I am not a fan of cryptic, hard to understand sayings. I much prefer clearly expressed and fully explained truth with practical application that I can use on my journey of spirit and life as a human being.
My first title, which I edited, was “You are your own path”. Though this original title is essentially true, it is an oft-repeated spiritual principle that implies going inward and “all you need is inside yourself”. Sure. But it can be frustrating as it leaves you with “how exactly do I do this?”
Frustration = not being gentle on your path.
Instead, I changed the title to its final version “Principle: Walk your own path”, which feels much more empowering, freeing, and …yes, gentle to oneself.
So, here is what it means and why it is a key principle of a gentle spiritual path:
Principle: Walk your own path
Most of us have been en-cultured by processes all our lives. We line up at school and in stores. We do worksheets in school for letters or percentages, which then lead to steps forward called “grades”. After school, we apply for jobs through a process, we get a job and are trained on processes, we follow steps to accomplish things in our work and the “job” process gives us money, which we use in a process to buy things.
Is it any surprise that when we hear a calling to grow spiritually we naturally look for a process to follow?
No surprise at all, which is why we have religions, yoga, meditation groups, new age teachings, and a hundred other, often strange sounding, spiritual processes we are enthusiastically invited to follow.
So, now the tough part to write: How do I express in words that the gentle path I chose does not follow a religion or process of any kind?
And how do I express that there are wonderful teachers you can learn from and very, very useful tools, concepts, and principles that you can use, but the teachings and tools can be yours to use in your very own way rather than in the way that a prescribed spiritual process tells you to use them?
Maybe I just expressed what needed to be said.
One more piece that should finish off this principle:
Walk your own path – without a process – and you are free to be gentle on yourself, and therefore your spiritual path as a whole can be quite gentle.
Why no religious or spiritual process?
Without the processes that come with traditional religious and spiritual “pathways”:
There are no metrics to compare yourself to. No grades. No comparing yourself to someone else who is at a higher “step” in the process than you. No grades, steps, or comparisons = no self-judgement = being gentle with yourself.
There is no right or wrong. Only what works for you and doesn’t work. Doing what works = no resistance = gentleness.
There is no-one outside of you to tell you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Notice that I wrote “to tell you…”. That was a specific wording choice. Because if someone tells you how to walk your spiritual path, you are setting yourself up for failure and self-judgement which are not gentle things. Or you will be successful and judge yourself as “good”. In either case, judgement of any kind is not gentle. For every “success” and “good”, you will find the opposite in yourself…in due time. Choosing to listen only to yourself for what works and doesn’t work for you on your spiritual path is a huge gift of gentleness you can give yourself.
There is no-one to worship. Oh, this is a juicy one. The ability of even very serious spiritual “seekers” to worship a religious idol with deeply felt and expressed emotion never ceases to surprise me. Worshiping anyone – yes, even the most revered teachers and spiritual guides – will eventually lead to a challenging blockage you will have to transcend. And it will set you up yet again for self-judgement when you “fail” to be like the one your worship. Freedom from worship means you are free to be peaceful and let your natural kindness flow through yourself and out into the world. Peacefulness and kindness are by nature gentle.
The challenge with “Walk your own path”
OK, so there is a challenge that comes with this principle and with walking your own spiritual path. It may not be an easy challenge for some. It was a quite small challenge for me, but I respect it may not be for you:
You must take responsibility for your own journey.
Feel any emotion? I suspect that reading this principle has slowly generated a sense of discomfort, uncertainty, confusion, and possibly even fear deep inside some readers.
Because taking responsibility for your own spiritual journey – “owning it” is not easy. Processes are trustworthy and safe. Taking responsibility can feel neither trustworthy nor safe.
An analogy: When you first learn to ride a bicycle, it may be scary, but when you get the hang of it, you realize that balancing and moving forward are connected and with care and focus, result in an experience that is fun and generally reliable.
No-one can teach you the exact a process for balancing while riding a bike. Techniques? Sure. Tips? Sure. Hold the bike in balance for you? Maybe for a few meters, but they have to let go or you won’t figure out balancing for yourself. Balancing while riding a bike is something you must learn on your own.
Learning to walking your own spiritual path is like learning to balance while you ride a bicycle.
At first you need to get a few things coordinated: How you use your spirit, mind, and body to learn, grow, and live peacefully and joyfully while moving forward in life.
Continuing the analogy – and this is when the “gentleness” comes in – you can learn to ride a bicycle by going fast, crashing, getting up and taking more risks, all while trying to keep up with your friends. Not a gentle way.
Or you can take your time, use training wheels, perhaps, go slower, stay on quieter pathways at first, and as you gain confidence, emerge into the world with confidence and abilities that will keep you safe and enjoying the bicycle ride. A more gentle way to learn.
Walk your own spiritual path.
Learn to walk it carefully, patiently, and gently. Be kind to yourself as you learn to take responsibility for your own journey and what works to help you grow and how to balance yourself inside and out.
Writing this piece resulted in a deep sense of peaceful relaxation, gratitude, and joy. I watch as the tea pours into my mug. I watch the bushes outside move in the breeze. I watch as my spirit rests gently and joyfully while the world around me in the busy cafe swirls.
I let it swirl. My path is my own. It is a gentle one. I choose to walk peacefully through the world and through my spiritual journey. I don’t always succeed, but peace and gentleness are now the norm in my experience, not the exception.
May yours be a gentle path, too, if that is what you choose.