We live in challenging and changing times, so very different from our parents and certainly our grandparents. There is no "one answer" to spirituality because we are each on our own journey. When you remember that and connect into your guidance you will always follow the right path for you. We fall off track when we listen to others rather than the heart. This is why we hear of people joining cults or going off to fight for God. You can be sure that they have been brain-washed to cut off their guidance. It is vital to keep your feet on the ground and know that there are no quick shortcuts -- Here are my four guidelines.
Let you path come to you:
Philosopher Jacob Needleman once suggested that “an authentic spiritual path makes itself known, but does not attempt to persuade.” A great advantage of the modern spiritual supermarket is that a worldwide variety of spiritual paths and perspectives is now available to most people at their nearest bookstore or on the worldwideweb!
But that doesn’t mean you should plunge headfirst into all and every one. Let the path rise up before you through intuitive feelings, strange coincidences and serendipity.
An example comes from a friend who, while browsing a bookshop, had a heavy, hard-bound copy of A Course In Miracles fall on her head. You may find your eye being caught by a book cover, over and over again. You may hear snatched snippets of conversation, accidently or seeming in a pattern. This is your Higher Self, or Spirit Guides and angels offering direction. Do not be in a hurry! Let the patterns repeat themselves more than once!
Make sure that your chosen path offers challenge without imprisonment.
A disadvantage of the modern spiritual supermarket is that it offers people the opportunity to become spiritual dilettantes, which means people can identify themselves with one or more transformative disciplines without ever actually undertaking any of them. Whether you choose yoga, Zen, Christianity or any other path, it is vital to actually follow the disciplines laid out and endure the inherent discomfort, even a lifelong challenge that a real spiritual discipline entails. If it is easy, and entails lots of deep and meaningful chats in coffee shops, buying lots and lots of tools and materials, and not much else, it is no longer a spiritual discipline but rather a social outing.
An important sign of an authentic path is that it will implicitly give you “permission” to quit with no strings attached, whenever it no longer seems appropriate or productive, or no longer nurtures your soul. If there are “penalties” or enticements” to remain on that path see that as a red light! These penalties might include excommunication, shunning, or not allowing you to contact or interact with friends or relatives still within the discipline. Enticements include rewards in the “here after” or even a promise of enlightenment after a set number of years, or workshops.. all very suspicious! This kind of bribery/blackmail indicates you may be involved in a cult.. and that is never helpful or spiritually productive.
Look for results, not romance, from your chosen path.
A sure sign of spiritual dilettantism is that the spiritual path produces only superficial changes of style in people’s character and behaviour. This is a frequent failing of various New Age fancies, in which people find it easier and more romantic to become a channel for the wisdom of, for example, the distant Pleiadians rather than to actually become wiser on their own.
Although one should grant oneself a grace period with any new discipline, during which personal problems may seem to get worse rather than better, after two years or so of dedicated commitment you should see a definite, observable improvement in one’s character and consciousness. Such improvements are not to be confused with circumstantial or material benefits. The key is to feel more contented even if your physical circumstances have not changed, or even worsened, by the world’s standards.
Questions to help you determine whether a spiritual path is really “paying off” include the following:
- Have I become more at peace within myself and in my relationships since undertaking this discipline?
- Do I blame less and have more compassion about my own difficulties and those of others
- Do I experience more joy, empathy and revelatory insights?
- Is my social and political conscience more informed and effective regardless of how my forms of activism may have changed?
- Do I sometimes tap transcendent states of consciousness through the natural means of my own trained and focused awareness.
With experience, expect your spiritual practice to become “ordinary.”
The Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism is one of the world’s most respected spiritual and political leaders. He often refers to himself as merely “an ordinary monk.” This should be taken not as a sign of false modesty but rather as a sign of an advanced spiritual achievement, for it signifies a seeker who has learned to shed the temptations of what Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa identified as “spiritual materialism.”
We can all fall into the trap, so prevalent in “new age” spirituality that if I have not “manifested the soul-mate, the car, the house, the job” that somehow you have not spiritually evolved.
It is easy to be at peace, light, and blessing when all is going well for you in your life materially. However, it is only when we seem to be tested by illness, lack and teenage kids that we discover if our spiritual discipline is actually working.
A Course In Miracles:
This course is an amazing spiritual discipline, but discipline is the optimal word, because it is not easy, however..speaking personally... the changes the evolution of the soul is utterly amazing. In his book, Love Does Not Condemn, Kenneth Wapnick summarizes the major philosophical strain running through the massive mystical document he helped to edit back in the 1970s.
“The Course is an amalgam of different approaches, yet a successful integration of them: It is Neoplatonic in terms of describing the downward progression (or projection) from the One; Gnostic in its clarity on the world not coming from the Divine at all, exposing the ego’s trickery in back of it; and Christian not only its language, but through its recognizing a benevolent presence of God experienced in the world – the memory of His love (the Holy Spirit) in the split mind – not to mention the central place accorded to Jesus.”
Dozens of spiritual teachers from Louise Hays to Wayne Dyer have been influenced by ACIM and in all cases, each of them has pointed out that not only is the spiritual discipline challenging, but it is life-long. However, having said that, my experience is that there does come a time when the inner peace, blessings and love become a constant concert within.
ACIM can be daunting, particularly the Christian terminology and the iambic pentameter, so I have written the easy version in my latest book, Living Luminosity.
This book offers some of the basics and core concepts of consciousness evolution. It follows on from StarBody
, which is now nearly ten years old (goodness!!)
One of the greatest lies I hear bandied about these days is that if we are “good” and “nice” we don’t need a spiritual discipline. Sadly, spiritual growth is not about behaviour (although it does have an influence, obviously)... instead it is all about your inner world, your inner feelings of guilt, anger, self-hate and so much more. We each have to clear this darkness within ourselves. No amount of workshops, reading books, or hanging out with psychics will make any difference to this inner task. The good news is it does not matter which path you take, as long as you actually take it, work it, and do your inner work.
*** Enjoy your journey and know that every day is another opportunity to clear away the darkness within
Blessed be, Lesley