Where the Hell is the Path?

How do you find your spiritual path? Not an easy question, though easier now than when I was young. Back then I thought there was probably a path. Yet I certainly couldn’t figure out where it was.

In time, you can reach a place where the whole notion of path changes.

Carlos Castaneda said “A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you . . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”

That makes sense. Anyone would want to be on a path with heart – whatever that means.

Castaneda elaborates: “For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length–and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.”

I experience a lot of paths: my path on the mountain hiking trail, my path to the grocery store, my path through recovery. But my spiritual path?

A student asked the Zen master to show him the path. The master said follow me.

They went into the jungle. After walking for a while, the student said, “I don’t see a path. We seem to be just wandering aimlessly in the jungle.”

The master said, “I am the path.”

“You’re the path?” the student asked, a bit confused.

The master laughed and said, “I’m kidding. There is no path.”

The master paused for a moment, then added, “And you’d be a fool not to take it.”

Scared of the Dark?

Fear is the last of our negative emotions to go as we deepen our spiritual connection. That’s because fear is at the heart of all negative emotions. Its roots are deep.

Marianne Williamson wrote that “Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.” That’s pretty close to correct. Actually we’re born with one fear – loud noises. That fear, though, may be more of a startle reflex.

Over time, we develop other startle-like reflexes: fear of heights, fear of objects hurling toward us, fear of the dark. These are handy to keep the body intact, and they’re not usually the fears that darken our paths. The insidious and dark fears we learn are shame and the belief that we are not good enough. Those are the fears that need to be relieved so we can grow.

There are thousands of tiny fears that grow from these – fear of speaking in public and fear of standing up against the crowd for what’s right. Gandhi said “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”

The fear of death is nearly a universal fear, but it can be overcome as we deepen spiritually. Anais Nin said, “People living deeply have no fear of death.”

The concern about the corrosive nature of fear goes back a few centuries. Lao Tzu said, “Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success.”

My favorite comment on fear comes from the Hindu Scripture Isa Upanishad:  “Who sees all beings in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.”