Many people continue to ask for suggestions about how to step onto a spiritual path. They feel stuck in their present lifestyle and want change!
I know how they feel. I can recall similar stirrings in my soul from a long ago past when I would have given anything to have been connected with a greater something that would somehow help me to understand life, to seize the meaning of it all, to be free!
Well, here’s the uncomplicated truth of the matter, at least from my perspective as a time surfer across many decades. Be who you are. From this moment forward.
Ah! That’s the rub isn’t it? You go through life and get in the groove, a routine, and it all seems okay. Then, boom! One day it all seems to be not okay. It’s like a warble, a shift of some kind, and suddenly your ship seems to be without a captain…or a navigator! And finding your way becomes more and more difficult as you perceive yourself to be further and further away from something authentic.
I see this all the time. People are infinitely complicating their lives while thinking they are simplifying their lives, all in the search for the authentic self.
So here are some suggestions that may help you unplug from the unreal and into the real. They were originally posted in early 2012 and were taken from notes I rely on when teaching classes and giving presentations.
Seven Steps To Doing The Work
Okay, first I want to tackle the concept of “DOING THE WORK.” And wow, so many people have told me about their frustration with what they perceive as a lack of any, or at least very slow progress along their spiritual path once they decide to explore it. Well, I sure understand that feeling, completely, having experienced it over and over myself. I mean, really, why can’t it be easier? I want truth and I want it now. Gimme the God pill, already!
Well, until we can pop into the local drugstore and get that prescription filled, though, we will have to do the old fashioned work. Our impatience is the result of ego, sure that there are answers there for the taking, that we can know God, master our lives and know perfection, with the result of unlimited good stuff and no suffering. And all in the space of a few days or weeks!
But timeless questions don’t work that way, and neither do the answers. In fact, and in my own experience, there has only been one such answer forthcoming rather quickly. Love.
There it is.
In and of itself, that’s a hard one to grasp. Oh, it’s easy when it comes to things and people we are fond of, but it seems impossible for things, tasks, people and all other aspects of life that we don’t like. That takes practice—to love something or someone you don’t like. I’m certainly not a master of that yet! It may take a lifetime or many lifetimes to accomplish such a state of awareness and acceptance. But it sure is time to start.
So love is one answer, the most important answer, but it is certainly not the only answer. And even it has more layers than we can know.
Spiritual seekers are always searching beyond prescribed boundaries for meaning in their lives. And yet, that does not mean that it comes from the outside, but rather from the inside. That was the message, I believe, which Jesus attempted to deliver. In short, doing the work empowers you from the inside…as opposed to looking for power outside of yourself, or looking to powerful others to tell you what to do, who to be, etc.
To achieve a new world of enlightenment and peace, it all has to start where most of human kind has not gone before: the unexplored territory of the inner self. Of all the scary places humans try to avoid, this may be the most terrifying. But, why? Well, it sort of goes like this. We’re told that concentrating on ourselves is Narcissistic. Too much admiration will result in our being conceited and obnoxious. Always better to help others. And this: if we examine ourselves, we are terrified of finding ourselves lacking in __________, or feeling angry, regretful or guilty about______________(fill in the blanks).
In fact, Narcissism and such is a compulsion that replays constantly in one’s head, and at its worst, it is pathologically damaging. I don’t think most people experience this compulsion to such an extent, and I really doubt that true spiritual seekers suffer from it at all, given that they sense there is far more to existence than what they see in the mirror. Fear, terror, regret and guilt about ourselves, on the other hand, are immobilizing emotions like layers of an onion that cover up an inner truth wanting to burst out—accept, forgive, move on! But you gotta do the work to overcome any Narcissistic tendencies or to peel the onion.
It begins with finding self love first, then not lingering on it. Helping others come next.
It’s simple, really: Love begins at home, in the heart. And how can you love others without knowing the depths of your own self, both the shadow and the beautiful fountain of love that wells up from within you, and the power this gives you?
Inevitably, the search for self love begins with the search for the Divine (a term I use for convenience, and ask that you try to strip it of the usual confusion attached to it from competing religions and philosophies). Once you begin this search, it’s a wild ride. It’s like the teacher Carolyn Myss says, if you ask to see the face of God, you’d better fasten your seat belt. All of the false stuff in your life will fall away. I can practically guarantee these will include:
- • The loss or radical alterations of some relationships; the forming of new ones
• A near complete reassessment of your occupation and life goals
• A big change in your perception of the world
• The surprising disposal of most all of the things you currently think are indispensable
I could mention more, a whole lot more, but I don’t want to scare you off the trail before you even step onto it. Why? Because it’s worth the trip!
To do the work, awakened to your own worth and to the meaning of serving others, there is a period of time needed for facing your shadow side and for then lifting yourself above the level of your ego and the external influences that keep you held down like a slave. And these require you to work at it. And yes, doing the work is “work!” in the sense that you have to have both discipline and an attitude of responsibility to your self development, just like most other important things in life.
Spending effort to “get spiritual” isn’t something that appeals to most people in a world where conquering life and having all the stuff we can lay our hands on is the generally-accepted goal, as promoted by the world at large. So, many people settle for shortcuts to their spiritual lives in order to have more time to scramble for the stuff and pleasures, getting a more satisfying relationship, obtaining a great car, having the perfect smart phone (with voice / retina recognition and an incredible display!)—always seeking, grasping, restless and unfulfilled in the quiet moments…never really satisfied. Buy, buy, buy!
Well, if that’s the case with you, and if you don’t feel whole and comfortable in your skin, then it’s really an invitation from your soul to “do the work.”
In my experience, I’ve found that doing the work involves at least seven points to consider. I’ll be brief, I promise. I know you’re in a hurry!
The first step is simple, yet profound. And that is to declare to yourself that you are ready to undertake the work, and that you will dedicate yourself to it, for however long it may take. (Of course, this is voluntary, and you can get off the train anytime you wish and go back to the way you were.) But making a good declaration and affirming it can go a long way toward helping you to step onto or remain on the path, and to continue to explore it.
Next, doing the work requires working the brain and the mind on subjects of a spiritual nature. Though we aren’t necessarily only what our brains may perceive us to be, we do have to work the brain to get in tandem with whatever else we may be in order to build some momentum. So that means we have to read, and read widely, for starters. The ancient holy books are a good possible starting place, for they will help you understand the basics of the world’s religions and spiritual thought and thus give you some points to consider about whether you accept or reject what their writers observed. And doing this tells your brain that you are putting a priority on something you want it to continue to grok, or to think about, even when you sleep.
Oh, I’m not going to tell you what to read, for this is impossible. Besides, it’s part of the real fun of awakening, for you get to finally get in touch with yourself for direction. So, this requires some inner work of a different kind which I’ll talk about later. In essence though, it is listening to your inner voice, which often is the translator of Spirit.
Also, doing the work requires an open mind. The whole exercise, after all, is to set out on a quest for something that you can not yet identify. So if you do it with expecting to find something you already know to be true or possible, what’s the point? Rather, one should go into it not only to discover new things, but to challenge things you take for granted. After all, you’re tired of the way things are, so to change, you are going to have to change many things you are currently relying on that make you tired of them! Explorer Jacques Cousteau said it best: ‘Don’t be a slave to your own beliefs.” Right on!
To do the work, one must also find a way to make the work at least partially enjoyable, else it will all begin to taste like sour medicine…or seem like hard work! Hey, it’s a volunteer job, so have some fun while you’re doing it. You’re in charge, after all, so make some rules that allow for fun! Eventually, fun will turn into its more potent form: joy! Then you’re in the zone!
At the same time, you will have to accept that some things are going to make you upset. Let’s face it, not many jobs are always easy.
I think it’s also valuable to understand that the work doesn’t have a definable end. Perhaps that’s one of the most difficult parts of awakening. One just keeps on keeping on. Oh, I’m not saying there isn’t a point, nor even that there isn’t a goal. For sure there are both! But, once again, it’s such a personal thing that there is no way for someone else to tell you what it is, and likewise, there’s no way to know it for yourself until you have found it. And it doesn’t come in full meal deals, but in appetizers. So you must have patience, and if you don’t have patience, then be prepared to learn lessons in patience, for Spirit is patient and will help you learn how to be so.
Doing the work is sometimes like starting a journey, but not quite knowing the destination. Like so many masters I’ve read about and a few I’ve met, it seems the process is, rather than sprinting, more like wandering toward enlightenment. Intriguingly, it’s also one of those things that, should you achieve it, you no longer find it important! Why? Because you are enlightened! Enlightened people don’t ask themselves if they’re enlightened! And they seldom advertise it. Get it?
I also believe one must develop a spiritual ritual and discipline of some sort, where you can both track your progress, as in journaling or somehow recording your thoughts and observations along the way, while also honoring what you’ve learned. You can do this by developing your own ceremonies and rituals, or by making a special place where you can place a favorite book or whatever physical object you have found that is somehow symbolic and instructive of your quest to date. All religions have such special places and ceremonies, and that’s for the simple reason that they recognize the human need for spiritual connection and ritual. Some people find it difficult to connect with things that others find important, so there’s no reason why you can’t make your own and do it yourself.
And finally, I think it’s immensely helpful to find someone to share your findings with, and to ask questions of, and to bounce around ideas with. But of course, doing the work is still up to you. In the same vein, you can also call upon helping guides and spirits to help you when possible.
That’s it, seven ways to starting and maintaining your spiritual journey. It’s hard work, but fun too. And there are big payoffs from time to time along the way to make it worthwhile. It is a trip toward your authentic self, to who you are and always have been. It is your journey back to enlightenment.
And if you reach it, please send me a picture postcard— I would like to know where it is!
Aho & Namaste,
There are many, many ways to develop your own rituals and ceremonies on your path. If you’re interested in shamanism and its beautiful ceremonies, I can give you some ideas to help get you started. Begin by checking out the category archives here on the blog. I’ll soon be posting a lot of links to connect you with other explorers, too.