The story of a journey that leads one from an ordinary life to one that is quite extraordinary is found in virtually every culture throughout history. This story is often referred to as the spiritual journey, the hero’s journey, or the transformative journey. By whatever name it’s given, this journey usually has several common characteristics.
- Someone who is leading a rather ordinary life is called by something seemingly far greater than oneself…and the call can be quite compelling!
- This calling is often (but not always) preceded by a crisis or a challenge in one’s life.
- This call, and the subsequent journey, becomes the most important thing in one’s life…and it won’t go away!
- The old self and the old life are challenged--and sometimes radically disrupted.
- We will face many “Angels and Demons” on this journey; it is very important to meet them wisely.
- Not everyone who engages the journey is able to complete it.
- The path is not linear, it has many twists and turns and seeming dead ends.
- “Progress" on this journey consists not of personal gain or acquisition but one of letting go and surrendering the personal will.
- The individual who completes the journey is never the same “person” as the one who began it---a radical transformation has taken place!
- The transformed person now returns to the ordinary world but lives a very extraordinary life. She is “in the world but not of it.”
Someone who is leading a rather ordinary life is called by something seemingly far greater than oneself. This can be a series of gentle nudges--a niggling at one’s heart. It can start with a mild dissatisfaction, a “divine discontent” and grow slowly in intensity. The person is often unable to clearly understand or articulate the discontent or the attraction. In a few cases one feels if he were grabbed by the neck and pulled into another reality. At times he may feel overwhelmed.
This experience is sometimes coincident with an outer crisis or challenge in one’s life. Or the challenge may be more internal; but either way it feels as if one’s former life is no longer available---something has ended.
This call, and the subsequent journey, become the most important thing in one’s life…. and it won’t go away! It does not go away when it’s ignored. We may be able to distract our self for a while—but not for long; it is very persistent—and seems to grow stronger with time.
The old self and the old life may be challenged, and perhaps radically disrupted. The individual feels a loss of identity and a shift in values and purpose. Some might label this as “a mid-life crisis” – but it is much deeper and more significant.
We will face many “Angels and Demons” on this journey; it is very important to meet them wisely. These angels and demons are all within you; even the ones that appear to be external are representations of that which is within your own mind. The demons may seem very fierce and the angels quite seductive but ultimately awareness and love will transform them in to your most powerful allies.
Not everyone who engages this journey is able to complete it. There are some who are unwilling to release the familiar self and the former life. One may become even more entrenched in the former identity and life style and return to seeking external fulfillment to find meaning in their life.
The path is not linear—it has many twists and turns and apparent dead ends. One may become confused or discouraged when he sees that the path is not a straight line and that progress cannot be measured in a linear way. He may find the journey having many unexpected turns and dead ends and apparent setbacks—similar to walking a labyrinth.
Challenging to the mind is the recognition that “progress’ on this journey is measured more in terms of letting go than of gain or acquisition. To the ego, it is a very humbling experience. Ultimately, surrender is the only choice. The Tao Te Ching tells us that “In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired. In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.”
The individual that completes the journey is never the same “person” as the one who began it---a radical transformation has taken place! She who finishes the journey is never she who began it; it is a complete transformation of one’s sense of self and of reality. And, the one who has “finished” will realize that there is no final end point—the journey is open ended. Ultimately, there is no journey at all!
The transformed person may return to the ordinary world but will live a very extraordinary life. That life is not necessarily extraordinary as the world sees it; it may be an ordinary life lived in an extraordinary way. She is no longer bound by the old reality. She is now “In the world but not of it.”
Finally, I must note that what is described above is a general pattern. With all spiritual teachings it can be useful to speak in generalizations as long as we know that exceptions are the rule. Do not be dismayed if you find that your journey does not exactly match this description—you are right where you need to be at this time. Always honor the path you are on.
Please know that you never journey alone; and that you are always guided by the clear Light within.