Ups and downs on the spiritual path - reasons for the downs

solo's picture

Average: 4.9 (17 votes)

We all are familiar with the difficult fact that our spiritual journey is full of ups and downs, great achievements and then terrible setbacks, extreme quietness and tranquility and then distress and anxiety; aloofness and then the attachements and desire suddenly return; and above all, great belief and trust and conectedness and then complete disbelief and skepticism.

If there is something that can be said about the spiritual path, it is that this path is not linear. It is a ferris wheel or rather a roller coaster, sometimes a frightening and cruel one in which you sometimes find yourself returning to the exact same starting point.

I would like to start this discussion to think together what are the prime reasons for these ups and downs so that we could maybe make our journey more efficient.

Please share what you think the reasons for these ups and downs are. Please explain or share related experiences that support your opinion.

mika's picture


The informed and obvious reason for the downs in the spiritual progress that usually follow the ups is... expectations.

A dominant part of the nature of the mind is to try to prolong, fixate, and enhance anything that it perceives as an achievement. This reaction is called expectations.

Expectations immediately block or at least deviate the natural flow. Moreover, they are the opposite of surrender and acceptance of what is which are a must to spiritual progress. The mind which believes that it knows what good spoils the natural divine happening and transforms the whole agenda into a desire... a desire to have again or forever what I already managed to gain and even increase it.. which is a desire to control... this is expectations... and boom, no wonder, when they take charge after some spiritual achievement, everything collapses.

It can be a good meditation session, it can be a deepening of consciousness, it can be supernatural things happening around, it can be satori experiences, it can be opening of the heart, or bliss, or complete stillness -> desire that this will last = expectations -> mind becomes strong and agitated, pressure, control, end of surrender -> the blessed experience or state is eliminated.

mika | Fri, 08/12/2011 - 12:04
alon's picture

Processing sometimes looks like a spiritual down

I agree with you mika, expectations (which is a type of control) is one of the worst enemies of the spiritual aspirant.

I would add another factor that causes the downs after the ups: anyone who is engaged in meditation knows that "good meditation" is not necessarily one which is quiet and tranquil. Actually when you are most vigil and concentrated in meditation, subconscious opens and old painful impressions pop up. When this happens, many think that they have gone back while this release of old samskaras is a great progress.

The bottom line is that one usually cannot evaluate what is a progress and what is a withdrawal and so must accept whatever happens, observe it and let things happen as they are (his/her guru, on the other hand, might be able to determine whether the happening is a progress/withdrawal and advise accordingly - this is actually the main function of the guru)

alon | Fri, 08/12/2011 - 19:20
divine intervention's picture

ping pong with the mind

The spiritual development is one long ping pong match with the mind. When the minds feels that it is about to lose, it gathers all resources at its disposal and launches a counter attack. These are the regressions we witness after successful progress in our development.

divine intervention | Tue, 08/16/2011 - 04:34
lalo's picture

Attachment to spiritual achivments

Thank you for this important thread. Yes, the downs after the ups...

Clearly, the reason is the addictive tendency of the mind to try to perpetuate every achievement. Once there is an achievement, the egoic mind immediately develop an attachment as it always does. But as we know, all true spiritual achievements are of beyond the mind, when there is no mind, when there is a weak mind. And this trial of the mind to preserve the attached achievements strengthen the mind and the achievement is lost. A vicious circle...

lalo | Sat, 08/20/2011 - 17:08
nancy pro's picture

Because achievements are important to you

We bring to the spirituality elements from our daily life that are contradictive to spiritual growth. Somtimes we notice it and drop them, sometimes we invent ideologies to keep them and we get stuck and many times we are simply not aware of them.

Such harmful conducts are for example: trying to make money out of spirituality (there are endless arguments why this should not make any difference but it does), abstaining from doing meditation, and yes... setting goals and targeting achievements, having our sadhana as a means.

Once you celebrate achievements, you immediately have to prepare for the disappointments and failures. You have adopted a system and this system has two sides, you can't have one side without the other.

Just drop the desire for achievements, understand that spiritual practice is both the means and the end.

nancy pro | Sun, 08/21/2011 - 09:30
anderlaus's picture

Mind tries to control whatever you are aware of

As soon as you achieve awareness of something fundamental - a certain painful feeling, a thought pattern, reactions and so on - the mind immediately tries to control them without you being aware of that reaction. This is the way the mind works. This control of the mind, if achieved, sets you back immediately after you advanced in your process of awareness.

There is more detail about this and the remedies to this pullback in the process in:

anderlaus | Mon, 08/22/2011 - 07:23
doo's picture

The other side of the same coin

The one who cares about the ups will get also the downs. Let go the attachment to achievements, especially in the spiritual realm and you will get free from the failures.

doo | Wed, 08/31/2011 - 19:31
atlantis's picture

The pattern of the body+mind

Change, dualism and polarity, ups and downs are the very core nature of the body and mind. Currently, we all take ourselves to be the body+mind (despite momentary insights and intellectual understanding that we are not). Hence, we have these spiritual ups and downs.

Even Mother Theresa had a huge spiritual down, here:,9171,1655720,00.html

atlantis | Wed, 10/05/2011 - 05:38
happy together's picture

External factors

It's not only the person (body+mind) that governs what happens to him on the spiritual path )or on any other type of path(, it's also and mainly zillion external factors, after all, everything is interconnected. Thus sometimes in spite of all best intentions, the person is supposed to progress but goes backwards because of these strong external factors.

happy together | Fri, 10/21/2011 - 19:51
happybondi's picture

shed some light in the darkness...

sometimes what appears to be a down, is really our capability to look further into the VOID and find some opportunity to shed some light. We have successfully broken some barrier, which creates a feeling of deeper love and elation and success... This vulnerability exposes another layer within ourselves and leaves another opening for the world outside. Which can be experienced as a down, because we were not expecting that. It is not as much to do with the mind alone, the mind is merely a tool.

Spiritual path is about YOU as a spirit being. Or I as the spirit being. The mind is a tool, our friend to assist us on the path. We can find many ways to understand the mind, it is in our best interest to use this powerful tool, with the breath and the feeling heart and allow it to creates its own meaning, being aware. Not limit or judge the mind. The intuitive self, or the subconscious self creates our inner reality and the conscious self observes the outer reality.

Spiritual path is about being the essence that is the Truth within us, it is created in each moment and in each moment we choose. Breath, In and Out. We have our five senses to exist in the world, our consciousness to drive the body to be a part of the world, to create the experiences that from our own knowing take us to where we would like to go. Our Spirit always guides our experiences, to experience the highest of joys possible within the human body. How much of that we understand is a very personal experience and thats the journey.

Each person has the choice to experience whatever they choose. There is no judgement in your own truth. Even for bad choices, or when it seems there are no choices.

On one extreme we have infinite possibilities and on another there is nothing but the VOID. Both are equally unfruitful, because we have to keep moving and making choices that is the journey and the destination. Each step, you cant stop breathing, right so you have to keep moving. If you are stagnant for too long, it will be difficult. And life will make you move. Sometimes you can grow and cultivate your energy and thats movement. There are many ways to view this.

But the journey of the spiritual path seeks to find itself in Bliss on the path that leads closest to whats most Natural. So if anyone seeks, they find. We are all part of the same higher being, and more we live in our truth the closer we are to the Spirit in all things. A sunflower looks like a sunflower and a bee looks like a bee, they are free in the spirit of life given to them. We are free in our spirit, as natural humans living in a modern world.

happybondi | Sat, 01/07/2012 - 04:18