21st May 2000 – Searching for a Spiritual Path

I am on a spiritual path! I am on a spiritual path. I am on a spiritual path?
These are the thoughts that are and have been relevant to me this year.

And I have struggled with them. Is there such a thing as a spiritual path? What does this spiritual path consist of? Is it real? How would I recognise it if I saw it? Am I on such a path? Do I want to be on it? Do Have I have a choice about it anyway? What direction am I going, progressing or regressing? I have been feeling very confused.

I feel like Poo Bear, with very little brain Thinking Thingish Things.

This morning I am risking other people looking at my Thingish Things and perhaps my confusions in the hope that some slight thought or word may trigger a Thingish response with someone …
Anyone.

Jalal al-Din Rumi (MASNAVI Vol 5: Verses 1733-1734) suggests that we have an inbuilt need to search. It is however difficult to search without at least making a path even if we are not following a pre-existing path, road, or motorway. Rumi (MASNAVI Vol 3: Verses 978-980) also suggests that we should actively apply ourselves to such a search and, importantly, we will (with certainty) find that for which we search. Now that’s a thought isn’t it? The corollary to this is that if we do not search, we will find that for which we look, that is nothing.

The idea of being on a journey or path during life is not new. Our own literature is full of it with the Robert Frost poem (The Road Not Taken) being just one example.
What appeals to me is the idea that taking the ‘path less travelled’ makes a difference. Perhaps this effects the quality of the progression and what is perceived and learned along the path.
To me it is the act of choice which is important and specially that there is not necessarily a pre-ordained, pre- determined and way marked route.

Richard Wilkins thoughts contained within his ‘the path to follow’ (10/10 The Yellow Book: final page) also interests me. Is it really true that whatever path we take it is always the right one for us? Is it the journey that is important rather than the journey’s end?

All these thoughts interest me but can I make sense of them? What do they mean for Me? Do questions have any importance to myself? How should I test them to find out their truth?

On reflection there is only one way. Reading and listening to others is interesting, thought provoking but of itself can give no certainty. So where can I look for the answers to my questions about the spiritual path? The answer is simple. I should look at what I think I know most about. I should look at myself. I think that we have lived together, me and myself, long enough now to know a little of each other. To do this I intend to apply the best, the most effective tool that I have, hindsight. It is a wonderful tool if used ‘with truth’ and with unclouded vision, though I am not sure I have that totally sorted out yet. Hindsight can be very unkind! So, I have a question, I have a tool to apply and I have myself on which to apply it.

So what can my own life tell me about the existence, direction, or perhaps the quality of my possible spiritual path? What do I look at but who I am, What I was, What I have become and then perhaps chart this forward. Is this too easy? Would this answer any of the questions or does the very framing of the process of WAS, NOW and NEXT bare with it an automatic answer of PATH, just like any three dots not in a straight line, when joined will always form a triangle.
Probably, but I am not sure how to escape this thinking.

For what it is, I feel that I have changed during my life, or have I developed. I started out as a very shy, introverted, emotionally insecure child with limited social skills and a poor memory.
What have I become but a shy, introverted, somewhat insecure adult who brazens out public appearances but normally verges on the uncommunicative and anti-social and guess what, still having a poor memory. Doesn’t sound like much progress or development does it? Well perhaps I have understated the lack of development just a fraction. My life has taught me, however, the value of what and who I am. Personal success has been important in the development but more importantly have been my failures. These have taught me to empathise with others. My life has forced me to look at myself and to see me as I am not as I would like to be. It has created a need in me to help others, though whether this is only normal growth and flowering of a pre-existing disposition is open to debate.

What does this mean? I am beginning to understand myself and this allows me to guess at an understanding of others. Is this the spiritual path for which I search? I think not, though perhaps an understanding of myself may have predisposed me to ask the questions about a spiritual path, I see nothing spiritual in this.

And that suggests another question, perhaps the most important question. Has there been anything spiritual at all in my life so far? Memory of my childhood and early youth is now fragmentary to my mind, and although there were experiences and lessons learned I cannot say that they were particularly spiritual. In this period I grew up within a Unitarian family (my father having been a minister) and I attended a Unitarian church. The ‘free thinking’ that I was exposed to demanded of me a number of things. Ask questions. Look beyond the surface. Serve others. Work hard. Strive for what is good. I suspect these attitudes were inculcated within me during this period. Are these spiritual? No I don’t think so, not in themselves, no matter how laudable.

Did the next period of my life have anything spiritual? I found love, married and helped (however little) to bring up two children. I strived for academic and professional standing. I was driven to learn and not just in an academic sense. Interesting? Yes. Necessary? Yes.
Spiritual? No I think not, unless I have misunderstood what spiritual is, and that is entirely possible. Perhaps ‘spiritual’ cannot be really understood before you have experienced and created an understanding of life, living and responsibility.

Has anything spiritual happened in my life that I can poke a finger at?
Anything at all? Well perhaps. My problem is that I am certainly a ‘doubting Thomas’. I have to bump into things. I have to have things spelled out. I am after all very slow to understand the obvious. No doubt my ‘life-acquired’ pre-disposition to be an ‘Eeyore’ gets in the way. Lynn, my wife, certainly thinks I have this ability to look hard at life and find the worst possible outcome to worry about. I think I am preparing myself for the ‘brick-bats’ of life which need to avoided or at least survived.

Today, now, I will not do this. I will be a ‘Tigger’. Well perhaps that is going too far. So perhaps I will settle for being ‘Poo Bear’.

So, has anything spiritual happened in my life that might answer my original questions? Yes, I think I have had a slight glimmer, a peak, a smidgen, enough to acquire a slight inkling about the answer(?) to my questions. And in my ‘Poo-bearish’ way I will expose my thingish things to you, and hope that they don’t become less thingish.

Within the last 10 years, it has come to me to ask the question, is there a God? This thought has come repeatedly to me, without me asking for it. It popped, fully formed into my head and often when I was working my hardest at something difficult but definitely non-spiritual. So far I have never been able to answer the question.

About 4 years ago I decided to stand this question on its head. I would apply the ‘null Hypothesis’, beloved by researchers and statisticians, to my original question. I will say that there is no God. Can I say that there is no God? I found after many attempts to reflect and answer this that when it came down to it I could not really say, and believe, that there was no God. This knowing was not at a conscious level though my arguments definitely were.

Not long after accepting my thoughts concerning God I heard about Reiki healing and I could not believe that such healing could work. It must be just a money-spinner. Yet within months, despite my objections to the idea of the idea I knew that I would be trained and that I would go all the way to master level in this healing form. No conscious decision was made. The knowledge just appeared, fully formed within me. Two years ago I found out that my eldest brother was a healer within his church, and though too late, he warned me that the effect of becoming a healer was to travel down the spiritual path faster, almost to be driven down it. He said that it was not possible to heal and not make spiritual progress.

In the last 2 years I have noticed with an increasing frequency that friends and acquaintances are offering books of a spiritual nature that I feel the need to read and sometimes buy.

Just over a year ago I knew that I had to come to the church I now attend. Knew. No discussion. No pondering. And when I did not do it I found that the need within me grew until I could no longer ignore it. When I arrived what did I find? I found others also deeply interested in spiritual matters and healing. To my limited knowledge, unheard of in a Unitarian church.

Today, to some extent I find myself increasingly driven by unconscious decisions that ‘feel right’ rather than are thought through. This ‘feel right’ factor has, for me, become important. It is forcing me to recognise that within me is a source of knowledge as well as a sense of peace and well being which is worth pursuing.

Have my original questions been answered? I think partly but not in the way that I was thinking that they would be. I think that I can see a spiritual development within me. To some extent it embarrasses me to say so. If I accept what has and was happening to me then it can be said that I am on a spiritual path. Perhaps I have always been on it. Perhaps my progress along this path is in-built within me. Perhaps it does not matter, but to me the recognition of a line of development or pathway is important. I am happy to be there, or here wherever it might be. I am happy to be travelling. I am happy to have taken the path less travelled. I am interested, even excited, to know this. I look forward with interest to further steps along the path into what to me is unknown land. Most of all I am happy that I sometimes find a Thing which is very ‘Thingish’ within me and hope that you, who find an interest in such ‘Thingish Things’ will treasure them.

I wish to thank you all for listening and for the chance to speak. Not because I like speaking in public but I feel that the process, thought to paper to mouth has been important to me so that I could pin down some of my thoughts. Thank you.