Stumbling Blocks to Following Your Spiritual Path

10 09 2008

Introduction
In my last article I spoke on how to choose and began the discussion on following one’s chosen path. As we defined this earlier a spiritual path is one where an individual is taking a route whether physically or metaphysically that pertains to the non-physical being of a person. The most important part of such a path, is that the individual grows, learns, and expands and comes to a reconciliation with their understanding of the metaphysical realms and their understanding of Deity(s).

Stumbling Blocks to Spiritual Growth

As one researches, and gets in tune with their path they may find some stumbling blocks to their growth. Dictionary.com defines a stumbling block as: “an obstacle or hindrance to progress, belief, or understanding”. In other words, something that stops the movement on a particular path. These blocks are usually temporary unless an individual chooses to make them permanent.

These stumbling blocks may be in the form of lack of understanding, fear, abandonment, (by friends and family), rejection, (personal, or societal), pressure to be normal, or even unfortunately, pressure from people in the Business of Paganism, to keep people to themselves. Take this example:

Research

An individual feels a connection with Kali. A cursory search of the literature shows Kali as a terrible aspect of a goddess. In fact some say that she is actually a demon that eats people alive. Interestingly enough, in the definitive work, The Magic of Kali , translated by Michael Magee, it states that this interpretation of Kali comes from the suppression of a group called the Thuggies, who were such a problem for the British during the empire days. In fact, Kali or Mahaprakrti, is “ the destroyer of anxiety, giving boons, seated on a corpse, and gives all desires.”

Similarly, the Morrigan, of Irish repute, is sometimes considered a “Battle field Goddess” when instead she is actually a Goddess of prosperity and peace after war, and according to some other traditions, while she may indeed release the two ravens that are depicted with her to her followers, she morns and guides the dead of BOTH sides to the Summerlands.

As you can see, this could become a stumbling block to an individual who has neither the time or the inclination to do proper research.

Fear, Abandonment, and rejection

Fear, abandonment, rejection and pressure to be normal are related to our culture and society. In the first article in this series (Choosing and Following Your Own Path ) I stated that we are social creatures that desire acceptance. As the nature of a personal spiritual path is not necessarily the same as those around us, these pressures can be intense. It is only by being truly grounded and committed to our own path that one can stand up to these pressures. In my time as a Spiritual Coach one thing is constant. In the beginning parents, friends, relatives, and spouses can be frightened by, (what they perceive), as a rejection of their values and ideals. Sometimes these loved ones exhibit psychological projection.
According to The Language of Psychology, (a psychology dictionary): Psychological projection (or projection bias) can be defined as unconsciously assuming that others have the same or similar thoughts, beliefs, values, or positions on any given subject as oneself. According to the theories of Sigmund Freud, it is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one “projects” one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings—basically parts of oneself—onto someone else (usually another person, but psychological projection onto animals and inanimate objects also occurs).
In this particular example, a loved one projects their own fears, abandonment issues, and rejection onto the individual who has chosen another belief or spiritual path than what they perceive is acceptable. In most of my clients, over time, these same loved ones come to realize that the person in question becomes more peaceful, happy, and balanced as they settle into their own spiritual path.

The Business of Spiritual Growth

As for those who are “in the business”, this is unfortunately what happens to spirituality, when it is replaced with business. In my personal opinion, jealousy, prosperity, (monetary), and mean spiritedness has no place in ANY business. As a facilitator of spiritual paths, I have no investment, or agenda, that I am following, and neither does ANY spiritual coach, facilitator, reader, shaman, or other worker in the field, who is truly following a Spiritual Path.

According to the Ethics Research Center, in 2005, 75% of those polled said they saw NO unethical behaviors in their workplaces. It is incumbent upon us as individuals to understand that ethical behavior is generally demonstrated in the workplace. Unethical behavior, when demonstrated is more easily spoken. Individuals who have been mis-treated by business people are more likely to share their stories than those who are treated well. Any competent business person will tell you that their employees are trained to be pleasant to customers. This is true in the business of Spiritual Growth as well.

First, investigate a potential spiritual guide with individuals who have actually worked with the individual, who can honestly evaluate if this person is worth perusing as a potential coach. Remember that not everyone is happy with the messages they receive from a spiritual worker. Your best choice is to speak to as many people as possible who have worked with that individual. One source of this type of information is testimonials from these actual clients.

Secondly, be cautious of individuals who are susceptible to gossip, or rumors, as these individuals tend to exacerbate and exaggerate issues that may or may not be present. After all, most individuals who facilitate spiritual paths that are not in the mainstream religions/spirituality, don’t fit the traditional mold of a leader.

Thirdly, listen to your own guides and intuition. These are your BEST guides for YOUR path.

Each individual that truly facilitates or teaches within this discipline knows that bringing together individuals of diverse backgrounds, and paths to bring about the individual’s highest spiritual enlightenment, doesn’t waste time bashing other workers. Many of my associates, follow Wiccan, Christian, Hindu, and First Peoples, (Native American), paths and we all work together, as there is room for all. After all, since a person’s path is INDIVIDUAL, a particular facilitator can not help everyone.

Financial Remuneration

Everyone has financial needs in this society. In tribal societies, the shaman, or spiritual worker is cared for by the community he or she serves. However, the individual in question is not doing this work as a JOB. Most of us, have been called to do this work, and are happy and honored to be able to facilitate other people’s paths. This isn’t to say, that a spiritual coach, teacher, or facilitator, should never accept support from their clients. It is all about intent. If the renumeration is paramount, then the work is secondary. I for one, and all those I work with, while we accept the funds that are offered,we don’t turn our backs on individuals who are guided to us, who do not have the financial wherewithal to “support” our work.

As one progresses in their particular path, they find various combinations of these and other stumbling blocks. Remember, it is YOUR choice what you follow.

Enjoy your Journey

Bright Blessing,

Alfred Willowhawk

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On Choosing and following your own path

10 07 2008

Introduction

” What path is right for me?”, is a question that each seeker asks at least once in their lives. As children, most individuals follow the pathways of their parents. Even if a parent has no particular spiritual path, the child is influenced by their parent. This is almost genetic as, regardless of a path, the mother, to the child, is the goddess. As one grows older and begins to think for themselves, they begin to feel a desire to either embrace or reject their parental suggestions. This includes the chosen spiritual path of the individual.

In my own life, I have spent time in many “spiritual” and “religious” pathways. Some of these were even of my own choosing at the time, so I thought. However, as we are social creatures, even the most reclusive of us, we still seem to blunder about until we finally settle on what works well for us.

Over the years as I facilitate myself and others on reaching some kind of accommodation with their desires for spiritual connection, certain indications seem to be prevalent with the majority of individuals.

What is a Spiritual Path?

Dictionary.com defines the word spiritual, (among other things) as:

of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature: a spiritual approach to life.

We will not concern ourselves in this article with the definition of the soul, despite differing presuppositional ethics, but accept this as a good working definition to add to our word “path”.

Again, Dictionary.com defines a path as:

a route, course, or track along which something moves, or a course of action, conduct, or procedure.

So, combining both of these we have a spiritual path is one where an individual is taking a route whether physically or metaphysically that pertains to the non-physical being of a person.

This definition allows for many diverse methodologies including those that are primarily of the phsyical realms, and those that are primarily of the non-physical realms.

Pressures that act as filters

As we stated in the introduction, many factors influence our examination and determination of our path. Some of these factors include, environment, social network, (including parents, friends, and co-workers), ethnicity or blood line, and connectedness, or lack of it, to the world around us.

Each of these act as filters through which we see the world around us. Ask any couple in a relationship how many times they “read between the lines” of a statement just to see how effective filters are in our daily lives.

One example of filters in relationships is as follows:

One partner is cooking dinner and asks the other partner: “Would you please take out the overflowing trash please?” The partner who was asks responds: “What, why do you do that, I work all day and of course I will take it out. I simply forgot. What do you think I sit and read all day? I work too! If it is too much trouble for you to cook dinner tonight then we could have gone out!”

The first partner is taken aback by the vehemence of the response as all they really asked was for their partner to take out the trash! Not everything else! The second partner read between the lines, of the other through there own filters.

While this is an extreme example, you can see what filters do in this mundane world, imagine what it does for our persuit of a spiritual path. Each individuals path is unique. One may utilize the same aspects of the divine, yet call them by another name. Take the deific aspect of healing. In some pathways, the deity of healing is Bridghid, (and lets not forget that spellings and language for even the same deity show regional differences), others it is Kwan Yin, and others Quanyin. Whole nations have gone to war over the NAME of a particular deity rather than listening to the aspect and intent of the name.

In our early 21st century world we have many examples of what I call “filter-itis”. Christians fight Muslims, Jews fight Christians, Wiccan’s fight Heathens, on and on and on.

Therefore, the first step in choosing a path is to put away the expectations of the society you are in and focus on the intent of the pathway without these filters.

Society and Acceptance

There is a quote from John Donne (1572-1631), which is in his “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions”, Meditation XVII: that goes like this:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

While Mr Donne was a christian, the sentiment expressed above is still true, (See, I practice what I preach). We are social creatures that desire the acceptance of those around us. The problem occurs when we desire our existing friends, colleagues,family, etc, to accept our new choice, just because we do!

Our brother or sister, who follows another path, can not always see that our path is equally valid. Sometimes this is because they are not following their true path either, however, it can also be that they truly feel that there path is RIGHT and yours is WRONG. While, based on the concept that all paths are one path, ( my own pre-suppositional ethic), this is not necessarily the filters that others see through.

Therefore, seeking acceptance by others, while part of our social conditioning, does not “play well” with some of those around us that follow a different path.

I have many Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, ( not what they call themselves-a topic for another article) , Jewish, Pagan, Wiccan, eclectic, heathen friends, and family, the only thing that is important to me is that they respect my path as I respect theirs.

What to look for in a path

Since, each of us must live within our own filters, examine the path that calls you in as objective way as possible. If you are called to Quanyin, (the bodhavista form of the deity of Compassion and Love – androgenous) then accept that particular deity as one that speaks to you.

If you feel that the trees speak with you, and you can hear/feel this then follow this where it leads you and don’t automatically say, I am not ____ (insert apppropriate group here) and can not really be associated with trees.

If you feel that a particular set of rules (i.e. The Wiccan Rede) speaks to you and reverberates within, then follow it and find others that can support you.

What is important is that it fills some needs within yourself.

The next step is to investigate the teachings of the path and take on that which speaks to you.

Be true to yourself and don’t belittle, or agonize over the choices you have made.

Be confident in yourself. You are the one who must follow the path, so you are the only one that needs to “understand” the path.

Lastly, do not label yourself if it would put you in a box that you do not wish to be part. Boxes are created by large groups and if you are a “round peg” why fit into a “square hole”?

Enjoy the Journey! After all – ALL life is a Journey.. We don’t REALLY know what is TRUTH – (OOPS, another topic for another day)

Bright Blessings,

Alfred





Of Small ponds, coffee houses and other fishy things

22 01 2008

Is it better being a small fish is a large pond or a large fish in a small pond? One of the eternal questions in our fast paced Internet world .  Our information age has redefined large and small. Any individual with a computer and an Internet connection can have their thoughts, cogitations, spiritual beliefs, and predictive “powers” displayed for all to see.  In an earlier age, these conversations were relegated to the early morning coffee house and late night pontifications with a bottle of wine, or the smoke blend of your choice.

 Today, any search on the Internet brings a host of articles by individuals with diverse views on any topic. As an example query your favorite search engine for “spiritual enlightenment”. Everything from the far right to the far left of the spectrum. We are beginning to learn that the old adages are dying.

Honest conversation about differences are excellent, after all ( forgive yet another platitude) Iron sharpens Iron. If an individual is not secure enough in their own framework then how can they disparage another’s?  Growth is always painful, ask any mother of a teething infant, without it we all die.

In my earlier post, On Being Human,I propose that one can seek the divine within themselves to find the divine that is the greater whole. Wholeness is, for me, the goal of being on this planet. It doesn’t matter what an individual pursues, just that they pursue it and don’t expect me to follow it.  Each individual walks their path, if one is lucky enough to find that someone else is on the same path great – that is called community. Communities come together as a way to mutually support, love, and encourage each other. The universe is the biggest pond we know, we are all small fish. Every-time we attack another we bring down ourselves, waste energy, and time that can be better spent on growth, just look in our own backyards.

So, let the ego go, we are all very small fish in a very big pond.