I don’t like cryptic and hard-to-understand ideas.
I much prefer clearly expressed truth.
This is truth that I can instantly feel at the deepest level of myself and that illuminates my mind, so that I can embrace it right away and integrate it into my life immediately.
My draft title of this article was “You are your own path”. Though this title is essentially true, it is an often-repeated spiritual principle, one that implies looking inward because “all you need is inside yourself”.
Yes. This is factually true.
However, simply stated truths like this can feel cryptic and frustrating because they often raise the question of “OK, but what do I do to be on my own path?” And “This feels like truth, but leaves me feeling frustrated because it is so far from my day-to-day reality of life.”
Frustration = not being gentle on your path.
Instead, I changed the title of this article to its current version: “Spiritual Principle: Walk your own path”, which feels much more action-oriented, empowering, freeing, and at least to me: gentle toward oneself.
So, here is what this principle means to me and why it is a key principle of a gentle spiritual path for me:
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 our years in school end, we apply for jobs through a process, we get a job and are trained in processes, we follow these process steps to accomplish things in our work and the employment process gives us money, which we use in a process to buy things that we need and want.
Is it any surprise that when we hear an inner calling from our spirit and soul that we naturally look for a process to follow to answer that inner call?
It is no surprise at all, which is why we have religions, yoga, meditation groups, new age teachings, retreat centres, and a hundred other spiritual processes we could follow. They are wrapped in soothing words like “journey”, which makes them seem to our minds to be the right thing to follow, and cost a certain amount of money for “x” number of sessions, days, weeks, or months.
All very much in alignment with the linear, step-by-step way our minds like to see the world and reassures us that this is the “right” way to go about answering an inner call.
But it is not the only way to answer the inner call. And as history can show us, a process-driven way is fraught with challenges that must be overcome at best or are succumbed to at worst.
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 and teachings you can learn from and useful tools, concepts, and principles that you can pick up and use? And that you can use these teachings and tools in your very own way rather than in the way a religion or process tells you to use them? And that by doing so you are inherently answering your inner call with yourself, which is the most powerful commitment you can make.
Maybe I just expressed what needed to be said.
One more piece that should finish off this principle:
Walking your own path means you are free to be gentle on yourself, which in turns results in a spiritual journey that is itself quite gentle.
“Gentle” feels just right for me!
But let’s take a bit of time to satisfy the mind, so that your mind and your inner knowingness can come into alignment. When they are in alignment, there is little or no internal resistance and discombobulation.
Alignment of mind and inner knowingness = trust and peace = gentleness.
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.
Let’s take a look at this one:
No grades, no steps, and no comparisons = less self-judgement = being gentle with yourself.
There is no right or wrong. Only what works for you and doesn’t work for you. Doing what works for you = less 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, then you are setting yourself up for failure and self-judgement compared to an external metric or criteria. Or, alternatively, you will believe you are “successful” and judge yourself as “good” and “better” based on what someone told you you should do. This can result in “spiritual pride”, a really problematic challenge to overcome. In either case, judgement of your “progress” using an external metric is not gentle. For every “success” and “good” you think you “achieve” based on what someone tells you to do, you will find the opposite comes to pass…in due time.
Choosing to listen to yourself for what works and doesn’t work on your spiritual path is a huge gift of gentleness to yourself.
And about the idea and practice of “worship”:
There is nothing and no-one to worship.
Oh, this is a juicy one. The tendency of even the most serious and determined spiritual seekers to worship a person or religious idol with deeply felt and expressed emotion never ceases to surprise me. Worshiping anyone – yes, even the most trusted 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 realize over and over again that your efforts have not resulted in you becoming the same as the exalted one you have been worshiping.
Freedom from worship means you are free to be peaceful and let your natural kindness flow through you and out into the world as you walk your own path in your own time in your own way. 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 only a small challenge for me to deal with, but I respect it may not be for others. Here’s why:
You must take responsibility for your own journey. And you must do your own journey by yourself.
Are you feeling any emotion? I suspect that reading this principle and letting yourself “feel it” may generate a sense of discomfort, uncertainty, confusion, and possibly even fear.
Because taking responsibility for your own spiritual journey and “owning it” is not easy. Processes, on the other hand, can feel trustworthy and safe to your mind and your mind runs your emotions. Taking responsibility for yourself can trigger emotions that give you evidence to your mind that walking your own path is 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 walk 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 at the same time 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 or trying to “get to” somewhere.
Not a gentle way.
Or you can take your time learning to ride your bike by going slower, staying on quieter pathways at first, learning what works for you, and as you gain experience, emerging into the world with confidence and abilities that you can trust to lead you to ever more clarity, strength, and peace.
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 posting has resulted in a deep sense of peaceful relaxation, gratitude, and joy in myself. 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 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.