Life’s a journey.
Are we talking spiritual journey, as in Lord of the Rings – tunnels, caves, volcanoes, fairies, goblins and dragons? Or are we on a purely psychological journey – as in Peter Pan and Captain Hook, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, or Dr. Frankenstein and Boris?
The dramatic difference between spiritual journeys as they have typically been described by mystics and spiritual masters versus novels and movies is – well, drama.
A spiritual journey is always done in-house, as if on a treadmill. A spiritual journey takes place inside ourselves as we take the escalator down a few floors rather than going anywhere to the great beyond.
The sad truth is, by the standards of contemporary story telling told with cinematic images and fanciful narratives, our spiritual journeys would not sell well. In fact, “journey” may be a total misnomer when it comes to an individual spiritual trek.
A spiritual journey is more like gardening or farming than an adventure to anywhere. “Journey” makes it sound a bit too extraordinary, as in out-of-the-ordinary.
A spiritual journey, like farming, involves the hard work of hoeing, digging, weeding, tending, and feeding over time; growing the spirit upward while deepening the roots of wisdom downward, simultaneously.
It is more sweaty than heroic, more incremental than vast, and more exhausting than exhilarating.
Mary Oliver’s well-known poem, “The Journey” uses images of movement but actually describes the motions of consciousness – of awakening in place.
Rabindranath Tagore’s paradoxical poem, “The Journey Home,” is a journey to “home” after seeking it elsewhere outside and beyond oneself. The “I am” is here within, all the time “here,” Tagore writes, when we have searched “there.”
We know that, of course, because all of us have made the mistake of looking elsewhere so many times. We have all stumbled back across our own stoop after having sought in vain to find ourselves in the world beyond, in the people around us, and in the things we strove to reach.
But all such outward journeys are for naught and with good fortune, we will finally fall all alone into ourselves and discover it. All alone into ourselves where, if anywhere, the journey only just begins.
So here is a well-known secret. It doesn’t matter whether it is
therapy, spiritual direction, pilgrimage, yoga, meditation, centering prayer, workshops, clinics, books, or journaling – they are all only techniques; methods, and tools. None of them are the thing itself.
The journey into our own lives is finally a solitary trek. There is no guide, no one who can take us deep into the forest, nor lead us out again. Others can walk with us, to a point; and others can equip us with wisdom, method, and perspective. But we finally go it alone.
That is the journey: to stand alone, with oneself and enter.
It is full of surprises, rewards, pain, and confusion.
The voice of the one we seek resides in the very places we most resist: deep within memories, deep in the dark of forgetfulness, deep down in the raw tissues of woundedness.
Again, there are any numbers of tools we can use, but the tools do not do the work for us. There are numerous guides who will gladly help us, but they are cheerleaders at our back not ferryboat captains pulling us forward.
The journey begins with us, with our own will to enter into the dark and walk until we meet the cast of characters inside; listen to their voices; hear the din and mayhem; feel the pain and the hurt and the joy ricocheting off the walls of our own heart, and in the folds of our own mind.
The journey begins with us…with our own will…in solitude…inside the only life we can save. And it is much more like farming than adventure; more like coming home than venturing out.
Oliver, The Journey: http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/maryoliver.html
Tagore, The Journey Home: http://www.audioreflections.com/2010/08/journey-home.html