6 “Mistakes” I’ve Made on the Spiritual Path

Last Updated on Teachings

Yes, I know, there are no mistakes on the spiritual journey. There can’t be, if you think about it. The spiritual journey is, to a certain extent, a process of learning. And don’t we almost always learn best from what we often see as our mistakes? But then, if we learn from them, if we grow from them, how could they really be mistakes?

As you venture down the spiritual path, you really start seeing your life as a long curriculum in a giant classroom called Life. No mistakes. Just your individual assignments. I have had my “lessons” to learn, my conditioning to undo.

That said, here are 6 things that I would have previously called mistakes. For me, they weren’t. But maybe you will see something in them that will help you as you journey down the path.

  1. You cannot choose love too often. So many times along the path, I’ve been given the opportunity to choose love or fear. Many, many times I chose fear. I pushed people and things away to avoid loving them. I suffered, to be sure, and Life graciously came back and offered the lesson again and again. I’m very glad it did. Choose love.
  2. meditation
    Creative Commons License credit: HaPe_Gera

  3. You can’t sit too much. I loved meditating when I first started, but I loved reading about and talking about spirituality more. And reading and talking about spirituality, while they can be helpful, just doesn’t cut the mustard. Spirituality must be lived, it must be experienced. Sitting with yourself, finding out what you really are is so incredibly important and transformative.
  4. Not enough time spent in nature. For centuries, spiritual masters have made references to nature, to time spent in nature, as a part of their journey. There is something about the trees, the rocks, the plants, the sky, the sun that calls to us. Being in nature is a powerful aid to our spiritual growth. Taking a walk in the pines will do more for you than a library full of books.
  5. Being arrogant about my beliefs. I was a jerk in the early days of my journey. I was cocky, overly confident, and thought I knew it all. What a joke! The real truth of the matter is that I knew so little. By being so cocky, I rejected a lot of interesting and potentially helpful spiritual teachings along the way. I had to learn humility, almost by force. I’m truly grateful I did, because now I see so clearly how all the things I thought I knew were an obstacle of sorts to knowing the only thing that mattered: who I truly am.
  6. Believing that feelings are reliable guides to behavior and truth. I’ve made lots of choices in life based upon how I feel, which is not a great idea, I’ve come to see. Feelings are just feelings. They are simply sensations in our bodies in response to our thoughts. They have something to teach us, for certain, but they aren’t the truth. For instance, every time you’ve experienced anxiety, you are afraid of something that is only in your mind. But you aren’t in eminent danger, and you aren’t going to die. Thus, anxiety is a poor guide for action. The only thing to do with feelings is to experience them and then let them go. Feelings want to be felt. Let the energy flow. As Hale Dwoskin of the Sedona Method likes to say: “Feelings are not true, they are not you, and you can let them go.”
  7. Rejecting spiritual teachings before giving them a chance. This goes along with number 4 above. For instance, I hated The Secret when I first saw it. I was very agitated after watching it because I had a strong reaction to some of the “personalities” in it. They seemed so arrogant and, well, like used car salesmen. And so I rejected all the ideas in The Secret. Of course, I was being as arrogant as they seemed to be. There are good ideas in The Secret, and had I listened to some of them, I might have found a way to learn some lessons that I took over a year to learn the hard way.

I’ve found over the years that one of the best ways to learn and grow is from hearing other people’s stories, their successes and mistakes along the spiritual path. I would love to hear of your “mistakes” in the comments.

One mistake I won’t make: I won’t forget to ask you to subscribe to TomStine.com.

52 Comments

  • Mark Krusen

    I could write a blog on mistakes I’ve made.Oh no wait a minute. I am writing a blog on mistakes I’ve made.:)I have had a mantra. A shtick if you will.That goes something like this. “If there is a hard way to do something, just ask me. I’ve done it.”

    As I sit here at the keyboard on a Sunday morning at 02:30 am It’s clear to me. That one mistake I didn’t make was not signing up for the email updates of Tom Stine.com.This is another great post Tom.If I was to list my mistakes in the comments it would take up and awful lot of space and look like spam.:)

    Mark Krusen’s last blog post..Justa number

  • Shadowduck

    I’ve done all of these things from time to time, but number six is the big one for me. Even though I know those over-polished “car-salesman” types sometimes associated with certain messages may have some very valid points, I find it almost impossible to take spirirtual guidance from someone I have a personal aversion to. After all if I follow their path, even partly, doesn’t that mean I’m in danger of ending up like them? I suppose I need to see through the packaging and just listen to the message, but that’s going to be very hard for me. :(

  • Tom Stine

    @Mark Go ahead, write ’em down. I would love to hear them. So would others. Or, maybe should just visit your blog? :-)

  • Tom Stine

    @Shadowduck Amen, brother! :-D I know exactly what you mean. But you aren’t them, are you? Listen, I’ve learned a bunch about money from…… The Donald!! Not how to make it, but the mind set that he has. Donald Trump KNOWS to the core of his non-existent soul that he will have money. That is powerful. It creates a lot in his life. Sure, a lot of destruction, too, but it is remarkable nonetheless. I guess it is because The Donald is The Donald that I don’t have a strong reaction to him. I don’t expect holiness from him.

    The one who really got me going from The Secret was Michael Beckwith. I was somehow reminded of the televangelists that flourish in my part of the country. I let it all go, though, and I now see him in a very positive light. I learned a lot from my reaction to him.

  • Shilpan | successsoul.com

    Tom,

    My mistake earlier was to prejudge the vitality of the spiritual teachings due to lack of knowledge and lack of mindfulness to keep my ego in control. I do not allow my stereotypical view to intercept any new spiritual wisdom.

    Shilpan

    Shilpan | successsoul.com’s last blog post..3 Steps to Develop a Personal Vision for the Life

  • Mark Krusen

    I think the best way would be to check out my blog.:)Oh heck, while your there you might as well leave a comment.Here’s a really abstract thought. You could even sign up for the email updates. Perish the thought!! :)

    Mark Krusen’s last blog post..Justa number

  • JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You

    My “mistake”?
    running from the mere term spirituality for as long as my JEMi legs could run.

    I am someone who hates things that brings conflict, endless debates (that can even end in war) like religion..
    There is a lot that I’ve misunderstood, growing up about religion and spirituality. I mistakenly thought that I had to behave (or cease to be myself) like certain people in order to be spiritual. I thought that the rules were there to constrict and I just didn’t want to be dictated to. So I avoided all of it never mind how “into it” some people in my life have become (hi mom!)

    However this is one case where being proved wrong feels so good on such a consistent level
    I feel blessed to be finding out some of this at this point in my life because I see it as a way to enrich my present and future into the world of adulthood and all that jazz

    There is clearly alot to learn and yes – there are no actual mistakes

    verrrry interesting read Tom!

    JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You’s last blog post..Half-Assed: Becoming Half Your Size

  • Tom Stine

    @Mark Hey, are you advertising your blog? :-) I say go for it. I just visited yesterday for a bit.

  • Tom Stine

    @MonkMojo Simplification is a great thing. Makes life much easier. And cheaper. It is funny: how many people chasing after wealth could find themselves much more abundant if they just simplified. I hear you.

    @Shilpan I agree. We share in this one. I did a lot of prejudging in my early years on the spiritual path. I did some pretty funny things as a result. I might have to write about one of those.

  • Tom Stine

    @JEMi I hear you. I was a hard-core atheist in my early 20’s. No way was I going to have anything to do with religion–which is what I thought all spirituality was. Glad I was wrong!

  • Carla

    Hey, I see increasingly how true it is that there are no mistakes if you are learning. One of the biggest mistakes that has hindered my growth is not being true to myself, which entails not only brutal self-honesty, but also honesty in communicating who you are to others.

    The point you made about no such thing as sitting too much is another mistake I’ve made. It seems so much more fun to hear about it instead of actually doing the work yourself.

    Thanks, Tom, for sharing yourself and your wisdom.

  • Tom Stine

    Hi Carla, do I know you? :-) I know what you mean about not being true to yourself. Me, too. But you know that already, don’t you? I hid behind a mask for way too many years. Glad to be done with that one!

    Sitting is so vital. True, there are plenty of stories of people having a completely spontaneous awakening with no prior spiritual practice. But for the 99.99%, awakening is usually preceded by some sort of spiritual “work” or “practice.” We just have to get used to that simple fact. It doesn’t mean that 10 hours a day of Zen meditation are needed either. But at least some time.

    Glad you stopped by. I welcome your comments.

  • Tom Stine

    @Albert I guess I’m not the only one who didn’t start off loving the Secret. Good to know! I’m cool with it now, though. By the way, did you know Jack Canfield got started selling insurance? When I learned that, something let go, and I felt sense of peace about it. Everything made sense. He’s a salesman, a salesman for personal development. Got it. And it’s okay. :-)

  • Tom Stine

    @Anmol Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. Very glad to have you here. I’m glad I found your site, too. :-)

  • Davidya

    Love the insight and honesty, Tom. It attracts great comment too – thanks everyone. Simplicity is great – I’ve been working on it for 30 years (laughs). One could indeed write a whole book on the mistakes on the path. Indeed I know of one – Nadeen did one on the myths. I’ve found there are the illusions of the individual and the errors around that, and there are the myths and mistaken ideas of the seeker as we move closer. Indeed the ideas of it can be barriers to it. Then there are the side-tracking we can get caught in post waking. Adya talks some about that, including the ego trying to come back… Anyway – its a big subject and clarity is always the goal…

    Davidya’s last blog post..Eckhart on Oprah continues

  • james

    I had cancer once, during the final days as I lay in a coma, i found a light in eternal darkness. When i walked into the light i found, it became me. It was everyone, everything that ever is, before its created. It told me i had to come back, as if i was telling myself. I woke up, the cancer completely healed.
    “Do not search for God, God is a given, Instead, just want more in every positive way.”

  • Tom Stine

    @Davidya I was thinking of doing a post on myths. I want to find the book you reference by Nadeen. I have some of my own. In a sense, it is all a barrier, is it not? Or, well, a seeming barrier. We think that so much is true that isn’t. I keep having the awareness that nothing I think is true.

  • Tom Stine

    @James Thanks so much for sharing your experience. That cuts straight to the heart of it. God is a given.

  • Jordan Cheng

    I can identify with most of the points there.

    I used to be proud of my newly acquired sense of awakening; Now I know this arrogance could hinder the flow of real wisdom that discerns the truth. I have also learned to appreciate the beauty of nature more than ever, and have even tried to bring back a piece of nature back home by keeping tanks of tropical fish!

    Another mistake I made was “trying too hard”. I guess this has got to do with personality of competitive nature. It has taken me a long while to learn to surrender and go with the flow.

    Thanks for the insights, Tom!
    Cheers,

    Jordan Cheng

    Jordan Cheng’s last blog post..The Success Secrets of Michael Jordan

  • Tom Stine

    @Jordan Nice to have you here! Thanks for sharing some of your insights along the way. Yes, trying too hard, a very common one. I’ve done it, too. Still do at times. The competitive conditioning dies slowly in some of us. Again, welcome!

  • peter smith

    happiness today to my friend.

    Trust, faith, love and smile

    Lead you to happiness.

    peter smith’s last blog post..A gift to all visitors

  • Loraleigh Vance

    Hi Tom,
    Dang! It’s so much fun to be human, isn’t it? We get to make, and then hopefully learn from, all these great “mistakes.”
    I’m guilty of not being to thrilled with “The Secret” as well. I thought it was just a regurgitation of all the accumulated wisdom of the ages. What I learned was, if one person learns one new thing, recycling is always good.
    Take care and keep up the good work.

    Loraleigh Vance’s last blog post..Addictions and Awareness

  • Harold Loomis

    To Mark Krusen:
    Trying to keep the Ego from making a come back means that you are planning on the ego making a come back. Let it go, the fear, everything, until you have no charge (feelings) about it.
    Have fun and keep enjoying the present.

  • Tom Stine

    @Loraleigh Welcome! Glad to have you reading and leaving comments. Yes, it is fantastic being human. Wouldn’t have it any other way. You used a great word to describe the Secret: regurgitated. That kinda sums it up, doesn’t it? :-)

  • Tom Stine

    Hi Harold, welcome here. I see you’ve got this lesson of Hale and Lester’s down quite well. It goes back to “what we resist persists.” Nice to see you again.

  • Elisa Ferzacca

    Hi Harold and Tom and all,

    I certainly have made all the above “mistakes” and still struggle with all 6 of the ones that you outline. I think this is in part because I was so desperately searching for oneness from the time I was a kid, that I was willing to accept and try anything that looked”spiritual”. I went into heavy reaction after years of openly and enthusiastically following gurus and trying different paths and accepting any and all that others told me about truth, life, myself, etc. I didn’t realize that in desperation, I had simply adopted a whole new list of “shoulds” and repressed and abandoned my self instead of letting go.

    I am now in an interesting place. Adya speaks of the path of failure, when everything that used to work for you now fails. I relate very much to that. I am there. Initially, it was very scary. Now it is very interesting. I truly do not know anything, especially what I am going to do next or what is going to happen. It doesn’t mean I am going to do crazy things (hopefully) and that I don’t have plans, I do and in fact am very much looking forward to many things,,,if they happen. What this path of failure means, is that I am willing to experience the unfolding of everything from the paradoxical place of watching and being in the middle of it at the same time…if that makes sense. Ironically, I am finding that in going to the place where there is no self, I am finally honoring my self, both big and small S and finding that the world is not a bad place at all.
    Am I even on topic anymore?!!
    anyway
    I am so grateful for this site and for all of you!
    Elisa

  • Tom Stine

    @Elisa So nice to see you here! Glad to have your comments…. Ah, being spiritual. So very different from the spirituality of simple being. When all is said and done, it really is about being, just being. And from there, the world isn’t such a bad place. As a matter of fact, it gets more lovely by the day. Again glad to see you here!

  • Alex Kay

    Spirituality and religion is the exact same thing for me – they’re both ways (or paths) to get closer to god.

    And by saying god, I do not mean *god* as a man sitting up there looking at us.

    I mean the “universe”, which in a way, is always looking at us you might say.

    It’s our “inner commentator”, our consciousness, our outview on the world from the inside.

    Because it is a path, there is no real goal. It’s more of a mission. A mission that won’t end before you do.

    Really nice post Tom Stine, sorry for the babbling, just wrote what I had in mind :)

    Alex Kay’s last blog post..Starting a Beginners Guide to Dating Succes

  • Tom Stine

    @Alex Hey, feel free to babble. I do it all the time. It’s called “blogging.” :-)

    I couldn’t agree more. There is no goal. It is a path we walk upon, and the point is to walk the path. Nothing more.

  • Robert Davis

    It has not really been that “long” that I have been seeking(about 9 years starting at age 25). However it is that statement alone that I realized one of my mistakes(seeking!). What exactly am I seeking? At first it was honestly to rid of panic attacks and I used a “form” of detathement they are not real kinda thing. However, there was a byproduct of this. I need to feel fufilled now that I am free! External things just will not do it and I doubt ever could. So the last 2 to 3 years I sought and sought with various teachings hopeing the next had the answer to why I still felt hollow. It turns out the answer is in front of me the whole time. Seeking can be a detriment to growth when you are looking for something outside yourself, even spiritual teachings. So the last 4 months have been very odd as I am dropping all concepts and just letting things BE as they are.. This for me is actually a very “painfull” thing as you are literally forced to face yourself in every form the mind can conjur(it is all ego but still!). Letting go of who you think you are can be painfull. Oddly enough, I am right back at the same procedure that I used to dissolve panic attacks. Letting them be and realizing that the thoughts/reactions are not me. Odd I have gone in a big circle! :)

  • Desika Nadadur | I Am My Own Master

    Hi Tom,

    I found your blog through my buddy Anmol Mehta’s blog. Great post! I like what you said about Nature. I believe, everything in nature is “not” made for human consumption, but they are made to show us the way; to be the sign posts on our way home.

    Thanks,
    Desika

  • Tom Stine

    @Desika Glad to have you visit. Thanks for the compliment. I think I have to agree: no everything in the world is for human consumption. The world is often our greatest teacher.

  • Tom Stine

    @Robert I started in spirituality much the same way: to be free of health problems. The solution seemed to be to “fix” things that were broken. I’ve found myself coming full circle, too. Right back to the simplest things: let everything be. Sit, allow, sit allow. Ultimately, that was the ground work that was laid when my panic attacks ended. And here I am, now, sitting and allowing. Well, actually, sitting and loving. Again, nice to have you here. :-)

  • Robert Davis

    Tom, Thanks. It is odd that we choose something like this to rid of a “mental disease” and the byproduct is that you may actually cure it, but you are now faced with finding out who you are, looking both inside truly, and outside. In a way I feel the panic attacks are sorta a springboard to finding your true nature, or can be. I know most cannot break free of this cycle once they develop it(and I have my theory as to why it develops but that is for later!). So in a way, I have started blessing the experience of panic attacks. If I had not been at the bottom of this percieved suffering9panic attacks), I probably would have been content with life as it is in the conditioned world without any need to know what I really am. Thanks again=P

  • Tom Stine

    @Robert As you can tell from my site, I really love the teachings of Adyashanti. One thing he says often is that his teacher told him: “We arrive at Nirvana by way of samsara.” Over and over again, the message is plain: the way “out” is “through.” We look deeply into our suffering, samsara, and we find the emperor has no clothes! But look we must. We look with love and openness and curiosity. We never get rid of our suffering. We love it, accept it, allow it, and it passes through.

    And along the way, we find out who we are. Almost unavoidably. I wasn’t in any way concerned with who I was. Then one day, I was asked this question, “Can you find the ‘me’ that you think you are?” No, I couldn’t. And so it went. And then grace comes, and this “me” gets seen through. What a blessing.

    I’m enjoying your comments. I think I will have to add panic attacks to my growing list of articles to write. I am baffled by the idea that I could ever be at a loss for what to write about. Now finding the time to write it, that’s the trick!

  • uzma

    Hey.
    I am stuck at the mistake of not sitting enough. I love to read and discuss spirituality instead. But am beginning to see the folly of that.
    How long do you think beginners should meditate for? and what sort of meditation do you like? Also can one just watch the breath? Is it necessary to question and inquire? Won’t awareness developed in meditation automatically bring make the layers of conditioning and fears fall away and let one be in the now.

  • Tom Stine

    @Uzma Those are great questions. I can’t really say how long to meditate. I like to sit for around 30 minutes or so, maybe longer. As for what sort of meditation, I enjoy a very simple meditation that I learned from Adyashanti. You can read about it
    here. Basically, one just sits and allows everything to be as it is. Utterly simple.

    As opposed to watching the breath, I will “watch” my awareness. In other words, I will be aware of awareness. That’s it. I just sit with that. It can be very remarkable, as awareness is, in fact, what I am.

    Personally, I love doing inquiry. It can be very, very simple: what am I? Just following that is very powerful. And simple. Notice the simple theme?

    As for your last question, I’m not sure that layers of conditioning and fears will automatically fall away. Sometimes, one needs to do a little digging. However, in general, sitting and doing inquiry and keeping focused on the awareness itself produces, for me, dramatic results. I’ve had lots of things drop away as a result. And yet, I also do some digging at times. Both work well.

  • Barbara Johnson

    Hi Tom,

    I’ve been browsing around your site again, thanks for sharing all this!! You made me laugh with this title, and the laugh was about me.. The title triggered me, and I clicked the link with the arrogant feeling, hey…what mistakes.. this guy doesn’t even understand the basics. Great! You put it right into my face, pride.. pervasive and invasive arrogance. A big thank you please keep going. Whats next :-)

    This time I include a big hug,

    Love

    Barb.

  • Tereza Sykorova

    I was roaring with laughter when I read about the “used car salesmen”!:o)))
    My greatest mistake was not being confident enough to trust my own judgment and intuition. Not taking my own experience as seriously as the books. Believing that others and the books know more and that I am not competent enough to find out by myself. Now I know that it is essential to find out by myself. To be a scientist and make my own experiments.

  • Tom Stine

    @Tereza I’m glad I made you laugh! You knew exactly what I meant, didn’t you? :-) You are 100% correct, the spiritual path is ultimately one we have to walk on our own. Because ultimately it is about finding out the answer to “what am I?” And who is going to tell you that? No one! Wonderful to have you here and leaving comments! Please do so again.

  • Davidya

    I might say though that #2 may not always be true. I know a few people who could use a little more grounding. (laughs)

  • Lea

    You mentioned that feelings come from our thoughts. I agree with that, but I also believe we can sense things through different feelings, such as the “gut” feeling.

    It’s strange that when I was younger, it was my illogical feelings that would turn out to be the most trustworthy for me and often had battles between my mind and those feelings. The one time that a feeling ended poorly for me, happened I believe, because it was actually a strong emotion, thus blurring my objectivity and of course, was not a “gut” feeling.

    You have good points to keep in mind.

  • Davidya

    Lea, you may find it useful to find an internal terminology for your own clarity.

    It’s not uncommon to use emotions to describe the surface values, feelings for more subtle values, and intuition for the hunches. Some have ‘gut’ feelings, some have more root based feelings, some have stuff that arises in the heart.

    All of it arises as an impulse we may call a “thought” but may be appreciated at a different level and/or may arise in a different layer of ‘the field’. If we use terms loosly, it can reduce our clarity.

    The analogy comes to mind that English has one word for snow, the Inuit 30.

  • Tom Stine

    @Lea Thanks for the comments. I’m a big fan of gut feelings. If you sit with a gut feeling, and it sticks around, I’ve found it pretty “reliable” for taking action. I like my gut feelings much better than “head” feelings.

  • Nick

    Hi Tom, just found your site. Quite interesting stuff, especially this post. I’ve been counting my “mistakes” today so this kind of hit a nerve :-)

    My biggest “mistake” has been to read too much and do too little. I’m like the teacup in the zen tale that spills over and cannot take in any real experiences. Or to paraphrase Jonathan Mead: I’ve read all books on chess, but now that it’s my turn I don’t know what to do.

    Still, as you say it’s important I made this mistake. Now I can learn from it. And I have already.

    _/\_

  • Tom Stine

    @Nick Hey, glad you found the site. Always nice to have a new reader. We learn so much more from our mistakes, don’t we? Good to make them. Better to recognize them. :-)

  • Philip

    As a recovering alcoholic who had to stop drinking I had to sort out my ideas about a Higher Power as mentioned in AA. I used every excuse possible. I was sometimes rude ( I have apologized). I said I was an atheist,buddhist,freethinker or whatever . I eventually managed to get a sensible handle on all of this by reading ‘Integral Spirituality’ by Ken Wilber. Also at an AA meeting a guy said ‘ One thing I have been taught is to never interfere in anyones concept of a power greater than themselves’ So this meant everyone is included ,with all their viewpoints,happy days.

  • Tom Stine

    @Philip I would agree: always let everyone have their own way of thinking about a higher power.

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