within will stifle our spiritual growth in the long run, so let’s give it up and willingly embrace any negativity that comes our way – from the world or from within.
As we continue along the enlightenment path, we’ll find plenty more things that we have to release into the ethers if we want to keep thriving. This might be a difficult or uncomfortable process for a lot of spiritual seekers, but it’s all for a good cause and the positive change will be evident when we look back.
We just have to be willing to give up things that no longer serve us, and it gets easier when we can call on our higher consciousness and allow our spiritual/creative essence to work through us.
Opening up to the ‘higher self’ will make our disciplines and sacrifices easier, and whether we know it or not, we have an infinite source of love, guidance and creativity within that we can access at any time.
Our connection with this part of ourselves will become clearer and more refined as we willingly sacrifice the things that stop us from maintaining it, and the guidance we receive from our higher consciousness will make any future sacrifices easier.
With this in mind, we see that our sacrifices really don’t have to be hard. They will be hard as long as we build them up in our minds, but opening the mind and connecting with the intuition will help us understand that sacrifice and discipline boil down to a moment-by-moment choice.