Horizontal and Vertical Change

meditation cushions
September 18, 2019

Let’s not get stuck along the way to waking up. Shambhavi unpacks a teaching from Swami Rudrananda on discerning real spiritual growth. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Podcast First Words

Today I’m going to talk about something from the teachings of Swami Rudrananda. This has to do with what’s called vertical change and horizontal change. It’s been useful over the years, and it might be useful to you, so I thought I’d talk about it today.

Horizontal change in your life is characterized by some change that you make that may look better and actually be better than what you were doing before. But it involves the same kind of attachment, not much less attachment, more attachment, or the same quality of attachment.

So for instance let’s say that you haven’t had a spiritual teacher before. And you have a certain level of what’s called codependency, hungry ghosty-ness, or stickiness in your relationships with your loved ones. Then you run into a spiritual teacher. You establish a relationship with that teacher, but it’s also very hungry ghosty, sticky, or codependent. Of course, it’s good to have a spiritual teacher regardless. If you can relate to a spiritual teacher in any way, that’s very good. So it’s not that it’s the same. But it really is on some level a horizontal change because you haven’t yet started relating to that person in a different way from how you relate to everybody.

Let’s say that you’re someone who has what’s called a Type A personality. You’re really achievement oriented, titan-y, and aggressive. You measure everything—yourself and other people. Then you approach your spiritual practice that same way. So you’re into spiritual goals. You’re into attacking your practice, having special powers and measurable accomplishments, and comparing yourself to other students. If you attack your practice that way, you might actually accomplish something that looks like spiritual attainment.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.