“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
We think of Perseverance as tenacity, patience, endurance, persistence, steadfast commitment, resilience, sticking it out, and refusing to quit. We apply it to achieving a goal and getting through all of the obstacles that may get in our way in the pursuit of it. Perseverance is a word that typically talks about survival and achievement. We need it to survive and achieve in this world. We would be broken without it. We would be defeated.
Perseverance implies grit and effort.
I see Perseverance as: Perspective. I see it as “playing the long game.” The focus of spiritual Perseverance is your soul, with the life that you are currently leading representing a tiny scene in your soul’s overall story. In exercising patience and keeping instant gratification at bay, we can persevere in our awakening— and we may even be able to do it without all the grit and effort that worldly pursuits require.
In the state of Perseverance, setbacks are opportunities for growth. What doesn’t kill us can kick our ass for sure, but we also become wiser because of it.
With Perseverance, we know that there are no short cuts. We avoid the temptation of quick fixes. We prepare for the long haul, always ready to zig or zag as necessary in the context of not getting lured off track by shiny objects or promises of instant awakening.
I see Perseverance as: Valuing process. Perseverance expects that a natural ebb and flow of setback and acceleration will occur in going towards whatever goal we are focusing on. Both are part of the bigger process. Perseverance says, “A pearl doesn’t pop up overnight.” Perseverance also recognizes that, inside that oyster, what we think will become a pearl may shape into something completely different.
In valuing process, Perseverance knows that methods and outcomes can change. There is a misperception that the element of Perseverance is inflexible. When we practice Spiritual Perseverance, we allow for adjustments but know that, in the long run, our goals and efforts must serve the soul. We don’t persevere in banging our head against the wall for very long.
I see Perseverance as: Letting go. When we glean knowledge from something that happened to us and then let it go, we are free to carry on. When we release the bitterness and resentment that may come with setback, our load is lighter. Less grit is necessary.
I see Perseverance as: Acceptance. When we are not resisting and not trying to “will” a situation away or into being, we accept it and deal with it. Then we go past it.
I see Perseverance as: Affirmation. We can say, “I Will Persevere!” and still acknowledge that difficulties have and will occur. We are also acknowledging that we have resources and that we have choices in addressing those difficulties. We acknowledge that we have faced and survived difficulties before and can handle them when they come again.
With Perseverance we can say, “I took oppression. I took pain. I had setbacks and they made me stronger. I gained wisdom and I found Truth.”
Perseverance is being our Truth and not varying from that or otherwise righting our course. When our Truth is known and it is clear to us, being who we really are is not difficult at all. Forces outside of ourselves, however, make Perseverance about survival and struggle (for example, we must Persevere in complying with our family’s desires or what social convention expects of us to be doing even if we don’t want to). Getting past these forces, however, will help us to know more about who we really are.
Perseverance is simply being our consistent Truth.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That is what the storm is all about.” -Haruki Murakami
A Long Process
Those who find themselves on a path of spiritual growth and awakening are in for a long process. Some will make a conscious choice of walking this path, while others will feel thrown into it by some major life event that has jarred their soul. Most will have no idea of what may lie ahead on their journey. Many will uncover otherwise unknown childhood wounds, or wounds they thought had long-since been resolved. Many will face their deepest fears and others will make life changes they never imagined they would make. Most will explore many modalities of healing and guidance as they walk their path towards spiritual growth.
Most will come to view their spiritual journey as a lifelong process. Even when they feel comfortable in having found their Truth, they will continue to march on, fine-tuning their authentic self and Service to the world and being alert to ways they can apply their Truth in new and exciting ways.
The process of personal growth is different for everyone. For most, it entails what many counselors call “doing the work. “The work” regards exploring any and all avenues of self-discovery and Healing. It often involves unlearning much of who or what we thought we were. We learn about how our minds work and we learn how our thoughts are not really us in our essence. They’re merely experiences happening inside of us, like the passing of clouds. Through doing “the work,” we learn about self-limiting beliefs, fear-based reactions and what thoughts and experiences trigger reaction of some form or another within us.
We may uncover powerful unconscious false beliefs having to do with inadequacy. We may discover trauma trapped inside our bodies. Many unprocessed emotions may get healed as we do “the work” as well. As we heal them, they may exit noisily and painfully or leave us in a subtle way, like a soft breeze.
Some spiritual seekers will endure one or more “Dark Nights of the Soul,” profound periods of purging of pain, trauma and limiting beliefs. In the “Dark Night of the Soul,” a person can feel like a dishrag being twisted and squeezed. They may ask “Why me?” or “When will this end?” While all this is happening, however, there is another part of that person that pushes forward. This part sees the good in this pain that is being released. That part does not turn away from the pain. Perseverance pushes us through. This is “spiritual grit” that, like sandpaper, will keep coming back for deeper levels of purging, cleansing and Healing.
At the same time, others not going through the debilitating but temporary “Dark Night” experiences may just be trying to get through the “daily grind.” For them, going to work, paying bills, working on relationship and handling mini-crises is what is being Persevered. Life can be a harsh and sadistic trudge through the monotony of everyday life. There can be many moments of losing hope along the way.
While we may feel defeated in either one of the scenarios listed above, in reality we are not because Perseverance will push us forward. The spiritual work we do gives us hope, strength and clarity, even if it is only in tiny nuggets sometimes, like little breadcrumbs which reveal the path.
While exploring the darkness that each of us carries, sometimes we get to see the Light. We see and feel moments of Divinity. We may experience these moments right when we need them: A traffic jam at the end of a long day at the office takes you on a detour past a children’s parade. Or they may come to us when we thought we were already broken, such as being the recipient of an act of kindness just when we thought all was lost.
Eventually, as we persevere in our spiritual path, doing our personal work starts to become a way of life; it becomes a journey of constant healing and exploration. Perseverance also becomes less necessary as we continue to learn and grow along this path. Consistently now, we see the big picture and the longer game. We feel at home wherever we are. Indeed, we are going home to the innate Divinity that has been there all along and which gently calls us.
Perseverance, which we used for what felt like the constant struggle to survive in the practical world, can now be an aid for a consistently peaceful way of being.
In the process of awakening to one’s Truth, taking the easy route and actually arriving there is rare. Shortcuts should be scrutinized and resisted for the most part. Shortcuts can be seen for what they are: temptation to not do the work, to not Persevere. False gurus that promise the short road to enlightenment prey upon such temptations. They will gladly charge your credit card as they help you to avoid the work involved in true personal discovery.
Perseverance means doing the work and avoiding shortcuts.
“I know you are tired, but come, this is the way.” -Rumi
When Do We Quit?
Perseverance tells us not to quit. Yet the reality is that we do need to shift direction at times as we continue on our path. Perseverance doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It is informed by Reason, Wisdom and Intuition. We may shift gears or directions slightly as we walk our path and as we continue to pursue our Truth. False trails and diversions that stray us too far off this path may indeed be what we will want to “quit” at times so that we can Persevere in experiencing our greater, authentic Truth.
Take caution when considering quitting. As souls whose mission on Earth is to learn and grow, we can never really quit our path of personal discovery. Yet even in Healing work, we need to take breaks every now and then. We may need to shift from one Healing guide to another. We may need some time to absorb the work we have just completed. Part of “the work” is to question any such shifts and ask ourselves if our motivations are guided by avoidance or fear. Many counseling clients “quit” right when they get to the tough stuff that could lead to major breakthrough.
When we quit a job or a career that once called to us, we want to do a double check to make sure that there are no other dynamics at work that are pushing us away from our Truth. Social convention and concerned and well-meaning family and friends may steer us to take more practical paths than what our Truth is calling us to do. Under duress and looking for external validation, we might decide to quit. In trying times, we can be very susceptible to turning the other cheek to what might just be our Truth calling. Right on cue, the ego will inevitably chime in with a narrative to justify us in quitting.
Are we quitting when we leave a relationship that no longer serves us? Outside of threatening relationships, we again want to use discernment. Relationships often end when one person “quits” growing and avoids doing personal work. The other person can encourage and support their beloved, but ultimately each has to follow their own Truth.
To leave or not to leave isn’t really the question. The question is: What are my personal Truth and my own Intuitive guidance trying to tell me at this time?
Normalizing the Urge to Quit
Having thoughts and feelings of wanting to quit is normal. We all do it. For me, I find it to be part of the process of Perseverance. Wanting to quit and declaring it to the world can be a form of venting, of re-motivating ourselves and fine-tuning our path.
If I have feelings of wanting to quit, I acknowledge them without judgment. I breathe. I inquire with friendly curiosity. I ask, “What is this about?”
Then I let it sit. In the Stillness, I see what answers emerge.
In doing this, sometimes the feelings subside and Optimism emerges along with new strategies on how to deal with the challenge in the practical world. Often I recommit to my path. Most of the time, what I discover is that I just needed to take the time to process the feelings of frustration and impatience and the desire to control outcomes.
Perseverance is about being able to sit with whatever feelings may come up. With Perseverance, we learn that we can tolerate and survive our emotions. In doing so, we realize their natural process. More than likely, they will soon move out and make room for something new.
“Sometimes you crawl out of bed in the morning and you think,’ I‘m not going to make it,’ but [then] you laugh and remember all the times you felt that way.” -Charles Bukowski
In the big picture of our spiritual growth, patience is Perseverance 101. I think of patience as short-term Perseverance whereby we are tasked with persevering through rather slight inconveniences like the desire for immediate gratification.
If there is one basic skill that those on a spiritual path can learn to develop, patience would be it. If you don’t have patience in the short term, then you may have a lot of work to do. This doesn’t mean that we can’t effect change quickly or have that as a goal. We can, however, learn Acceptance and self-control when dealing with life’s day-to-day challenges.
We can do this by learning to be okay with waiting and by being Still. We can Persevere with patience through the minor inconvenience of everyday life. Patience teaches us how to Persevere in this way.
The Marshmallow Test
There have been many variations on the famous study of human behavior often referred to as The Marshmallow Test. In the study, children were offered a choice of eating one marshmallow immediately or waiting a little bit and receiving a second marshmallow as a reward for waiting. The children were then left alone with a single marshmallow.
Some kids ate the marshmallow immediately, while others waited in a tortured fashion. Some calmly bided their time, not even acknowledging the marshmallow waiting to be eaten. This was a study in “delaying gratification.” Some might say it was also a test in patience, in Perseverance and the children’s ability to see the bigger picture.
Follow up research since the initial Marshmallow Test has shown that those who can delay gratification have better coping skills and better satisfaction in life overall.
We as humans are constantly bombarded with versions of The Marshmallow Test. We often dive towards immediate gratification at the expense of some big-picture payoff. The ego loves quick fixes. The irony is that the longer we chase immediate gratification, the longer we put off that bigger pay-off. In spiritual terms, the bigger payoff is the awakening to who we really are and our True calling in the world.
If we Persevere past the desire for immediate gratification and any pain associated with it, we begin to see that bigger payoff more clearly. We realize that no number of marshmallows outside of ourselves is ever going surpass the sweetness of the Divinity that is available within.
When we realize that true satisfaction never comes from something outside of ourselves, there is little left to Persevere through.
“I am thankful for my struggle for without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled across my path”
Even when we are not in a life-threatening situation, we can still feel that we are engaged in a constant struggle. We can feel like our life “just isn’t right” so we search for something that will make it right. We might feel that we are Persevering, in a manner of speaking, but in reality it may mean just barely getting by financially, emotionally and spiritually. We can become defeated or we can cling to the hope that there is something outside of ourselves that will make everything alright.
We are searching for the Holy Grail when…SPOILER ALERT!…Guess what? We are the Holy Grail. I repeat:
We are the Holy Grail!
And when we know that, we know our most basic Truth and there isn’t much option but to Persevere. We realize that any obstacles that we encounter along our path are just situations to be dealt with. Likewise, any struggle we might feel internally is merely resistance to our Truth and the plans the Universe might have for us. With Perseverance, we are sticking to our Truth and accepting the plans of the Universe. And when we do so, we struggle less and Serve others more. Smiling, we march on.
We Are Not Alone
Perseverance allows for the help, aid and Nurturance of others. Perseverance does not have to be an isolated, white-knuckle endeavor. We raise a hand. We make a call. We can say: “I am struggling right now. I need help.” We know the friends to go to, those with the Empathetic ears. We seek professional help if we feel we need to.
Perseverance recognizes that there will be times when we do need help. And it takes advantage of all resources available. It rallies the troops. It gathers the tribe. It summons the healers. We get reminded by those who love us, and those who Serve, of who we truly are. We are the Holy Grail.
“Ask for help, not because you are weak, but because you want to remain strong.” -Les Brown
Truth is directly connected to Perseverance. Truth represents what Perseverance is designed to pursue and stay on track for. Perseverance is about always remembering our Truth.
Optimism serves to support Perseverance and our efforts to stay on track towards our Truth despite difficulties. So do the elements of Courage, Faith, and Freewill.
Joy allows us to appreciate small miracles of daily life as we Persevere through our daily struggles.
Non-attachment and Acceptance both support Perseverance by helping us to let go of other people’s expectations for our lives so that we may accept our Truth and stay on track. Perseverance means staying on track.
Perseverance is always informed by Reason, Wisdom and Intuition. These elements serve to guide Perseverance, hinting towards adjustments and warning against false distractions.
Simplicity removes complications from our lives so that we may focus our Energy on Perseverance.
Non-attachment helps us to Simplify, which makes the journey of Perseverance so much easier.
Through Nurturance in terms of self-care of the Body, we can manage stress better and can better Persevere in pursuing our Truth.
Light gives us Light-ness so that we may ease up on ourselves during times of challenge.
Wonder allows us to learn from each struggle we encounter and entices us to Persevere to learn about what may wait around the corner.
Prayer is a steadfast action of support during times of trial. It serves to silence the mind, ground us and hear our Truth.
- Know your Truth (see the element of Truth for more information) in order to persevere in pursuing and nurturing it.
- Practice Patience. Spend one day a week noticing all of the times when you feel impatient. Acknowledge the feelings of impatience as they occur, without judgment. Say to yourself: “I am feeling impatient now as I am standing in the grocery checkout line, since it seems to be moving slowly.” Discern other possible responses to each situation besides being impatient. On the other hand, simply allow the feelings of impatience to be and watch them as they eventually dissipate or heighten.Notice and discern the same for any thoughts or feelings relating to wanting immediate gratification.
- Take a survey of any parts of your life that feel like a struggle. What is the source of the opposition? How might the sense of struggle be lessened by having a different perspective or taking a specific action? Are you concerned with pleasing others or with social convention?
- When in doubt, write it out! Write down all of the things you stand to gain by persevering in a particular life struggle. Whenever you feel like quitting, whip out this list.
- Practice self-care (see Body and Nurturance). Allow yourself to take breaks on your path.
- Count your blessings. Express Gratitude for them.
- Ask for help when appropriate.
I Am Pure Energy, Peace At This Moment, Courageous And Willfully Present.
It is Okay to Feel Tired and Weary as I Seek My Truth.
Let Me Rest, Let Me Recover, Let Me Persevere.
I Accept What the Universe Has Planned For Me.
I Am The Holy Grail.