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3 Measures of Spiritual Progress – Part 1

Patti Montella
Dec 10, 2013 at 3:42 AM PST


I know if I’m progressing with weight every time I pack my suitcase. Either it’s a breeze because all my clothes fit, or I’m in hell because nothing does and I have to make a  mad dash to the store before it closes for something “new”.

What about spirituality? How do we know if we’re progressing? 
Is there there a certain number of times to chant “Om” and a bell goes off in heaven? 

I used to measure my spiritual progression once a year by flying through Dallas Fort-Worth airport and meeting my ex-husband. If I lost my temper within 3-5 minutes, I vowed to attend weekly Satsang and increase my daily meditations. After several years on the path I was starting to enjoy the practical value of what I”d  learned in the Art of Living course about accepting people and situations as they are, in order to save my own mind. I decided to raise the bar with the “ex-test” one more time when I connected through DFW airport and agreed to lunch.

meeting of mindsSure enough, within a few minutes he was singing his favorite song. The title is “I, I, I, me, me, me”. However, this time instead of imagining hitting him over the head with a ketchup bottle, I started laughing. He simply was being who he was and I was able to accept him that way instead of wanting to change him.   We hugged goodbye and as it turns out, it was the last time we ever met. This test was over and I’d graduated. Challenging people and situations will remain in our lives until we see what we needed to learn about ourselves from them.

Now and then a student will ask me for a sign that they are progressing on the spiritual path.  My teacher, renowned spiritual leader  Sri Ravi Shankar ( taught me that there are three key measures of  spiritual progress yet the greatest is the ability to maintain an unshakable smile – come what may.

#1: Perception: One afternoon Sri Sri asked a group of us, “How do you perceive the world and people around you?”  It got me thinking.  I remembered all the times I’d said to someone , “You made me feel so (fill in the blank)! “ and we had a fight or I pulled away and felt sorry for myself. I thought about numerous  times I’d ensured a sleepless night from something someone said, or lashed out without thinking in an email just to regret it later after learning the full scope of the situation.

Giving people and situations power over our state of mind makes us weak. After stepping foot on the spiritual path  my perspective about myself, people and the world around me has expanded considerably.  I started looking at the patterns in my own mind instead of blaming people or circumstances for how I felt emotionally. Sri Sri’s knowledge about the human tendency to label ourselves and others helped me to realize that I’d put myself and others into small compartments based on limited concepts. I wondered how many times I’d limited myself and others by not looking at the whole person and situation through a wider lens.

perceptionOnce I started using the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique and meditating daily I found people seemed nicer and life moved along easier with more grace. I soon  realized it was my perception that was changing,  not the world. I started seeing people and events in life from a much broader perspective. I felt more compassion,love, a sense of belonging with people and stopped expecting anything in return. I was becoming happier and happier.

A very effective, fast and simple technique to remain calm, cool and collected and maintain a proper perspective is to take a few deep breaths before responding to any situation or person who pushes our buttons. Polishing the nervous system each day with rhythmic breathing and meditation like the Sudarshan Kriya removes the stress, negative impressions, habits and flavors of consciousness (victim, aloof, attack, defense, fear)  that cause us to shrink  and become unnatural.  A key result is that human values such as; compassion, friendliness, harmony and enthusiasm flourish in our lives.

Becoming familiar and applying the knowledge from the ancient text, Patanjali Yoga Sutras (The ancient sage Patanjali is considered the father of Yoga)  is another great tool. The more we understand the mechanics of our own mind the more empowered we are to manage it.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutras

When your perception of how you perceive others and yourself shifts, you’re making spiritual progress.

To be continued


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Patti Montella
Senior Faculty Member, Art of Living Foundation sharing the teachings of renowned spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.