What is the point of doing spiritual work?
Why make an effort to seek truth and free yourself from beliefs, habits, and ways of seeing the world?
Why break out of the mainstream of humanity to take the proverbial “road less traveled”?
For what gain?
Well, spiritual teachings would have us believe that the answer to these questions is the opposite of “gain”. It is the peace that comes from letting go of all that you have accumulated mentally, physically, and in your spirit and soul. And it is not just what you have learned and taken on in this lifetime, but the weight of your past lives, of what has been gifted to you transgenerationally, and even the share of the collective burden of humanity that is yours to shoulder.
But between where you are now and the end result of true peace is a long, long journey for most. And if you are awake and conscious that you are meant to do spiritual work in this lifetime, the journey usually feels like climbing a mountain that has no top, with little respite along the climb up.
Also true. (mostly)
As I have taken a different spiritual journey than most, what I call “a gentle spiritual path”, my climb has been a different experience.
For sure the climb has been a challenge. There are steep bits that feel like they will never end. And there are bits where the clouds swirl around the mountain and you can’t even see the next step to take. And sometimes the path seems to disappear completely, where you come to a cliff face you can’t seem to be able to get around.
So my path certainly has some of the key elements most spiritual aspirants experience.
But my choice of a gentle spiritual path has also given me some wonderful tools to work with and, per the title of this article, some practical results along the way that truly delight me in this human experience.
First, a few tools that I use as part of my journey. Think of them as tools a mountain climber might use to climb up the sheer face of a mountain. Sure, some climbers “free solo” their climbs but most are completely laden with gear. Both make it up the mountain, but with lots of effort. Instead, I take the winding walking path up the less steep backside of the mountain where I walk steadily and unwavering up. My climbing tools are like a walking stick and a good set of walking shoes, in comparison. And I enjoy the view in the sunshine on the less steep side of the mountain when the clouds clear, too.
Tool 1: The Third Option
Most people, when faced with big challenges see two options: Left or right. Up or down. This or that. Duality. Most times in life these two options are trade-offs. You gain something and lose something with both.
I have learned a different way to face life’s challenges: Look for the third option. Invariably there is one. But you have to look for it. And 100% of the time this third option is “better” than the options of duality. When I find it, I am delighted, grateful, and deeply awed by the power that illuminates my path.
But it is not just looking for a third option, but also having….
Tool 2: Patience
One thing in the little playbook of life you were not taught is that patience is a really powerful tool. Patience allows a third option to appear in what otherwise looks like a hopeless trade-off of dualistic options.
Patience allows a third option but it also allows for…
Tool 3: Right Timing
“Right timing” is one of the most powerful tools I have ever learned. In our haste to get what we want in life, including progress up the proverbial mountain of spiritual growth, we push, push, push our way with impatience and forced timing: “I want it right now!!!”
Right timing has saved me from unnecessary pain and suffering so many times that I have learned not to make decisions at all unless it is the right time to do so. This sometimes frustrates some people close to me as I don’t synch with their more rush-based approach to life, but it works for me and the results are so delightful and peaceful that I will never go back to a push-based way of doing things.
Tool 4: Principles
There are certain principles in life that simply work. And on my gentle spiritual path they have meant I not only have a more peaceful experience but also a more joyful one.
To most people principles are a painful set of rules that they dislike and ignore as best they can because they seem hard to adhere to.
To me, principles are the unwavering guides that keep me grounded and safe through the ever-changing weather of life. I never treat them as rules or dogma. Or as prescriptions or scripture. I honour them as companions that never lead me astray…if I have the patience to allow a third option to appear and right timing to take that option.
The actual principles that I honour are the subject of a future article, but suffice it to say that when I combine these four tools (and some others), I experience a more gentle and joyful spiritual path, far less pain and suffering than I witness in the journey of others, and per the topic of this article, some practical results, too.
Practical = things that make life easier and more joyful = a gentle spiritual path.
Practical results from spiritual work
I chose the above four tools to help explain the practical example I am going to share here that illustrates how spiritual work is very practical along life’s journey and not just useful for achieving the end goal.
Every week I drive over 100km (62 miles) between two cities. Along the way are multiple towns, some 20 stop lights, a mountain pass, multiple micro-climates, and lots of highway traffic that changes all the time in density and flow patterns. The drive takes between 90 and 120 minutes, depending on traffic.
My experience of the drive can be either stressful and tiring or it can be peaceful and enjoyable.
This is where my tools and spiritual practice generate practical results.
As I am driving, I practice patience and right timing. I typically find my own speed that feels just right for the flow of the highway. It is often just above the speed limit, in the traveling lane (right lane), and is never close to the vehicle in front of me. Vehicles come up behind me, change lanes, and pass me in the passing lane (left lane) all the time. Often they speed by, clearly in a rush to get to where they are going. And they push others to get out of their way. And they themselves are pushed by others behind them.
All this pushing and speeding and changing lanes before they race up to a red light makes them frustrated, stressed, and even angry.
My experience is that I see these patterns because I am not locked into their mind frame. And by seeing these patterns I intuitively slow down or speed up to stay in my own peaceful zone away from their chaos.
I also let people merge into my lane and never cut off anyone by darting in front of them (a principle of respect).
I stay in a peaceful “observer” mode while driving, with calming music playing, alert presence to allow me to see patterns emerging on the highway, and a feeling of flow.
And from my patience and choice of principles come right timing and the third option.
I giggle because I get mostly green lights (right timing) by flowing up to lights rather than racing and then slamming on the brakes between them.
And when a traffic jam occurs because of an accident or construction? I can see the pattern building long before I get there and a third option appears: I can exit the highway and take a parallel service road around the stoppage, for example. This has happened so notably that I now know that it is not a random occurrence.
This is just one example of how spiritual work has very practical results. As I climb the proverbial mountain in my own steady but gentle way, more and more results appear.
Spiritual work does not have to only be about about reaching an end goal. It can also be about practical results that make you feel awe, joy, and deep gratitude all along the path.