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There is no right or wrong way to live. There is only life, experience, and the wisdom gained through living. But by nature, we are designed to seek comfort, become bored with comfort, seek adventure, and seek comfort again. It keeps us busy, gets us in trouble, helps us procreate (often connected with getting into trouble), and forces us to continue to experience life and gain more wisdom.

Most of us tend to learn the hard way, for a while. But sooner or later we begin to catch on and learn what makes us happy, what keeps us safe, what makes us bored, and what gets us into trouble.

But along the way, in the process of learning what we need to know, we tend to pick up a lot of stuff we don’t need, like fear, anger, sadness, and other unpleasantness. We can accumulate quite a bundle, and for a while it can seem like the more we have, the more we attract.

At some point, when we’ve had lots of ups and downs, and have a big bundle of stuff stuck to us, we get so we can’t budge. It gets hard to connect with ourselves and other people, because of all the stuff in the way. We’re what the psychologists call “stuck”.

Because we’ve picked up some religion or spiritual training along the way, we might say to God, “Help!”. “Get me out of this mess.” “Help me feel love.”

That’s when things start to get really interesting. And by interesting, I mean more difficult, and more painful. There we are with all our accumulated stuff, saying “Help me get through the door to love”. And life responds by going “Hell yeah! Let’s clear that stuff so you can”.

The tricky part is that the only way to move the stuff off is by calling it to our attention, so we can release it. So life starts to trigger our fear, anger, sadness, whatever, over, and over, and over. It’s the answer to our prayer, but it doesn’t feel much like it.

Our stuff gets triggered repeatedly, up in our face, precisely so we can be aware of it, and let it go. But because we’re trained to seek comfort, instead of getting present with what’s coming up, looking at it, and releasing it, we avoid feeling it any way possible. Neurotic behavior, drugs, alcohol, compulsions, overeating, talking too much… we’ll do whatever can distract us from the pain. And that keeps us stuck longer. For a while we can sort of cover over the stuff, dress it up, make it look pretty. But it’s still there, and it always comes back.

So here’s what I’ve learned about all this. The best way to make progress on a spiritual path is to watch for your stuff, and when you feel it, face it. Look at it, breathe, and let it go. It all happens in the heart, and it’s a lot of work.

It’s totally worth it.

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With over 40 years of study, training and experience, Max Highstein holds M.A degrees in both Psychology, and Spiritual Psychology. He is internationally acclaimed for his award winning, bestselling guided meditations, and for his private sessions, courses, and workshops. Max draws upon intuitive gifts and dynamic spiritual support to help clients see blind spots, release blocks, and make a positive shift. Max Highstein’’s lifelong commitment to fostering personal growth, inner healing, and spiritual connection can be experienced in the more than 50 original programs and courses offered at his Healing Waterfall Website ( and at his counseling website,

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This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Max Highstein – great advice. It brings to mind the expression tow things, “What you resist persists,” and, the work of Arthur Janov (Primal Scream). Thanks for the wake-up call!

    1. Max Highstein – great advice. It brings to mind the two things, “What you resist persists,” and, the work of Arthur Janov (Primal Scream). Thanks for the wake-up call!

    2. Thank you, very much Max Highstein…I really enjoyed and learned from reading your article from beginning to the end . Also, I agree with what Werner Berger said…what you resist, persist?

  2. You can’t possibly know how much this article means to me. I plan to print it out and re-read it every time I need to, which I suspect will be everyday for at least the next year. It has been 4 years since my mother’s death. I only came out of my deep grief and mourning last year. Also last year, I had surgery to repair and reattach my retinas, so that I would not become blind. I became extremely debilitated following that surgery, and I was unable to get back on my feet for over 8 months, even though I was used to hiking 9-12 miles everyday and even though I had been theretofore in almost perfect health. The past year of being unable to function gave me a great deal of time to reflect on life. I came to a great many realizations.

    I am an only child, and I have no family. Trying to get through the loss of my parents – and in particular – my beloved mother, who has always been the heart and soul of my life, has been nothing short of a tremendously painful struggle, even with the help of a grief support group. I simply could not bear to deal with important and timely things, like selling my parents’ house and furnishings – or anything else that moved into a future without them. They moved into that house when I was 2. Almost all of my most precious memories are in that house. Everywhere I look, I see my parents and grandparents. Selling their house and furnishings feels to me like selling them and the life we shared, throwing it away in a sense. But, I realized last year that I can’t move forward into my own future unless I do that. I spend so much time, energy, and money maintaining that home and property, including making expensive repairs, to honor my parents and the life we shared. The house is much nicer than my own, but in an area where don’t want to live, and it is a 2-story house, which was a nightmare for my parents when they grew older and which would be the same for me. So, I have come to realize that I MUST sell it. Fear, sadness, and guilt have kept me from facing what I must do – until I was so ill and I realized that, if I were to die at that point, I would do so with many years left unfulfilled and many dreams left behind, as well as leaving my property and my parents’ property to go to the state. Ironically, the terrible debilitation brought me out of my daze of grief and mourning and made me take a new perspective of my entire life.

    I realized, among other things that I fear moving into a future without my mother, because, in part, I have no one, and I see an empty desert in that future. I simply don’t know what to to at age 67 without any family and being very alone. I don’t know what might await me in the future, but it is very frightening to face at this age. I’m certain that is one reason I have been unable to take care of estate matters. If I sell their house, then I have to admit that my mother isn’t coming back, and I have to walk into the unknown future alone. Fear is a terribly powerful master. I wish I had never met it. So, thank you for giving me that realization. Now that I’m more aware of what have kept me immobilized for 4 years, I might be able to deal with it when it rears its ugly head and then move on.

    Thanks again for this most important article I have read in over 3 years. I know that it will help me as I forge through this uncharted land.

    1. Well, Janice, thank you for letting me know this has been helpful — that is very gratifying, and I’m glad you’re finding a way forward. Regarding fear, I would feel remiss if I didn’t put in a shameless plug for my program, “Releasing Fear”, carefully developed for helping you do just that. You can find that program in the Personal Growth & Recovery section of my website, thehealingwaterfall dot com.

    2. Dear Janice P.

      Today marks one year since I lost my dear mom, my best friend. Although I have a brother, he has issues that only god can change so in reality I have no family either since losing my mom. I lost my father too back on Christmas Day 2000. Please have faith and ask god for strength and he will see you through. I can speak from experience because I took care of my mother for years who suffered from Alzheimer’s. It is way too long to tell the entire story so just trust that I have been thorough enormous emotional upheaval but god gave me the strength to make it through. Without god I never would have been able to do all that I did to care and protect my mother from this wonderful medical system of ours (I am being sarcastic of course). I also had to sell my Mother’s house with the extreme interference from my brother so he could walk away with money while never lifting a finger to care for his mom. But god sees all and his day will come. It is not for me to worry about anymore.

      So hang in there Janice and pray and have faith that god truly answer your prayers but in his time because his time is the right time!

      God bless and believe:-)


  3. Great article Max. It’s only when we pause for a minute and look at our lives we realise how much unwanted baggage we have been carrying and have made our lives miserable. Thanks for the enlightenment. May more such articles flow from you. Mario

    1. Thank you, Mario. You will in fact find many such articles from me and more on my websites: maxhighstein dot com, thehealingwaterfall dot com, and my iTunes Podcast: The Healing Waterfall. Please check them out for much more. Enjoy and have a great 2014!

  4. Thank you for this article. It was the reminder I needed because I was feeling that it was actually getting harder especially now that I have been facing the stuff that has come up to the surface, feeling, then releasing instead of using all my distractions to tuck them away. I am encouraged by your article, that I’m on the right path, to continue the work. I am hopeful!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tracey. I’m glad this concept is helpful for you. When life gets especially challenging, it can be the last thing I want to think about, and at the same time, the most useful.

  5. Hi Max. Thank you for the article. Letting go and surrendering to Spirit has been the biggest task for me. I had a stroke 4 years ago and have realized that if I don’t let go and surrender, I will never heal. For me, it’s about letting go of my great need to control every aspect of my life. And every time that I have tried to control how my recovery progresses, I have had a major setback. So now, instead of trying to force my way through my recovery, I am just sitting back and letting Spirit have its way with me, so to speak. And that is a very difficult challenge for someone who has lived her life controlling everything. 🙂 I am doing my part, which is surrendering. And in the process, I have been able to confront those fears that I will never get better because I am not taking the bull by the horns myself. It is actually a good feeling to know that I can simply relax into the flow of life. I have a mantra that I live by: “I am on a magic carpet ride with Spirit at the helm”. And an analogy that I love: the river flows naturally, and when it comes upon some craggy rocks, it just flows around or over them. It doesn’t resist them. That is how I am choosing to live my life now. Thanks again for the reminder!

  6. Great article. Thanks for sharing. Definitely validates messages I’ve been receiving and sharing with others. That’s always a nice sign 🙂

  7. A summary :The best way to make progress on a spiritual path is to watch for your stuff, and when you feel it, face it. Look at it, breathe, and let it go. It all happens in the heart, and it’s a lot of work. It works for me:)

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