When did your spiritual journey begin? Maybe at the beginning of time. Maybe it’s not a journey at all.
Our spiritual unfolding can feel like a journey. We may sense development or progress. We may be able to identify milestones, breakthroughs, shifts in consciousness, moments of awakening. These are not illusions. They are real. But there is no journey, and you don’t move from one place to another.
You have always been whole. You have always been connected. Any thoughts or feelings that are otherwise are illusions. If there’s a journey, it’s a journey of undoing illusions.
When I was a young child, I experienced life as whole. Every day was one day. There were milestones, but they weren’t milestones of self or consciousness. My self was intact and connected. One day, I didn’t need a crib. On another day, I could turn on the TV by myself.
But I wasn’t different. I was the same. And every day was like one continuous day.
Things changed abruptly when I went to school. Teachers identified me as a me. It was very surprising. I had a difficult time understanding what they saw. Mostly they saw things they thought needed improving. Some things they praised. I didn’t know what to make of it either way.
Soon enough I noticed my parents were in collusion with my teachers. So were aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, strangers in the stores and parks. I quickly realized I had to identify with whatever “self” they were all seeing and try to bring that self into acceptance. In confusion, I desperately tried to create a self – a self to hide behind. That self was mostly created by everything around me. I worked hard to fit into it, but I wasn’t great at the process. And there was no escaping the work to create a self that was acceptable.
Deep down I knew that everyone was wrong about who I was. I knew I was connected to something more, something vast, something larger than our neighborhood. But I was outnumbered.
During summers I could let much of my budding ego go as I ran free in fields and woods, seeking tadpoles, snakes, and caterpillars. For years, I was partly successful. This ended completely with the onset of puberty.
It can take decades to remember who you are. It can take lifetimes.
Imagine the relief I felt as I discovered that my five-year-old being was real after all. It wasn’t a journey to get there; it wasn’t even a returning. It was simply an awareness of the truth, a sense of presence that was dearly familiar.
My true being never left. It was never diminished. I didn’t have to travel anywhere to align myself once again with a true self – the self that isn’t a self. I had to nearly die, but I didn’t have to go on a journey.