The spiritual path is very nice and very exciting for a while. It’s a lovely adventure. We like the idea of who the spiritual path will help us become and what it will help us get and achieve.
We like the idea of being the serene one. The peaceful one. The one who sits quietly and meditates and learns to let all human problems and feelings and concerns wash over them.
We like the idea of being part of the spiritual club. Maybe we think that’s one step up from everyone else. I know I’ve gone through my phase of spiritual superiority.
It’s nice singing mantras (I’m rather partial to that myself), burning incense (my smoke alarm always goes off), doing guided meditations (nothing wrong with that) and practising yoga (beautiful).
The love, the light, the happiness, it’s all so appealing, isn’t it? So we pack our spiritual backpacks and set off on our spiritual adventures. For a while, we’re skipping through green fields and prancing across streams. We’re namaste-ing and shining our ever brightening light back into the world that is so in need of our ‘help’. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and we’re convinced we’ve made it on the spiritual path.
And then, as you hop, gazelle like over the mound of the next wild-flower-filled field, a dark monstrosity comes into view. A huge black rock face spitting fire and thick, billowing clouds of smoke. The sky darkens overhead and you think to yourself, ‘What the hell is this?’ Quite.
What the hell is this?
This is the not so exciting and not so lovely part of the spiritual path.
Many years ago I asked a friend for his recommendation of resources for my spiritual journey. He told me, ‘That depends, are you browsing travel brochures or do you want to book a ticket somewhere?’
‘I want to book a ticket’, I told him. And even though I meant it, I realise now I had no real idea what was waiting for me.
I heard Adyashanti say once that when you start out on the spiritual path, you’re the one pursuing ‘it’. You feel as if you’re in control. And then at some point, you realise that without your even noticing, the tables have turned and now ‘it’ is pursuing you. And in that moment you really begin to realise what it’s going to ask of you. What you’re going to have to give up and everything you’re going to have to face.
And you’re like, holy cow, I’m not sure if I want this. So maybe you turn around and try to go back the way you came. Back to the life where you got to be a bit spiritual but not so spiritual that you’d have to give anything up.
The problem, though, is that it’s already too late. Even if you try to go back, the feeling of disconnect in your life will be so great that at some point you’ll be forced to continue on. You can’t live with one foot in and one foot out. This isn’t the hokey cokey, after all.
So you turn to face the fiery hell of Mordor and you see that you’re going to have to go in and the person who goes in will never come out. It’s going to strip you bare. It’s going to take every last thing you thought you knew and it’s going to burn it to ashes. It’s going to take all your ideas about who you are and what your life’s supposed to look like and it’s going to incinerate it all. Everything is going to go. You will be more exposed than you’ve ever been.
Every emotion you’ve ever pushed down will have to be felt. Every addiction will have to be met. Every place you lie to yourself will be revealed. There can be no more running.
But at this point, something else interesting also begins to happen. You start actually wanting to go into Mordor. Even though you know what has to happen once you get inside, you want to go in there. Your commitment and love of truth has grown bigger than any desire for the old life and the old ways. You’re on your knees and you’re saying, ‘I don’t care what it takes, I don’t want to suffer any more.’
And so Mordor opens up and swallows you into its depths and goes about burning everything that isn’t true. And even though it’s hot and hellish in there at times, somehow you know, you know, this is what’s needed, this is what you asked for and this is what you want.
This is the spiritual path.
Love and courage,