The ways that each living thing experiences life is both individual and part of a shared reality, both unique and universal. There is a unitary truth at the center of all things and an infinite variety and dissimilarity in the layers in which that core is wrapped, the distinctive ways in which it is expressed in each particular life.
We travel many convoluted thoroughfares seeking false hopes that once appeared bright, down blind roads that end too often in deserts from which we must extract our souls and wander on again in different directions that we think may lead us to where we may find our satisfaction. But our spirit always knows where it wants to go. The spirit is striving to reach its heart, where its inherent life connects to the Heart of all things.
As we struggle through our lives, we find many paths that others have formed by simply living in that way, moving in that direction. Successful people write books and give workshops and lead self-help groups to show the path that will get you from where you are to some particular place of satisfaction.
The difficulty is that even when the object of satisfaction is finally attained, the anticipated sense of fulfillment wanes. There is no lasting, abiding contentment that remains, no transformation of the spirit toward the essence of its being. We do not find there the truth of our humanity where our spirit knows its own belonging.
Just as there are well-formed, well-worn paths which lead to all the myriad goals we can imagine for our life, there are also well-established paths of the spirit that move us away from the unreliable and impermanent outer aspects of our lives, and into the deep abiding reality that lies within. They are paths that transform how we think and feel, reshape our intentions and motivations, reconfigure our objectives.
There have been, over the centuries and millennia, adventurers of spirit who have sought out and experienced the life of the spirit. They have found that ultimate goal of enduring fulfillment where the spirit regains its home. These are the saints, walis, sages, holy men and women, bodhisatvas.
They have taught others who have followed after them; and they have all left accounts, markers, tracks through the overgrowth of desires and dissatisfactions, toward the enduring reality which lies at the heart of all things.
The path each person takes is personal, yet there are many who are traveling and have traveled in a similar way. There are traces left that can be a guide for those who are searching for their own directions through the dense entanglements of their lives.
Each path leads a person on an inner journey which begins to gradually detach our desires from their binding relationship with outer satisfactions and redirects them toward the eternal Truth at the core of our being. We begin to be concerned less and less with our own limited individual interests and pleasure and increasingly and more deeply passionate about finding how to live from the heart of our being where our spirits are able to finally consciously experience the essential reality of all of life.
But it must be remembered that a path goes in both directions. It is important to know in which direction to go or you'll end up further from your goal than where you started. At every bend our motivations, desires and attention can be easily turned back into the old habits of self-serving, self-promoting, self-indulgence.
The direction of thoughts, words, and actions that lead us more deeply into the freedom of our spirit, will work to erode, to wear away the self-involved, self-preserving ego-self. They will, at the same time, strengthen and empower the deep spirit that shares its life with all living things, with all the material cosmos and with the divine Itself.
Even inclinations of spirituality, when followed for the wrong reasons, using the wrong perspectives, can empower the ego-self and lead us into attitudes and actions that will injure the essence of our spirit. To keep on the direction that leads to abiding reality we seek, we must persist in watching our thoughts, words and actions: where they come from, where they take us, how they change us, who we are becoming.