Have you ever wondered, “what is the ‘spiritual path’”? While there are plenty of teachers willing to tell you exactly what it is, have you noticed that many of them disagree on both fine and substantial points? I want to submit to you that the “spiritual path” doesn’t really exist. There is no single “path” and even the word “spiritual” is uncertain, pointing at wildly differing targets, depending on the speaker’s need or experience.
You must remember that every teacher is really only describing a map of the territory of whatever realizations that teacher has achieved. (Notice I said “a” map as there are actually many maps that could describe those experiences and the teacher would use the one, or part of one, that is useful to the students present.) And remember, the map is not the territory.
Actually, the greater your awareness of the truth of existence, the more perfectly you realize that you have been forever embraced, and supported, by the loving arms of existence. From the perspective of perfect awareness, You have not gone anywhere though “you” have “experienced” a “journey”.
We should be clear when we talk of the ‘spiritual path’ so we don’t dig ourselves a deeper hole that we will need to “climb” out of. Life IS, You ARE. Period. You already are the Purity, the Universality, the Sacred, One with all places, times, dimensions. The only issue is that your perception has been caught by the physical world, and your tiny physical place in it, so you don’t “see” the other half of existence, the place of your true home in perfect peace and safety. This is what is meant by the term “illusion” used by many spiritual teachers. Your perception and awareness is partial only.
There is no journey, there is only the progressive expansion of your awareness to encompass more and more of the truth of existence. You don’t have to go to the “sacred” places, learn the “sacred” teachings, or have the “right” teachers. You certainly don’t “create” the Sacred. You just have to awaken to it! When you wake up in the morning, even if it takes some time, you don’t actually go anywhere! You are in the same bed when you are awake that you were in when you slept.
Every teacher teaches a blending between their experience and what interests them (what excites the eternal that moves within them). No words can truly capture reality, they can only point towards it, and inspire their students to awaken–recognizing that their students are caught in the physical where words have a very different meaning than what was intended. The students see a “journey” out of the darkness and into the light. The teacher “sees” reality.
So where does that leave us? While existence already exists, there is no “path” that will take you there. If you read the autobiographies of the saints of all traditions, you will see there is no one path, no one set of practices that are universally recognized as necessary to awaken. When we wake up in the morning, there is not “right” way to do it; some wake up with an alarm, some with the sun in their eyes, some on their left side, some on their right, some even on their back or stomach, some are shaken awake, some are awakened by noise, some awake quickly, some slowly. The only similarity is in the act of awakening itself, and that is personal and varies from day to day.
It is the same with our current task of awakening to existence. It is a profoundly personal task and one that is guided by the heart’s sense of feeling and desire. It is these two that are our steering mechanism. They guide us to the people we belong with, the work we are to do, and the teachers that have something to teach us right here and now. And the feelings and desire guide us away from each of those things when it is time to move on to the next phase of awakening.
Our “journey” is personal and inner. You may tread paths that others have taken before you at times, but my guess is that you spend most of your time “bush-whacking” through the landscape of existence being drawn by your feelings and desires to the scraps of awakening that you encounter as you go. The open, pre-tread, paths are certainly easier, but they rarely take us where we need to go, only to where someone else has already gone.
Have you ever noticed that the journey of those who inspired a religion were rarely the basis for the pathway that the religion later taught? The teachers were the inspired mystics, revolutionaries of their time; they broke free and they broke through. What their followers taught is tame in comparison, even civilized. To me it seems the heart of the master is lost in this and instead of a revolution of the heart we have ethics and a “path”. Thus the focus shifts from the inner heart to the outer “journey”. And because the journey doesn’t exist, your belief in it becomes part of the obstacle to awakening. We do not shatter the illusion to find the truth, we believe in this new illusion and the “safety” it offers.