A Spiritual Journey for the New Year
Its a New Year and this is a Journey I intend to take. Intend? Time For a little Websnacker philosophy
We travel to discover new worlds and experience new environments. We travel to experience ourselves in different ways, free of the normal constraints of our lives. We travel to see ourselves mirrored in other people and cultures in the world - at some deep level recognizing that we are all brothers and sisters, and reveling in our diversity, our uniqueness, even our eccentricities. We travel to face our fears-and to overcome them. We travel to test our mettle and expand our own boundaries. We travel to seek fun and excitement. We travel because, at our core, we humans are explorers and yearn for adventure. We long to break the monotony of our civilized, ever-so-rational, planned-out lives.
Discovery and adventure are also accessed through an inner journey, however, and, because it ultimately holds the potential fulfilment of all our desires, the inner journey is the most exciting, challenging and rewarding one there is. It is a sacred quest fraught with challenges and opportunities for growth disguised as obstacles. So many of our wisest teachers tell us to "know ourselves" and to "go inside" to search for the answers to all our questions. Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven is within". The Hindu sage, Nityananda, said, "the heart is the hub of all sacred places-go there and roam". Religious historian Elaine Pagels said, "when you know yourself deeply, you will know God, because you will discover that the divine is within you". In the highest sense, knowing ourselves means getting a glimpse of our ultimate divinity. Our main responsibility in life is to go within to discover who we are and then become the best "us" that we can be. Only we can do that; no one can do it for us. This is a universal imperative, regardless of gender, race, color, nationality or religious background.
So let us travel within-fearlessly. Inside is a fountain of courage and a source of infinite strength. Inside we finally find the relief of self-acceptance, the peace of understanding, the joy and humility of living with purpose. When we "come in" we are energized and enlivened by an inner resolve, a potent inner force. Inside is where we recognize our essential humanity-and connect to the spark of divinity that we all contain. It is also where we come to the realization of our oneness, where we find self-respect and, consequently, the respect of others. It is where we touch a love both tender and vulnerable -a love that hurts for the tragedy of the human condition and for our abused and neglected Earth. We discover a universe within as unfathomably limitless as the one without. Passion makes its home there, as do dreams.
On this journey we must also face our inner demons and nightmares-our shadow side that we have attempted to suppress. Throughout this never-ending journey of self-discovery, we must strive to remain open and integrate all of ourselves, the good and the bad-no longer rejecting parts of who we are. While inside, we discover how much we have become conditioned. The inner quest prompts us to analyze and often deconstruct entire systems of belief-not which we have previously interpreted reality- and which no longer serve us or fit who we are becoming. Inside we regain our lost innocence. We discover that the fear holding us back is only an illusion-a self-imposed imprisonment as pathetic and vulnerable as the Wizard in Oz trapped behind his razzle-dazzle effects, his curtain of smoke and mirrors. Inside we tap into the source of our creative expression; we discover and deepen our innate intuitive sense. Inside we find the only thing that will really fulfil us: our selves.
There are many paths leading us to the inner world. Meditation, in its various forms, is one of the most effective. The main goal of meditation is to quiet the mind, so that we can temporarily halt its constant thinking, analytic and problem-solving functions. In meditation we strive to focus the mind in the present moment, rather than giving it free rein to obsess about the past or fantasize about the future. When we learn to free ourselves from the mind's constant schemings and preoccupations, the result is an abiding peace-an indescribable scene of relief-as well as flashes of insight, increased clarity of thinking and unanticipated solutions to our problems.
In some ways, breath work, which may be considered a from of meditation, could be though of as the autobahn to the inner world. It works very fast, and even new practitioners can attain high meditative states the first time out of the pit. Traditional Indians have been using their breath for healing and as a means of reaching altered states of consciousness for thousands of years. Besides their healing effects, conscious breathing techniques, such as rebirthing or holotropic breathing, can generate a profound sense of spiritual connectedness.
Chanting is another meditative practice that helps quiet the mind, potentially leading to deepened levels of inner peace and heightened states of being. Chanting works best when done for a substantive period of time (at least 30 minutes to an hour) and helps us to allow free expression to our innate feelings of devotion. For those who are physically inclined or who have short attention spans, meditative practices involving movement may be most effective; these include yoga, tai chi, qi gong, walking the labyrinth and ecstatic dancing.
Yet another way of going within is communing with nature. Solitary moments in beautiful natural settings can lead to profound inner peace and a deep spiritual connection. Our bodies quiet and relax as they become more attuned to the cycles of nature.Besides the many benefits gained from these and other spiritual practices-such as deepened insight, an expanded sense of self and a richer awareness of our oneness with the universe-a life that works better is the icing on the cake.
It is important to realize that a likely result of exploring the inner landscapes is a propulsion into action. Having faced our inner demons and dropped our old identities of woundedness and vicitimization, we reemerge transformed as the beings that we really are: empowered compassionate, loving, ready to make a difference in the world and fully able to embrace the totality of life. In this sense, coming out means emerging as who we are really are.
Having discovered who we are at a deeper level and experienced our connection to all life and to the divine, we often emerge as spiritual travellers, environmental activists, moral leaders, change catalysts, social reformers and justice workers. In a sense, going within and coming out are two sides of the same coin, the inhale and the exhale. For, as James Allen says in As we Think (new world library), "You cannot travel within and stand still without". Once we reestablish our rightful place in relationship to nature and the rest of the universe, everything else falls into place. We begin to treat the Earth, its resources and its other inhabitants with respect.
In terms of taking action, the single most important thing we can do in life is to go for our personal best. Tom Waddell, the equal gender activist, once said, "To do one's personal best is the ultimate of all human achievement", Whether we stretch toward personal excellence step by step or leap by leap, the move forward is the ultimate goal. In making our own unique contribution, we will find fulfillment.
It all begins with the journey within. Inner space: the final frontier. This is the ultimate adventure, the real test, the answer to our questions, the resolution of problems. Therein lies our happiness and our life's fulfillment. So, start your journey today.