So long as we believe a spiritual path and practice is necessary, then a spiritual path and practice will be necessary. Thus, for most of us – certainly for me – it is essential to find something that is helpfully resonant and clarifying. It will undo itself in time – and we will see the silliness of ever believing there was anything to do or anywhere to go (in a spiritual sense, a religious sense) – but still. Until we are there, we are here, and so it is here to which we give attention.
What is the right path? It is a question of resonance. It is like falling in love: there is an element of mystery to it. It will challenge you, succor you, and inspire you. You will know, and you will also resist knowing, so some discernment is called for. We have to be intelligent and willing; we have to roll with the bumps. We have to be mature: we can’t be like kids spitting out the kale because it doesn’t taste like ice cream. The path arises – appears – and so we walk it, and give attention to our walking.
At some point, the helpfulness (or lack thereof) of the chosen path will be clear. We will perceive the way in which it is meeting your perceived needs: to be loved, to be at peace, to live a meaningful and productive life, and so forth. Often at that point, the path will no longer be perfect. Its twists and turns and thorns will be obvious, perhaps frustratingly so. But it’s okay. At that point, we are no longer in the honeymoon phase but the marriage. We are ready to make the commitment. It doesn’t have to be perfect because we are ready to learn about the love that transcends the shallow level of ideals (happy feelings, preferential outcomes, etc.).
How long does all this take? This finding the path, and walking the path, and learning whether it is a helpful path, and committing to the path? It depends. There may be a lot of stops and starts. We may go quite far along one trail before discovering a truer one. For me, there were several serious relationships before A Course in Miracles arrived and asked for my attention. All of those prior relationships were helpful in their way, until they weren’t. Seeing this, I gave my attention elsewhere. I was able to say “yes” to A Course in Miracles. It was on that path that I saw at last there is no path, and was able at last to rest in the natural grace of what is.
There is a real risk that we will find ourselves wanting to move on from this or that path not because it no longer serves but because it is serving us too well. Before awakening becomes fluid and peaceful it is often rocky and challenging: it brings us into deep and sustained contact with all aspects of the self, not just those that we like to share publicly. So again, discernment is needed. Am I moving on because the going has gotten too hard? Or am I genuinely being called to this new path?
None of these questions are easy, and none of them can be answered by anyone else but ourselves. Friends and fellow travelers abound but they can’t walk that lonesome valley for us. It is helpful to see and accept this, and to become responsible for it.
There is no such thing as an objectively right way to awaken from the dream of separation. There are subjectively right ways, but not objectively right ways. It is imperative to give attention to our own experience, to be grateful for those who travel with us – briefly or otherwise, intimately or otherwise – and to be as patient and nonjudgmental as possible with all our brothers and sisters. Awakening to oneness is really a matter of becoming responsible for awakening – our own, not everyone else’s.
I want everyone to be happy in a natural and serious way. I want everyone to feel creatively united to everyone else. Those are just words, and words are always a pale substitute for love, but we have to try. Loneliness and guilt, fear and anger, emptiness and regret are not inevitable. It is possible to leave their pernicious effects behind, and to dwell in a calm and quiet gracefulness. To that end, sustained and gentle attention given to the particular form of our spiritual search is always helpful. The answer wants to be found: even now it whispers our shared and precious name.