The spiritual journey is a paradox. It has a beginning, a middle and an end, but it’s also an infinite journey that is often symbolised by the figure 8. “Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water” is a Zen proverb that suggests there is a beginning, middle and end to the spiritual journey. Why would anyone bother starting any journey when we end up back where we began?
The spiritual journey begins when we ask:
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
- What is my purpose in life?
A spiritual crisis occurs when we find the answers to these questions. They highlight the fact that what we thought was true about who we are, why we were born and what we are meant to do with our lives is not the whole truth. We realise we have been sleepwalking through a greater part of life until now.
Many spiritual masters teach their students about the importance of living in the present moment. Of all the spiritual maxims, this one is crucial. If we do nothing else, learning to master the art of being present in life is a valuable personal goal to have because it is a vital key to living a healthy life.
A spiritual crisis is similar to a healing crisis. It often occurs somewhere in the middle of the spiritual journey. The physical, emotional or mental wounds that deplete our spirit are brought to a head. From this crisis point, recovery may or may not follow. Recovery occurs when our spirit is stronger than our wounds. Recovery may not occur if one or more of our wounds – physical, emotional or mental wounds – are stronger than our spirit. If our spirit is stronger than our wounds then we’re in a better position to regain our physical, emotional or mental energy. This is why it is so important to learn to live in the present moment. The more attention you pay to the present moment, then the more energy you will have that is present in your life. The more moments of your life that you do this, then the stronger your spirit will be.
There are two ways to do this and they won’t cost you a cent to begin. Meditation is one way to train your spirit to do this. Meditation is useful for those who have about 10- 15 minutes available alone each day. If not, then mindfulness practiced throughout each day is another way to strengthen your spirit. As the spiritual aspirant moves higher and deeper into these practices however, there will be times when support from a spiritual counsellor or mentor will be required to help navigate the inevitable ups and downs of the journey.
Spiritual enlightenment occurs when we realise that all is one, without a second. There is no-one out there. Everyone we meet is our mirror. You are a mirror too. We are all reflections bouncing off each other and it’s happening so quickly we don’t see it. Until we become conscious of it. The whole is in every one of us and every one of us is in the whole. We are that and that is us. You are that and that is you. I am that and that is me.
Spiritual enlightenment occurs at the end of the spiritual journey, which is actually a new beginning because there is no end to it, but instead of being separate from every person, place, or object we are now at one with the whole of creation. We have reached at-one-ment. Life goes on as usual, chopping wood and carrying water, but our perspective has changed. It is simultaneously higher and deeper because we have found meaning in who we are, what we think and feel, what we have, what we share, what we offer, and what we do. Where there was once separation, now there is unity.
The spiritual journey has a beginning, middle and end. It takes the aspirant back to the beginning, so it is also an infinite journey that continues to take us higher and deeper all at once. The journey takes us back home into the heart of our true self, where it all began and to begin again. Human beings are born with the instinct for growth that goes far beyond the physical. We are intelligent beings. We want to know more, do more and be more. These urges are designed to ensure the survival of the species. Growth ensures human evolution. It helps us to not only survive, but to thrive physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.