Long, long ago when life was still just a juicy mystery to me—back when I believed certain things to be clearly true and others to be evidently false because of it—back when I thought I could learn or at least deduce all I ever needed to know about life through researching the answers to my deepest questions by reading ancient tomes or by first-hand witnessing of life’s secret lessons shown only to spiritually-hungering me; yes, way back then in my most youthful, egoic ignorance did I assume that I could choose a path that would lead me into the ultimate clarification of my purpose for existence in the here and now, and by simply following that path I would reach the pinnacle of knowledge and awareness existing beyond my deepest desires and wildest comprehension.
In short, I thought that if I worked hard enough at it, I would eventually become ENLIGHTENED.
But much to my youthful surprise, there wasn’t just ONE path that I decided to follow for possible future illumination. No, there were many that I tried, and each one did show me hints of higher meaning in the daily doings of my life, but at the same time, I still needed to make a living in this world that we all share, so my quest for enlightenment took a backseat to my need to eat and live comfortably.
Many folks understand that dilemma. And the more dependents that you have, the less extra time you find to pursue those non-essential endeavors. So my PATH to higher awareness needed to be doable but practical even if somewhat time-restricted.
Yes, even as I snicker at it now, that WAS how I pragmatically framed my “non-essential” spiritual quest.
Throughout those less-than-illuminating years, I did find that whatever elusive wisdom I doggedly pursued in such haphazard fashion always seemed to elude me. I was a persistent, perpetual seeker, yes, but what was it that I really sought? Did I even know that?
As an avid (or more likely rabid) reader, I read classic wisdom books from historical philosophy to comparative religions. I read standard epics like the Bible (cover to cover), the Bhagvad Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, Swami Muktananda’s Play of Consciousness, plus numerous books on various branches of Buddhism (Zen, Tibetan, Theravadic).
I read of both ancient and modern forms of Shamanism from the Siberian Steppes to the Meso/South American Native Cultures. I even dabbled into psychology theorists like Jung, James, Rogers, Maslow, and many, many others. My desire to learn as much as I could about ALL OF IT and about ALL OF US was so great.
From all of those numerous works, I primarily learned that some form of meditation was a key to exploring inner states of consciousness and it could provide a respite from the constant internal striving that seemed to define my earlier adult life. So I learned to meditate.
Then somewhere down the line after decades of trying first one thing and then another, I finally realized that we don’t really choose our path in life as much as the path chooses us if we allow it to do so. If we can calm the constant cacophony in our heads and allow our deepest intuitive self to guide us in our higher consciousness quests, we will naturally do what most needs to be done at any time, and feel greater peace inside while doing it.
What I finally comprehended after all those years of intentional seeking was this: It wasn’t that I needed to DO something, so much as I simply needed to BE.
I mean that sounds overly simplistic and maybe a little gimmicky, but it was still true. And while it might seem easy enough to practice that simple premise, it took me a very long time to actually accomplish it.
There are those who claim you must suffer to reach enlightenment—that it is through the suffering that we understand our human frailty and accept our pending mortality—that we realize how ephemeral this moment in time truly is and how valuable that makes every moment of life for ourselves and for all others. But I personally think suffering is only one path—one teacher to attaining a greater awareness.
We all know that there are many ways to suffer in this life, some of which we may have witnessed, if not personally experienced ourselves. Suffering might build character and help us develop a more true sense of humility, but it’s certainly not pleasant to endure nor is it always the easiest path to make sense of during the process.
In essence, I think that the true PATH for you is there under your feet right now. Perhaps you don’t recognize it as such because of life’s distractions and society’s constantly-shifting smokescreens playing non-stop in front of you 24/7/365, but your path IS there and all you need to do to realize it is to stop long enough to simply breathe yourself alive again and let the world spin on past you. Once the world passes, you can see it more clearly for what it actually is:
It’s whatever you want it to be.