5 Common Mistakes People Make on Their Spiritual Journey

“I still have a long way to go, but I’m already so far from where I used to be, and I’m proud of that.” ~Unknown

Just like any student, I’ve made mistakes throughout my spiritual journey. Although I prefer to see mistakes as learning opportunities, below are a few things I’ve learned not to do through my years of meditation and detox weekends and constant effort to stay on the divine side of life.

1. Constantly looking for answers externally

When I started meditating regularly, I experienced heightened intuition. Triggered by this, I constantly tried to find signs to guide every decision I made. While waiting for 11:11, feeling a butterfly landing on my shoulder, or simply finding a four-leafed clover, I was trying to find the answer outside.

I went from one spiritual teacher to another, trying to find the one who would give me the “answer.” This “the universe owe me an explanation” mind-set paralyzed me from being self-sufficient in determining my own life direction.

You know what finally works? The regular sit down, close your eyes, and focus on your breath method. Yes, that good ole technique. Apparently our heart always knows the answer, but our minds are often too clouded to listen.

2. Thinking I am above those who are “unenlightened”

When I first started on my spiritual path, I condemned those who didn’t meditate. I didn’t like hanging around those who could not keep up in conversations about positive energy and the law of attraction. I thought of them as unfortunate mortals who would never live the fulfilling life I was living.

But then I met unspiritual people who are warmer and nicer than many spiritual people I know. Although they never keep a gratitude journal, they’re happy and contended with their life. They might not consciously choose to walk in the path of love, but they are demonstrating every aspect of having it in abundance.

I figured out that spirituality is not about how much you know about chakras or how cruelty-free your diet is. It’s about how you have incorporated positivity in your life, sometimes even without realizing it.

3. Being attached to your spiritual practice

A year ago, I joined a walking meditation class. We were advised to practice it every day, but the lazy me often failed to do so. Then I would feel bad about myself, so I eventually stopped doing it altogether because I didn’t want to be reminded of my failure.

Did you ever start a daily meditation ritual to reduce your anxiety, only to be even more anxious on days when you couldn’t find time to meditate? It was kind of like that.

When we rely on rituals to feel better about ourselves, sometimes we become too attached to them. Next time you’re doing your daily meditation, ask yourself, are you doing it out of self-love or out of fear of not doing it?

One easy way to answer this is to observe whether you’re meditating as an act of self-care or so you can feel good about checking it off your to-do list.

The key to healthy spiritual practices is doing it to enhance your well-being, not for a sense of accomplishment or to build your self-worth.

Do you remember the cliché but true saying “When you truly love someone, you love them in spite of their shortcomings, not only because of their good qualities”? Now I feel enough despite not doing my rituals, not because of my rituals.

So what if I don’t have thirty minutes to spend in silence today? I realize I am still the functional, magnificent creature I am. It’s just that when I do spend the thirty minutes focusing on my breath, it even further boosts my already awesome self.

4. Doing good things just to feel significant

This is just another form of attachment, although from the outside it looks very positive. Yes, your surroundings would probably benefit from this. However, have you ever gotten angry because someone rejected your nice gesture? If yes, then that’s your issue.

You felt that way because you weren’t doing it for them, you were doing it for you. Maybe you hoped they would pay you back, or maybe you were using them as a tool to rack up good karma.

I too was guilty of this. A few months into my first job out of college, I really wanted to be liked and wanted to “spread love.” I would send long, overly nice emails to my colleagues—which turned out to be ineffective, since it took a lot of time to read them. Also, I would voluntarily help people without assessing whether my assistance would benefit or burden them.

In my fourth month, I was wondering “Why am I not loved by everyone already?” In retrospect, I suspect they could smell my insincerity and felt uncomfortable about it.

The key to doing good deeds is remembering you are doing it for others, thus your focus should be on them, not you.

5. Thinking of spirituality as a destination, not a journey

I have met many spiritually enlightened gurus, and none have claimed that they’re done with improving themselves. Spirituality is a long, ever-changing journey.

I used to believe that if I were spiritually awakened, no bad things would ever happen to me again. I would never feel sad, only be surrounded by nice people, and from there on life would always feel positive.

I could not be more wrong. Spirituality is not about suppressing or diminishing your dark side. Spirituality is about raising your mindfulness to a level where you can always make the conscious choice to do the right thing, in spite of what happens and what you’re feeling.

Along the spiritual journey, you will finally accept that you always have options. And that, my friend, is the true meaning of freedom.

About Fransiska Dewi

Fransiska is corporate hippie who is balancing her conservative job in an insurance company with her love for spirituality and self-development. She is heavily meditated and could be found posting too much food pictures on Instagram.

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  • ZEN

    Very helpful advise. I’ve just started meditating 2 weeks ago. It would help me a lot. many thanks

  • They honest article. I am guilty of number 2, and I try to out myself in other peoples shoes (when I remember) so I don’t get carried away. Luckily for me, I was bought up cynically, so I natually don’t believe that people are always nice…which means that when they are (which is sometimes…;-) it’s a nice change;-)
    I read somewhere once, that spirituality should enhance your life, not be escaping to it, and I completely agree with it. These days, I spend 5 minutes to mindfully meditate, which I’ve noticed has also helped my intuition. Thanks for posting

  • I definitely agree that meditation more than any other practice has helped brought an inner peace and tranquility to my life. I’ve a coworker who explodes at other people from time to time, taking out his frustration out on them or answering questions in a somewhat demeaning tone. Before practicing meditation on a consistent daily basis, you can be sure I would be stewing mad for hours or even days at this guy. Now, I am able to most of the time just put him out of my mind minutes after his offensive behavior. Talk about a big change.

  • Meditation develops that unshakeable and unconditioned spaciousness that is your True Self, Buddha Mind (bodhicitta) and that is the realization of the spiritual path. When you are well-established in that state, your natural mind, then you are able to connect completely with whatever you come into contact with through the senses, and when you connect consciously in this way you will discover the natural true happiness of the Buddha within you.

  • Davey

    Maybe one day you’ll actually realize that he doesn’t understand he is offensive, and wants to be your friend.

  • Aliana

    Thanks for your thoughtful advice! I’ve been a follower of Tiny Buddha for many years now and always appreciate the articles. However, I find it incredibly unprofessional to add comments like “Just like vegans who throw blood-colored paint on celebrities wearing fur coats…” I am a vegan of many years and actually attribute part of my spiritual practice to my abstinence of eating animals and animal products. Comments like this only stigmatize people who are standing up against an incredibly cruel and violent practice. PLUS, the only instance that anyone had red paint thrown on them was done at a demonstration led by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with fur coats that were donated to them and were only thrown on the demonstrators who were part of the demonstration. It is actually illegal to throw paint on someone and harass them. Please try and eliminate hateful/untruthful discourse from your articles.

    I also see in your bio that you spend time a vegan cafes, so why make comments like that?

    I hope you are able to understand my frustration,

  • BellaTerra66

    2 and 3 are right on. 🙂

  • sian e lewis

    most thoughtful good psychology. However, I would like to differ on point 2 ‘cruelty free’ is vital. How can a person who is truly spiritual, tolerate the suffering of an innocent animal?

  • beth jones

    Thanks for this. The part about Being Attached to the Spiritual Practice really hit home. When I analyzed my “whys” I realized it was because I was “supposed to” do some things and didn’t want to disappoint others by not doing them.

  • Samuel

    All five really ticked a box. Great writing,
    Honest and really to the point. Will def keep this in mind to avoid future “mistakes”.

  • It is important to be detached to the mental noise of spirituality. Let the mind stop for a while or at least just watch the thoughts – this will lead you to real spiritual practice – one that connects with being and not with thought.

  • MoontanCats

    Possibly he is trying to bolster himself by trying to big up as they say. Talk to him, perhaps he needs that connection with others. I used to fly off the handle at times both at home and at work. Neither of these places were the problem – I was hiding a secret that I felt would be the end of me if any other person knew this about me. Be kind and gentle. It is the right thing to do.

  • Yes, I’ve been told it’s a cultural thing, being that he’s from the east coast. They won’t hesitate to let you know they are mad. Apparently, they will blow up and then 5 minutes later, they are the best of friends with you again. Out here on the west coast, it’s more mellow and touchy-feely. The next time he comes on site and blows up at me, I plan to pull him aside and have a chat.

  • Fransiska Dewi

    Hi Zen, yes good luck with your meditation practice, it surely would helps a lot! 🙂

  • Fransiska Dewi

    Hi Sian, yes, as someone is progressing spiritually, he/she would tend to go towards cruelty-free diet. However, the diet itself is not the main point, the point is love and positivity – which encompass many aspects of life. And some are just a bit ‘late’ in diet side (limited choices in living area? family resistance?) but already radiates so much positivity & spirituality in other aspects 🙂

  • sierra

    one of the hardest challenges we go through is the war between our heart and our mind.. i find it especially hard when i get caught up in the “should’s’ of my life, rather than just going with my own flow. one thing i’ve learned on my spiritual path that i try to remind myself daily, is to not compare my beginning to someone else’s middle.

  • Great article Fransiska. Number one is something that i constantly struggle with. In our quest to be different and produce epic things, I struggle with measuring myself to everyone else to ensure i am being different. Instead, starting from within has been a lot less stressful. I have found that internalizing the small moments of happiness throughout the day helps me put into perspective that my happiness can be found in my own

  • cms

    What is/was the significance of 11:11?

  • Diana

    I FINALLY got around to reading this. What took me so long? Absolutely loved it. Proud of you girl!!

  • Thanks, girl!! Better late than never, glad you love it! 😉