What exactly is spiritual maturity? There are many misconceptions about
what it takes to be a spiritually mature person. That's why we must first
begin by discussing what spiritual maturity is not.
Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with:
How long you've been practicing
Who you've been practicing with
Where you've been practicing
How long you can meditate
What retreats you've attended
How long you can pray
If you've been born again
What religious tradition you adhere to
What divinity school you've graduated from
Who or what you follow
Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with how disciplined you are or what
you've sacrificed or given up for your spiritual practice. Some of these
things can be helpful to us in our practice and promote good physical and
emotional health but they do not bring us spiritual maturity.
If all these things do not bring us spiritual maturity, then what does?
Illusion of Control
The true mark of a spiritually mature person is that they no longer live for
control and that they understand and accept the ultimate truth that they are
not in control and never have been.
Spiritual maturity is all about how you understand and relate to the desire to
control. That you no longer play the competitive and manipulative games of
control with yourself or others. When we think we are in control we are
living in an illusion and are playing at life immaturely.
The truly mature spiritual person chooses to support, love and care for the
world rather than trying to control it. Giving up the illusion of control is an
outward sign of true inner spiritual strength and maturity.
This is of course a shattering realization to our egos because all our lives
the world has conditioned us to believe in the possibility of control and so
much of our energy has been channelled into a fight for control.
When we closely examine the underpinnings of our desires we see that
we’ve spent much of our lives struggling for control. The world we live in
submits to, votes for and idolizes the illusionary masters of control.
When can lose ourselves and all that is meaningful in this life to the illusion
of control. This is the notion of “tempting the Gods” in Greek mythology and
“pride before the crash” in Christianity. The Buddha tells us “It is better to
travel well than to arrive”. One who thinks they have arrived thinks they are
How does a mature person respond to the desire for control? We let it go.
No one can teach us how to let go, we cannot "do" letting go.
Letting go is NOT the practice of saintly passivity or not being bothered by
anything. These are false attempts at letting go and just another tactic at
feeling in control.
Letting go is an intuitive response, that can only be experienced when we
are completely honest with ourselves about our desires and actions. Letting
go is a deep form of relaxing.
Meditation can help us to be vigilant in this respect because it enables us to
relax, to be quiet with ourselves and experience the truth within, thus
promoting an honest response to all we experience.
Meditation teaches us to put aside all our fears and let go. Meditation
teaches us to let go and float on the ocean of our consciousness rather
than struggling to control it.
It’s the difference between struggling to stay afloat which inevitably leads to
sinking, and lying in stillness which inevitably leads to floating. It takes
courage to lay still and float. We must put aside all our conditioned fears
and trust in our own nature.
Hold on Tightly, Let Go Lightly
The world conditions us to hold on tightly. To paraphrase the words of
Mister Eckhardt, when we grasp for control, the world becomes a form of
hell, fear-inspiring and full of demons out to do us harm.
Spiritual practice teaches us to let go lightly. When we stop grasping and
let go, we begin receiving and supporting the world. We see the kingdom of
heaven (or nirvana) all around us and our demons turn into angels. To
quote Jesus Christ, ”The kingdom of God is all around us but men do not
We seek control out of the fear of all that could happen to us. Out of the
fear that we may sink, stumble and fall. We fear that we may look foolish to
others. We fear that we may lose something of worldly value.
We must accept the ultimate reality that when we eventually die, we must
let go of all earthly attachments any way, the fruits of our actions in this life
are all that we will take with us. Death is the ultimate act of letting go.
Letting go means accepting this ultimate truth and living as such. This is
true spiritual maturity.
Support Not Control
Supporting rather than controlling means that we are more concerned with
what we are giving rather than receiving. When we support our health and
well-being, when we support others, when we support our environment
rather than trying to control it all life benefits. This is when we open up our
lives to the true joy of living. This is the path that leads us to true spiritual
Meditation practice teaches us this important life lesson. Each time we
accept our thoughts and emotions without judgement, simply accepting
them unconditionally and return to the breath, we train in taking that
Meditation teaches us to let go of the ego’s desire to control and instead
accept the enormity of the space within. No longer identifying with our
limited ego, we identify with the vast sea of our own consciousness and we
trust in our own spiritual heart.