I haven’t written a blog post since April 2014. Around that time, my interest increased in a particular spiritual path I’d been loosely following since 2010. I’d heard about people who couldn’t write while devoting their life to spiritual practices but I never thought that I would be one of them. My desire to write diminished. I was writing—working on my memoir and some fiction—but it definitely took a hit. I guess I felt as though my fiction/memoir voice needed to be silenced while I processed things.
It’s now three years later, and I seem to have reached a point where the writing and the spiritual path are not only compatible, but writing about spirituality is something I need to do. Until recently, I wasn’t sure I’d ever write another post. I spent a lot of time thinking and meditating about what course my blog writing would take, if any. But I’ve decided it’s time. It’s time to follow my heart.
Put simply, my spiritual path is the process of experiencing who I truly am. The goal is to be supremely free and independent and to become firmly established in the process. I was led onto the path in order to find out who I am and to be at peace with that discovery; that has happened, and I’m still learning. In following posts, I plan to touch on some of the many aspects that continue to light the path I’m on.
Among the many things the path focuses on is recognizing ego and beating it back when it puffs its head like a cobra. I’ve been apprehensive to write about anything spiritual for fear of sounding like a know-it-all, or worse, a know-nothing (that’s ego for you). After all, who am I to proffer “wisdom?”For me, it’s no simple task to write about spirituality without feeling either unqualified or seeming egotistical. My path focuses on eliminating ego; and as to qualifications, I have only personal experience. What compels me to write about this subject is, I have come to understand that as long as I write the truth, there is no ego. What I’ll share won’t come out of a need or desire to puff myself up but rather from an intention of good will.
It’s taken a while to get “here,” where I am with my life, at nearly 70 years of age. My spiritual path opened to me in 1968, as I lay near death from a ruptured appendix at a military hospital in northern California. Sometimes it takes such a kick-in-the-pants awakening to start you down the road. At the time, I didn’t understand I’d taken a giant step onto my path. I was acutely aware of a change in my consciousness, but I really didn’t know I was on a “spiritual” path. I was following my heart without knowing that’s what was happening. I became driven toward…something—an “indefinable X-factor,” I called it at the time.
Before 1968, any thought I might have had about spirituality was pretty typical of someone raised in a Christian household: God created the world, he’s all-powerful and all-knowing; obey the Ten Commandments and don’t tell lies or you’ll go to Hell; God answers your prayers; go to church on Sundays; when you die, you’ll be in Heaven with all your loved ones—if you haven’t been a lying, cheating, dishonest sinner. Guilt was to drive your motivation for staying on the straight and narrow. But even if you didn’t stay on the straight and narrow, it was ultimately okay, because God or one of his official representatives would forgive you. Later in life I would understand this last point as ‘Grace.’
I believe Grace is the most beautiful aspect of any spiritual path; it’s what assures us that we’re worthy of life in desperate times when we might think otherwise. What is grace? Grace is a divine gift (prasad) from God. Swami Muktananda, the founder of Siddha Yoga, said, “Grace is nothing but God’s compassion.”
Meditation is a core requisite of the path I follow. It’s difficult for some people to accept, but mediation is worth the effort.
People have told me they’ve tried meditating and it doesn’t work, it doesn’t make them feel any better. Maybe they thought meditation was going to solve their problems. Meditation in itself isn’t a problem-solver; it’s a tool we use to help us reach solutions. Sometimes people don’t have a deeper understanding of what to do when they’re distraught, at wits’ end. Meditation can have therapeutic value as a relaxation technique. A deeper function is to obtain experience of your true being by meditating with a commitment to experience the Self. The Self is what I know to be God.
I know some people who think meditating and spirituality is a lot of crap; but I also know those same people are hurting deep inside. Anti-depressants haven’t helped them; psychoanalysis hasn’t turned their lives around. Certainly, others can guide and inspire, if you let them, but the only one who can change your life is you. Nobody can do the work for you.
The work of following your heart begins by turning within and getting to know who you are—your true self. That’s maybe uncomfortable for folks who would rather not spend time with themselves, but that’s where it starts (unless you’re otherwise “awakened,” as I was). You brew a nice tea, settle into a comfy chair (you don’t have to sit in the lotus position—I can’t do that), and then simply relax for a few minutes, shutting out thoughts. Learning to calm yourself is the first step toward experiencing the Self.
It can be a long journey just getting to a trailhead, let alone starting on the path. You may have heard the expression, “The Way will open,” in reference to resolving a problem. In Christianity, we hear “Knock and the door shall open,” or “Ask and ye shall receive.” I believe that’s a functional truth of the universe, but for it to happen one must first be ready to acknowledge and accept what is on the other side of the door. The choice of deciding to accept can be life changing.
In his 2005 Stanford University commencement address, Steve Jobs said this:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”