Updated: Jul 5
Many of you reading this will be engaged in what we as spiritual teachers call “the spiritual path.” This is not some vague thing that we are talking about. It just means that for some of us, our ordinary lives – working, family life, leisure time – while crucial to our happiness, do not completely answer certain questions that become important to us. What is the ultimate purpose and meaning of my life? Who am I really? And – what is it that makes me truly happy?
As we walk this path, certain doorways begin to open up in our understanding.
The Ordinary Self and the Real Self
First, we begin to see that in our daily lives we have two ways of being, or to put it another way, two different ways we experience ourselves. One is the usual way: we think certain things, we feel good or upset or angry, we get things, we lose things – we live our ordinary lives. We could say we are being our ordinary selves.
The other way, which for most of us occurs less frequently: we feel more alive than usual, more present in the moment, life seems to have more meaning, we feel more real, we think “ah, so this is what life is really about.” We could say we are being our true selves, our real selves.
We start to understand that there is a deeper dimension to life that gives it meaning, that gives us more satisfaction – and that this dimension has always been there in our lives, only it has never occurred to us to pay attention to it. And we begin to understand that we can have access to this deeper dimension - by learning to be our true selves.
Life as Problems vs. Life as Path
Second, we can begin to see that there also two basic ways in which we can understand the events of our lives. One is the ordinary way: “Is this good or is this bad? Are things going right, or are things going wrong?” The other is: “What can I learn from this?” We can begin to see that even when “things are going wrong,” actually they might be going fine, because we always have an opportunity to learn something important about what will truly help us to be happier in our lives. We learn, “life as path” may be more important than “life as problems.”
Third, we begin to explore more precisely exactly what it is that makes us happy or unhappy in our lives. At first this seems straightforward and not particularly interesting to think about. Obviously what makes us unhappy is when difficult or painful things happen. What makes us happy is when good things occur. End of story. Or is it?
What is most Important: Outer Events or Inner Reactions?
When we look more closely we can begin to see that there are two components to every situation: the event, and our inner reactions to it. For example we may have the experience that a “good thing” happens, but inside we are not necessarily joyful. Or – equally important – we begin to learn that a “bad thing” can happen, and we still can feel peaceful and fine inside. So we begin to see that when it comes to our happiness, our inner reactions might be more important than the outer events.
So these three understandings begin to become a part of our lives: that there is a deeper meaning to our lives than we have realized, that no matter what happens we can always see its positive potential to teach us something useful, and that our inner reactions may matter as much to our happiness – or more – than the outer events of our lives.
And so the doorway opens, and we begin to walk the spiritual path.
Looking forward to more contact with you -