We’re learning to become empowered, authentic individuals with a clear vision for our purpose in this lifetime. On the other hand, we’re contemplating how to trust the universe and surrender to the divine plan. Empowerment and surrender are intentionally juxtaposed, but with what consequences?
Are we active in making our dreams manifest or are we allowing the universe to bring abundance to us? How do we know when we need to build ourselves up or break ourselves down? When should we have faith in God and when should we believe in ourselves? How do we set boundaries when we’re trying to love the entire human race?
This is the paramount crisis of our time and our culture, and many are left perplexed along the path.
East and west
We have more access to spiritual philosophies from any tradition than we ever have before. We can wake up and stream a guided Buddhist meditation, practice Sufi prayers throughout our workday, take a yoga class from Hindu tradition after work, clear our house with white sage from a Navajo tribe when we get home, and read a Catholic nun’s prayer before going to bed.
The blending of eastern and western philosophies into a modern-day spirituality creates a befuddling paradox.
Within the new western spirituality we find the exploration of how to find your purpose and practice authenticity. The focus is on the self and how to become empowered. The popularity of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection are perfect examples of this movement, the proliferation of self-help systems another. Not all of these practices are related to conversations of the soul, but many of them are trying to help us answer the questions, “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose in life?” which are arguably soul-searching inquiries.
Eastern philosophy is incredibly popular and for good reason. The teachings of modern day monks like His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh and Jack Kornfield help us find love, compassion and peace in an increasingly detached and cluttered world. Various Buddhist and Hindu teachings help us learn how to quiet our overly active minds and open up to the divine. When everything falls apart in our lives, it is this ability to reach into silence and connect with our faith that carries us through.
How many practices do you have?
Most of us are following two or more spiritual traditions at once. Having access to such amazing wisdom at once can be incredibly enriching and fulfilling. When everything comes together seamlessly, we find ourselves drawing from whatever practice or wisdom serves the moment regardless of who or where it comes from. This can be such a natural and intuitive process that we don’t even realize the grace of it.
We do notice, however, when the philosophies disagree because we’re forced to choose, which can result in doubt or compromise of our integrity.
We can gloss over the paradox and quickly choose the philosophy that justifies what is easiest or most tempting. For example, when offered a job that takes us off course from what we want to do but promises good money we may choose to believe the universe is bringing us wealth and to have faith that it’s the right thing. If, instead, we’re waiting for the right job to come along and nothing is coming, we will start to wonder if it’s because we don’t feel we are enough. Then we start working on building ourselves up and shift our focus to making something happen in our lives.
The universal question of whether to be active or receptive is taken to the soul level when we use our spiritual beliefs to inform the decision.
This can cause us to feel like we’re on shifting sands, and like nothing in life is certain. This in and of itself builds soul stamina, but is also a risky endeavour possibly causing us to lose heart altogether.
When it was just one
The majority of these systems and philosophies are meant to be the sole practice in a disciple’s life. They are layered methods that build from one teaching to the next ultimately leading to embodiment of the divine and/or divine union.
When a crossroads comes in a disciple’s life, there are specific resources available for her based on where she is in her progression. Often the challenges presented to her mirror where she is on the path and all is in perfect order. This is not always the case when we follow multiple traditions and are at various stages in each tradition.
A disciple of a single teaching also has the opportunity to use the spiritual truths offered as an anchor point for decision-making. When confronted with a trying situation, the disciple doesn’t have the option to choose a viewpoint that she likes, she must move ahead with what she has committed to believe. This can make life hard for a time and may result in scant resources, but this is the kind of trial that brings the disciple further along the path.
We all understand that the disciple can fall into blind faith and lose the gift of inquiry. There are up- and downsides to any spiritual path. It’s important to understand the potential pitfalls choosing one or many paths.
The ability to reconcile
Those of us who chose to follow more than one spiritual practice and to study with more than one teacher are in a unique position historically. We’re marrying east and west, old and new, traditional and unconventional within our hearts, minds and souls. This is a big responsibility not to be taken lightly.
How do we endeavour to continue on the one route made of many? We must always come back to the wisdom that all roads lead to God, and develop an incredible capacity for forgiveness.
We must be able to forgive ourselves when we choose a philosophy to guide us and find it leads us astray. This kind of forgiveness is called self-compassion. We must be able to forgive God when we turn ourselves over and find grief instead of happiness. This kind of forgiveness is called faith.
Also important is the ability to observe and consciously direct our decision-making process. When confronted with a circumstance that challenges our resolve, we have the opportunity to choose a spiritual truth from our toolkit that aligns with the situation. This involves our intuition, not our intellect, and the capacity to set aside fear and doubt.
At times our intuition may direct us to adopt a belief that leads down a rough road. It may be easier to choose to jump into a second-rate relationship than wait for the right person to come along, but in the waiting you find love for yourself and for God, which opens you up to the infinite. Other times, the road you’re drawn to take will seem too good to be true and you’ll question whether you’re worth what is being offered.
These are the kind of trials the multi-spiritualist encounters. This is a brilliant way intuition, a major inroad to the divine, is honed. Ultimately it becomes about trusting the voice of your soul over any belief system. The voice of your soul is the voice of the divine within you. By listening to this voice, acting on the message, and trusting in the wisdom, you’re walking further into God.
Next time you wonder if you’re makeshift, impromptu and patchwork path is the “right” way, remember this sweet truth from our friend Joseph Campbell:
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take.”
Stacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. www.wildgratitude.com