we all have baggage!

There are two kinds of spiritual travelling so I shall define them both and then tell you which one I am interested in, which I am not, and why.

The two kinds of spiritual travelling are similar in many ways to geographical travelling. You can be a tourist and visit a country to enjoy its highlights or you can spend more time there, nearer to the basics of life whilst investing energy digging into and participating in the deeper culture and experience of a place.

The same with a spiritual life.

There are many who find a comfortable place in something that suits and then just stop at that. Or there are those who dig deeply, explore the inner world within the context of that spiritual tradition, and allow themselves to be challenged and transformed through their journey.

Some people will start out with the former approach until something hits them hard and forces them to go deeper anyway, or we can choose that option and cause ourselves less suffering in the process of course.

But many remain a tourist, avoiding any deep self examination, any soul searching, believing that if they just trust in their routines and rituals they will be OK in the end. Some people would not even question this being the only option.

But it isn’t, and although the deeper journey is more demanding, it is equally more rewarding and liberating.

I must state here that I do not believe there is right or wrong way to live spiritually, each to their own. Who knows where it all ends up anyway! So not my issue, but simply an observation.

Some of those people even believe themselves to have looked deeply but still cannot apply their espoused teachings completely to themselves and thus appear superficially at least to be hypocrites even.

Some people cannot get past their fear of the inner deep journey and thus never set sail. They are the people who go to spain and are pleased to find fish and chips and burgers on sale, and they stick with what they are accustomed to, what makes them feel safe. Again nothing wrong with that.

But I was always hungry for deeper transformation, for deeper knowledge and insight.

I remember, when much younger, wanting to know the deeper truth about metal turning to rust and not being able to find anybody who understood what I meant. To them it was just what happened, but to me it felt deeper. Now of course I understand it represents that same transformation, and impermanence of self, the fluidity of reality, the endless cycles of birth and death where everything is always becoming something else. But nobody around me could translate my sense of something deeper than just rust.

Digging deeper is risky, but never a waste of time. The risk is in what you might find. The positive is that the treasure is always worth the risk and the journey to find it is never as bad as we think it might be, as bad as our inner fears will encourage us to believe it will be. From personal experience life has come at me sometimes so hard and furious that I had to allow it to take over and submit or surrender to its own processes, which in my case was a complete bfreakdown with PTSD. (I left that typo in as it represents two words which both aptly suggest what I went through — it is my new invented word lol.).

Had I fought back any longer than I did in the early stages it would have been far worse I believe and far more destructive to those around me also. We humans like to ‘know where things are going’ and when you are forced to let that go and take the slide wherever it is going to take you anyway, it does make it easier to cope with. And you learn the incredibly valuable lesson in life to let go and trust the process of living; you are not in control and never were and never will be, that is one big illusion.

We end up taking the spiritual journey we are destined to take. I don’t mean the astrology style destiny although I do think there is more to astrology when done properly. I mean the determined nature of existence, of cause and effect, of consequences over which we have no control other than how we manage them. But even that much spouted little life skill factlet can be shown to be limited. There are times when you are so overtaken by the meltdown inside you that there is nothing you can do at all, other than close your eyes and go with it and see where it takes you. It is no more scary that those horrifically travel nausea inducing fairground rides which I do not ever go on.

Digging more deeply into a variety of spiritual traditions or even into just one will bring you these challenges along with the joys of course.

Many people say you must stick with one tradition to go deeply and make total commitment. But I beg to disagree. You can instead make a deep and lifelong commitment to the spiritual journey itself and not worry about which traditions you will journey through.

My experience in this has shown me more than anything

  • how they all have something to offer us,
  • they all overlap far more than they differ in their core values and themes
  • they are all entirely complimentary if you don’t get bogged down in details and keep your mind firmly on the bigger picture,
  • they all open up a different aspect and view the same scene from a different perspective, so prevent dogmatism.
  • They all explore different aspects of the human experience

Do look deeply at your own spiritual path and dont judge where it has taken you. Mine has gone through spiritualism, metaphysics, shamanism, quakerism and various forms of buddhism, and I have landed firmly with Thich Nhat Hanh because I find his interpretations of Buddhist psychology and philosophy the most accessible, and he specifically allows us to enjoy our practice, which for me with my array of alternative brian wirings I needed to hear. He turned my struggle with sitting meditation into a much more joyful one and helped me to embrace all my differences into one journey.

So roughly Shamanism allowed me to reintegrate my more psychic nature and ability to read some kind of energy field sensing which I cannot explain but I can and have demonstrated to be very accurate to a number of people. I no longer deny that in me but neither do I want to develop it particularly as it leaves me very sensitive to strong negative energies too, and that can leave me feeling exhausted for days. I also did experience some profoundly healing experiences through these practices and connected up a lot of dots from my early life.

Spiritualism generally I have abandoned because I found it limited for me, but some of the other more new age items such a tarot and pendulum work I still use from time to time. They help me to explore the energies around me at a given time when I am feeling a little lost and usually help me a lot. They often direct me back to my meditation practice anyway.

Metaphysics opened up the way for me back into christian teachings via Quakers and also to Buddhist psychology and meditation and mindfulness practice.

Quakers I continue to embrace but not as fully as I might once have done, although through them I discovered both Experiment with Light, a return to the origins of quaker meetings, and the TNH community through retreats held at the Quaker retreat centre near Birmingham. So for me those two are indelibly linked and I am equally committed to both but far more actively involved with TNH community.

I have also had some rather harmful in the short term experiences at the hands of some people with some of these traditions but overall it has been an incredible journey and people are just people where-ever you go.

I am still in touch with all the components of my spiritual journey and I would encourage anybody to explore- go deeply as you can and keep open to it all. But do make it a journey not a quick tourist hop-on hop-off coach trip.

Mindfulness teacher, poet, author of ‘The Well Mannered Penis’, ‘No Visible Injuries’, ‘Living Well and Loving ADHD’ ‘Julia’ and others.

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