There are a lot of people telling us what is important, what needs to be done, how we should live our lives. We have to decide who to listen to and who to ignore. How do we decide? We decide that as well.
There are a lot of recipes for living. “If it feels good, do it,” is one. “Grab the gusto,” is another. “Follow your bliss!” “Get right with God!” “Be true to yourself!” “Don’t spit into the wind!” “Cover your bases!” “First things first!” Bumper sticker philosophies are everywhere. Guidance is as near as the car ahead of us in line.
There are ten thousand paths to God—and to a life worth living. We must honor the path each of us has chosen, and honor our own path, by seeing it through, even when it becomes difficult, and we lose our enthusiasm, and forget the point. The Dali Lama meditates even when he doesn’t feel like it. Mother Theresa comforted the poor of Calcutta even when she wasn’t in the mood for it. Jesus left the Upper Room knowing what the rest of the evening held, and not looking forward to it. We think being holy means always feeling like it, always being in the mood for holiness. That’s how much we know about being holy.
There are periods on every path when we pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down. When we trudge on. When we go through the motions. When we make a day. We cannot think there is a path out there that we will always be glad to walk, that we will always feel like skipping down and singing a happy tune on. With that fantasy at work in our heads, we will always be in the market for a new path, always shopping for a smoother ride, seeking a quicker and more reliable avenue to the heart of truth and oneness with all things, a short-cut to glory, a way out of the mess and madness of our lives.
A path, any path, every path, is nothing more than an orientation that puts us in accord with the inevitabilities of life. “This is the way things are. This is what you can do about it. And, that’s that.” Our path is a perspective that opens us to the truth of the way things are and the way things also are. It is a way of understanding life and our relationship to it in ways that enable us to respond appropriately to what is being asked of us. A path that is a true path enables us to perceive what is needed—to know what is being asked of us—and do it. On any path that is a true path, we see what’s what and what we can do about it to make things as good as they can be for ourselves and others.
This gets us to the place of my place in your life. What do you need a preacher, a minister, to help you with? How can I be of help to you? If you need your lawn mowed, call someone else. If you need your car towed, call someone else. If you need an air conditioner installed, or a horse shoed, or a cat spayed, call someone else. I don’t paint, or nail, or saw, or haul. I don’t brand steers or rope caves. And I don’t repair computers.
When you look through the yellow pages at what services are available, you get a sense of what life requires. And, when you look at me and what I offer, you get a sense of how little I’m going to be able to do for you. Here’s what I think: I think you can count on me for perspective development. And, that’s about it. If you are interested in deepening your perspective, enlarging, expanding, your perspective, then I would recommend me. If you want to change a tire, or your oil, I would recommend not me.
But, don’t dismiss me too lightly. Before you walk away clutching the yellow pages, confident that there you have everything you need for managing the vicissitudes of your life and finding your way to wherever it is that you think you are going, let me suggest that your perspective is the most important thing about you. Your perspective is the single factor determining the quality of your life. It is the very foundation of life itself. You give me perspective, and I’ll give you the yellow pages, and we’ll see where we come out in the end. And, my money is on me.
If I’m right about that, and if I’m right about being uniquely qualified to help you with the development of perspective, then I’m one of the most important people in your life. You might think of me as a Perspective Therapist—not a Psychotherapist, because I’m not interested in your secrets, or your history, or your dreams, or your Ego and Shadow.
Sometimes, in the pop psychology books, Ego begins to sound like Shadow, like the evil, controlling side of us that is out to get us. And whatever became of the Id? We hear about the Ego all the time, but the Id? Disappeared. Type in “ego” in Google and you’ll get nearly 54 million sites. Type in “id” and you’ll get sites for ID theft, International Design Magazine, and Intelligent Design software. It’s all about ego these days. And the, so-called, True Self. We have a True Self, you know, and a False Self, a Pretend Self, A Self Wannabe which we call the Ego. It used to be that the Devil made us do things, now it’s the Ego. We have to keep Ego on a short leash so that our True Self can shine through. But who is the “we” that stands between Ego and True Self? It gets complicated. The Doctrines of the Holy Trinity and Transubstantiation and the medieval images of heaven and hell don’t require much more of a mental leap than the descriptions of psychic “realities.” Where there once were demons, we now have complexes and neuroses. It’s a mess. What we need is a way through all of it. That’s what perspective does for us. Provides us with The Way.
The way is the way through the mess and madness of our lives. The way cuts through all the confusion and complexity and goes straight to the heart of things. The way is a way of seeing which enables us to live well amid all the constructs and explanations and theories, whether from bumper stickers, or pop psychology, or the religion department of prestigious universities, or the latest discovery from the Bible labs. Seeing clearly enables us to find the path to the heart of things in spite of the trendy theories waving their little hands before our eyes and enticing us to “leave the way, and turn aside from the path” (cf. Isaiah 30:9-11).
Ah, but, every way can appear to be not working from time to time. No way is a magic carpet ride. We have to do the work required to walk the path we are on. We have to remind ourselves, and each other, of what we know when life delivers a big wet one right on the kisser. We have to ground ourselves, center ourselves, steady ourselves and regain our equilibrium when life smacks us a good one right on the chops. The path does not save us from the agony of not knowing what to do, but it can relieve us of the agony of having to know what to do.
Every true path is a life saver. Every true path provides us with a platform for orienting ourselves in the midst of turbulence and chaos, of remaining at-one with the heart of peace and compassion when the world around us is disintegrating at the core. The path is an external framework for placing ourselves in accord with the inevitabilities of life. With its practices and disciplines and ways of understanding how things are and accommodating ourselves to them, adjusting our lives to take them into account, the external path exists to connect us with, to wake us up to, the truth of the internal path, and reveals to us that we are always seeking ourselves. No path protects us from upheaval and loss. But, amid the upheaval and loss, a path structures our time, orders our lives, provides a framework for dealing with the world, and, ultimately, brings us face-to-face with ourselves.
Here’s an interesting thing about perspectives and paths: It is our own essence that calls us and confronts us. Our lives wake ups up and show us ourselves—and require us to live differently in aligning ourselves with and expressing who we are, consciously and intentionally in the world. Unconsciously, we wind our way to ourselves so that we might consciously embrace ourselves and live in ways that are integral with what is deepest, best, and truest about us. That’s the spiritual journey.
The outcome of our living is the path that unfolds before us. What we do leads us to where we are. The outcome IS the path. The path IS the outcome of all our previous outcomes. The threshold to the path is the decision, the choice, that awaits here and now. We sit, waiting to see what we will do, how we will do it, and what will become of it. All of which becomes the path, our path, our life, over time.
We are the path. The path reveals itself, not only to us, but also in us and through us. We see who we are, and the way is obvious. We act in congruence with our own heart/soul, live out of our own depth of being, and become the path we are. We are always surprised when we become who we are, and meet ourselves, as though for the first time. And, we are not surprised at all. “Of course,” we say, laughing, “It had to be you!”
There is a congruence of being in all of our acting. We see ourselves mirrored in all that we do. In some acts, we are more distorted than in others, but there is a core of order in the chaos. Our lives coalesce around the center that is us. And, at the center of the center there is an amazing convergence with the center of the centers of everyone. When we see ourselves at the level of the heart, we see everyone. The path unites us all at the level of the heart.
As we meet ourselves, we meet one another. We see all of us in who we are, and recognize our connection with all living things. The path expresses the truth of us in conjunction with, in relationship with, the truth of one another, with the truth of the world, the universe, creation, and connects us at the level of the heart, of the spirit, with each other and all that is.