In spiritual circles it’s common to talk about being “on the path.” The path to God (or however we may describe a Higher Power), the path to redemption, the path to awakening, the path to enlightenment.
And we are hardly lacking for guidebooks and maps. Addicts may employ the Twelve Steps to work through their spiritual recovery. Buddhists have the Noble Eight-Fold path to inform their journey. Other wisdom traditions have various rituals, methods and practices to light the way. An entire self-help industry exists to inspire spiritual exploration through books, seminars, retreats, podcasts, YouTube videos and more.
The journey along a path IS real. For most of us, it’s long, filled with twists and turns, peaks and valleys, glimpses of light, flashes of despair. We stumble often on our wanderings through the Dark Night of the Soul. We wish there were an express lane, an easier, softer way, but there is not.
Yet we can spend a long time hiding in our shadow, staring longingly through a window out toward the light. We can convince ourselves that spiritual growth is inherently complicated. We can obsessively analyze competing “truths” and run through countless gurus and teachers. We can get overly focused on arriving at some imagined perfect destination and entirely miss out on what is possible along the way, right here, right now.
The invitation is simply to begin, to emerge from the places and situations that keep us stuck, entrapped. But it’s hard to escape from a prison if we can’t see that we are a prisoner.
Yet, right now, we can in fact acknowledge that we are prisoners of our habituated, reactive thinking, trapped in a room of ego protection, a pathological desire to control and a failure to accept reality.
Right now, we can see the forks in the road, the profound choices we get to make moment to moment. Do we choose forgiveness over revenge? Compassion or judgement? Being open-hearted or walled-off from connection? Do we fundamentally embrace love or fear?
Right now, we can accept that so many of the answers are within us and available to us in the present moment.
Often, we witness other people peering into our prison cell, and we think (hope?) that they have the answers, that they will drag us out, that they hold the key to our freedom.
But more often than not, we have the key, we just don’t see it.
We need to see it. And we need to use it.
We need to open those windows and unlock the door. And then we need to walk over the threshold and out into the light. There the path becomes so much more clear.
And we can begin the journey with a lot less baggage.