Ride it out, that’s my advice. Pick a path and ride it out, to the point where it becomes obvious it’s the wrong path, or a dead end, or the royal highway to the Holy Grail. How do you know which one to choose? Choose the one that seems to you the most likely, ride it out. The path will reveal its nature to you over time, if it becomes obvious that you should choose another, choose another. And, what if you choose poorly at the start and miss a chance of a lifetime, a life of a lifetime? Make the best of it, that’s my advice. Mourn what must be mourned, grieve what must be grieved, bear the pain of your empty-headed-ness, your short-sighted-ness, your have-to-have-it-right-now-ness, redeem what can be redeemed, and start again, with the choices that are before you now, and choose the most likely path before you, and ride it out, mourning, grieving, bearing the pain, redeeming, and making the best of that choice.
You see the pattern? We don’t just wake up and there is the path with our name on it. We pick a path, and then wake up, over time, to the true nature of the path. The path wakes us up, as much as we can be waked up at this particular time and place of our life. And, that much awake now, we pick another path, which wakes us up, as much as we can be waked up at that particular time and place of our life. You see how it goes? We live our way into enlightenment. We don’t just read a book, or hear a lecture. There are no shortcuts. There is no, I hate to be the one to tell you this, path.
No one path. No one and only path. No path that is the absolutely right path forever and all time. Every path is capable of opening us to as much truth as we are able to apprehend at any point in our lives. No path is fool proof or pain free. At any point in our lives, we have to bear the pain of having lived to that point in our lives—of having trod the path we have trod up to that point in our lives. There is no escape, no protection, no immunity. We can only be as awake as we can be at any point in our lives, and any path, every path, has the capacity to wake us up to that extent. Which means, gentle people, that one path is as good as another, because all any path gets you is as awake as you can be at a particular point in your life, and every path is good for that.
And, if you are wondering about what to do with your life, or about who and how to be, here’s the answer to what to do with your life: Wake up! And, here’s the answer to who and how to be: Awake! And, if you want to be fully, completely, absolutely, instantaneously awake right now, here’s the solution to that: Wake up! There is only waking up. The path is waking up. Every path is waking up. Waking up is the path, seeing is the journey. Or, seeing is the path and waking up is the journey. It’s all the same, either way.
One path is as good as another. Every path is the Grail Path. We can only be where we are. And we are where we are because of where we have been. Every step has been a necessary step to this here, this now. We can only be as awake as we are. If you think another path could have made you more awake, wake up!
One of the things we wake up to when we wake up is that there is more waking up to do. We can never be more enlightened than our present state of readiness for enlightenment allows us to be. Our seeing, at any point, has to take our seeing into account, has to see that, no matter what we see, we only see what we see. As we begin to see our seeing, we see things we don’t see, haven’t seen. And, we see that seeing is an unfolding path forever.
No seer worthy of the title expounds on what she, on what he, has seen, but inquires about the unseen. Every seer seeks to see more than has been seen. In the presence of seers, note how much time the seer spends talking, and how much time she, or he, spends listening. If the seer does more talking than you do, look for another seer. If you come upon a seer who only wants to tell you how to see, walk on. If you come upon a seer who wants to talk about what you see, sit down for a while. The conversation will be enlightening.
Thelma Foster says, “Every generation must grow into its own view of God.” K Misenheimer says, “God doesn’t have grandchildren,” meaning that each of us must work out for ourselves who God is; meaning each of us must grow into our own view of God; meaning that each of us has to find our own way to God, to the Grail—that no one can tell us what we seek, we have to discover that on our own—meaning that there are no shortcuts. Meaning that the path is waking up. Eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart that understands. That’s all there is. If you want something else, wake up!
That being the case, you’re bound to be wondering why anyone would ever change paths. All paths being equal, one path being as good as another, every path being about waking up, why not just stay put? What would lead you to leave one path in favor of another? Why did the bear go over the mountain? To see what he could see. Seeing is the key. Once you have seen what Itta Bena has to offer, you move on. Once you see your seeing, you can’t simply keep seeing the same things forever. You have to look for something else to see. It is the nature of seeing to see more, to see differently, to see something else. If you are content with what you see, you don’t see. See?
We are not here to create comfortable routines, to wallow around in the safe mud holes of home until we die. It isn’t about how long we can last, or how painlessly we can live. It is about being alive. It is about seeing what there is to see. It is about following the calling to wake up and discover a world beyond the wallow—to take up the journey to who knows where, past rational objections and irrational fears, into lands waiting for those who have what it takes to trust themselves to the wind and ride things out.
We cannot think that life consists of safe harbors and soft cushions. We have to live on the cusp, on the threshold between staying too long and leaving too soon. How long do we stay? When do we go? As long as our eyes are open, it doesn’t matter. Itta Bena can be the seat of wisdom and understanding and enlightenment as easily as the high Himalaya. No kidding. I wouldn’t joke with you about this. What I’m saying is that you are under absolutely no pressure to find the right path. Your only pressure is to open your eyes. Any path is the right path if it is walked with your eyes open. You can stay on any path as long as you like if your eyes are open. Any path walked with your eyes open will do as much for you as any other path. This is the freeing realization. Any path walked with awareness will lead to the Grail, to God, to enlightenment, to eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands.
But this doesn’t mean that every path is equally good for everyone. I had to leave Itta Bena. Sonny Boy Bledsoe did not. I can’t say that I am any more awake than Sonny Boy, that I see any more, that I’m any better off. I can say, however, that I am more awake than I would have been if I had stayed in Itta Bena. But, staying in Itta Bena could have worked as well for Sonny Boy as leaving has worked for me.
I had to leave Itta Bena, and I did not have to trek to the high Himalaya. Lots of Pilgrims make the trek. I do not have to. Their path takes them there. My path does not take me there. They have their way, I have mine. Alan Watts once asked Joseph Campbell, “What kind of yoga do you do, Joe?” Campbell replied, “I underline passages.” There you are. Any path walked with awareness leads to the Grail, to God, to enlightenment, to eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. But, not every path is our path. Awareness leads us to some paths and away from others.
Not everyone stays in Itta Bena or treks to the high Himalaya. Not everyone underlines passages, or even reads books. No path is the right path for everyone. Any path can be right for someone. If you are wondering how you know which path is right for you, the answer is follow the clues. Here are the clues, or some of them: Which path has life for you, offers life to you? Which path is the interesting path, the intriguing path? Which path seems to be whispering your name? Which path looks to be fun, engaging? Which path is “you”? Which path won’t go away? Which path can’t you put aside? And, here’s the kicker: Can you ride it out past wanting to quit?
At some point, every path goes over into drudgery and boredom. Every path loses its allure. Every path leads into the trackless wilderness, and we wonder what we are doing, and what we were thinking about, and where we go from here. Riding it out is what a seed does in the ground. What the yeast does in the dough. What the salt does in the soup. What the light does in a dark, dark place. Riding it out is about waiting, holding on, trusting that there will be an opening, or a shift, or a change in policy.
We can talk ourselves into believing it was a mistake. We can talk ourselves into, and out of, everything. We can quit too soon. We can stay too long. We have to know when we have had enough and quit when we must, but not until we know we have reached the limit, and sometimes we only know that in hindsight. When we know it we stop, but we don’t stop just because we are afraid we might be reaching our limit. We can talk ourselves into quitting too soon.
We are not here to create comfortable routines and wallow around in the safe mud holes of home until we die. It isn’t about how painlessly we can live. It is about being alive, awake, aware. Cook up an interesting whim, see where it takes you. Listen to your heart. Follow your dreams. Let your curiosity and your passion carry you out your normal, safe, routines into strange lands and the company of unfamiliar people. Stir up your capacity to imagine a better world than the one you live in, and don’t stop when you meet the fear, the resistance, the opposition. Ride it out. That’s my advice. And, that’s where we came in.