If you have been wandering down the mythological spiritual path for a while, you may find yourself occasionally frustrated, confused or just plain tired. If so, it’s perfectly understandable. The problem with the spiritual path is that there is no path to spirit because there is nowhere to go. You’re already there but may not have yet awakened to that fact.
Last week, I was at a taping of Oprah’s Lifeclass Tour, listening to a conversation between Oprah and Deepak Chopra. The focus kept turning to the famous quote from Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
In essence, the message was: Stop pretending to be something you are not and instead awaken to the spirit of whom you truly are.
As the conversation focused on traveling the spiritual path, I was reminded of something that I have been learning from my spiritual teacher, John-Roger, that goes something like this: The notion of a spiritual path is just another illusion. Why? Being on a path implies a beginning, an end and some distance to go before you arrive at your destination, some kind of gap between where you are and where you need to be. If the spiritual path leads to spirit or to enlightenment or to being in the heart of God — feel free to substitute any language that works well for you here — then where do you have to go in order to arrive?
Are you sleeping through your spiritual journey?
Many who teach one of the many versions of “being on the path” would suggest that what you seek is already present — God, spirit, your soul, or whatever other language you prefer is already here, right now, patiently waiting for you to notice. Many spiritual paths actively use the notion of awakening to describe the purpose of the spiritual journey. However, rarely does anyone take the time to deconstruct the term “awaken.”
An awakening takes place when something that was previously asleep comes back into conscious awareness again. Notice the emphasis on again. Something that awakens was previously asleep — that part is probably obvious. What may not be so obvious is that something that is asleep was previously awake.
If the goal of the spiritual journey is to awaken, then the spiritual path doesn’t take you anywhere as much is it awakens you to where you already are. In my lexicon, spirit is present with me, but I may not be present with the spirit from time to time. Indeed, I find that I often fall asleep to the spirit in my daily life.
Just the other day, I found myself becoming upset with someone I have worked with over many years. What did I get upset about? We were working on a project that was important to both of us and he had made a choice with which I disagreed. Instead of simply noticing that we had different paths to the same outcome, I got all bent out of shape about his “error.”
At this point, my Self-Talk took over and became increasingly critical of him as well as his choice. As I have pointed out in an earlier article, criticism actually stems from caring, but loses track of the caring. Indeed, I had lost track of my caring and was way too focused on the criticism. Fortunately, a good friend also happened to be noticing what was going on and stopped me short by asking one simple question: “Did you forget that he is Divine as well?” The “as well” part was the most jarring — indeed, I had fallen asleep again, forgetting that each of us is a soul having a human experience. In order to become critical of him, I had to first forget my own Divinity before I could ignore his and enter into the criticism.
One way of framing this little detour on my spiritual journey was that I had simply lost track of the spirit that is always present and instead focused on something lesser. That little reminder about his divinity served as my “wake up” call, and I was able to get back on a more collaborative rather than critical path.
(Ever you ever noticed that one “falls” asleep, but wakes “up?” Isn’t it an interesting use of language to suggest that there is directionality to sleeping and to awakening? Indeed, if you have played with spiritual paths before, don’t they almost always have a sense of ascending, of waking “up?”)
In many religious or spiritual practices, the goal is often described as a spiritual awakening that allows you to “become more of who you already are.” If you find yourself breaking out in hives at the mere mention of the word religion, then a brief detour here may be useful. The word “religion” comes from the Latin root, legare, which means “to unite” or “to connect.” Re is a prefix meaning “again.” Simply put, a “religious experience” is one that reconnects or reunites you to something that you (a) were previously connected to, (b) still are connected to, (c) always were connected to, or (d) all of the above.
So, rather than meaning anything about a defined or dogmatic set of practices, a religious experience may well be one that “reconnects” you with something that you were previously connected to. Doesn’t this sound a lot like awakening? Perhaps the true awakening is the wake up call that reconnects you to that which you have always been — a soul, a spiritual being, having a human experience.
You may have heard the old cliché about “life is a journey, not a destination.”
If life is a journey, then the soul could well be the vehicle.
And the path of the soul is one that is guiding you back to where you already are. The path, as it turns out, actually turns in(ward). You are not traveling somewhere away from where you are, but right back to where you started, only this time with awareness.
A recognized expert in personal and organization transformation, Russell has coached thousands of individuals around the world, helping them discover more about who they truly are and how to create balance and success in their personal and professional lives. He is the creator of Insight Seminars, one of the largest and most successful personal transformation programs in the world, with well over one million graduates in 34 countries.
Russell is an internationally regarded speaker, author, coach and consultant. His corporate clients include Fortune 500 executives in aerospace, healthcare, pharmaceutical and biotechnology, information technology, telecommunications and oil and gas. He has extensive international experience working in Europe, Asia, North and South America.
He is the author of numerous articles on the power of choice and awareness as well as his new book Workarounds That Work: How To Conquer Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work.