" What path is right for me?", is a question that each seeker asks at least once in their lives. As children, most individuals follow the pathways of their parents. Even if a parent has no particular spiritual path, the child is influenced by their parent. This is almost genetic as, regardless of a path, the mother, to the child, is the goddess. As one grows older and begins to think for themselves, they begin to feel a desire to either embrace or reject their parental suggestions. This includes the chosen spiritual path of the individual.
In my own life, I have spent time in many "spiritual" and "religious" pathways. Some of these were even of my own choosing at the time, so I thought. However, as we are social creatures, even the most reclusive of us, we still seem to blunder about until we finally settle on what works well for us.
Over the years as I facilitate myself and others on reaching some kind of accommodation with their desires for spiritual connection, certain indications seem to be prevelant with the majority of individuals.
What is a Spiritual Path?
Dictionary.com defines the word spiritual, (among other things) as:
of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature: a spiritual approach to life.
We will not concern ourselves in this article with the definition of the soul, despite differing presuppositional ethics, but accept this as a good working definition to add to our word "path".
Again, Dictionary.com defines a path as:
a route, course, or track along which something moves, or a course of action, conduct, or procedure.
So, combining both of these we have a spiritual path is one where an individual is taking a route whether physically or metaphysically that pertains to the non-physical being of a person.
This definition allows for many diverse methodologies including those that are primarily of the phsyical realms, and those that are primarily of the non-physical realms.
Pressures that act as filters
As we stated in the introduction, many factors influence our examination and determination of our path. Some of these factors include, environment, social network, (including parents, friends, and co-workers), ethnicity or blood line, and connectedness, or lack of it, to the world around us.
Each of these act as filters through which we see the world around us. Ask any couple in a relationship how many times they "read between the lines" of a statement just to see how effective filters are in our daily lives.
One example of filters in relationships is as follows:
One partner is cooking dinner and asks the other partner: "Would you please take out the overflowing trash please?" The partner who was asks responds: "What, why do you do that, I work all day and of course I will take it out. I simply forgot. What do you think I sit and read all day? I work too! If it is too much trouble for you to cook dinner tonight then we could have gone out!"
The first partner is taken aback by the intensity of the response as all they really asked was for their partner to take out the trash! Not everything else! The second partner read between the lines, of the other through there own filters.
While this is an extreme example, you can see what filters do in this mundane world, imagine what it does for our persuit of a spiritual path. Each individuals path is unique. One may utilize the same aspects of the divine, yet call them by another name. Take the deific aspect of healing. In some pathways, the deity of healing is Bridghid, (and lets not forget that spellings and language for even the same deity show regional differences), others it is Kwan Yin, and others Quanyin. Whole nations have gone to war over the NAME of a particular deity rather than listening to the aspect and intent of the name.
In our early 21st century world we have many examples of what I call "filter-itis". Christians fight Muslims, Jews fight Christians, Wiccan's fight Heathens, on and on and on.
Therefore, the first step in choosing a path is to put away the expectations of the society you are in and focus on the intent of the pathway without these filters.
Society and Acceptance
There is a quote from John Donne (1572-1631), which is in his "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions", Meditation XVII: that goes like this:
"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
While Mr Donne was a Christian, the sentiment expressed above is still true, (See, I practice what I preach). We are social creatures that desire the acceptance of those around us. The problem occurs when we desire our existing friends, colleagues,family, etc, to accept our new choice, just because we do!
Our brother or sister, who follows another path, can not always see that our path is equally valid. Sometimes this is because they are not following their true path either, however, it can also be that they truly feel that there path is RIGHT and yours is WRONG. While, based on the concept that all paths are one path, ( my own pre-suppositional ethic), this is not necessarily the filters that others see through.
Therefore, seeking acceptance by others, while part of our social conditioning, does not "play well" with some of those around us that follow a different path.
I have many Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, ( not what they call themselves-a topic for another article) , Jewish, pagan, Wiccan, eclectic, heathen friends, and family, the only thing that is important to me is that they respect my path as I respect theirs.
What to look for in a path
Since, each of us must live within our own filters, examine the path that calls you in as objective way as possible. If you are called to Quanyin, (the bodhavista form of the deity of Compassion and Love - androgynous) then accept that particular deity as one that speaks to you.
If you feel that the trees speak with you, and you can hear/feel this then follow this where it leads you and don't automatically say, I am not ____ (insert appropriate group here) and can not really be associated with trees.
If you feel that a particular set of rules (i.e. The Wiccan Rede) speaks to you and reverberates within, then follow it and find others that can support you.
What is important is that it fills some needs within yourself.
The next step is to investigate the teachings of the path and take on that which speaks to you.
Be true to yourself and don't belittle, or agonize over the choices you have made.
Be confident in yourself. You are the one who must follow the path, so you are the only one that needs to "understand" the path.
Lastly, do not label yourself if it would put you in a box that you do not wish to be part. Boxes are created by large groups and if you are a "round peg" why fit into a "square hole"?
Enjoy the Journey! After all - ALL life is a Journey.. We don't REALLY know what is TRUTH - (OOPS, another topic for another day)
Alfred is a founding member of Wite Rayvn Associates, a consortium of Business People who utilize their unique talents to serve the wider community