Is there a map for the spiritual journey? There are maps for every phase in life. When kids come into puberty, we teach them what is going to change in their body. When a woman is pregnant, she is taught how pregnancy, labor pain and childbirth unfold.
But what about a map for the spiritual journey?
I searched and found that there are already many maps out there. And they differ not only in the metaphors they use, but also in the emphasis which they give to the single phases and milestones of the spiritual journey. No wonder, because the curriculum of life is highly individualized.
So, I decided to draw a map of my own journey and add it to the number of already existing maps. And even though everyone’s journey is different, I still hope that some readers can relate to my observations.
When I look back at my spiritual journey, I think of it as hiking up and down a mountain. And I can discern 3 phases.
Phase 1: going uphill.
Starting in flatland where I was unaware of a dimension behind the visible 3d world, my path was slow and winding at first, but steep and direct later.
Each turning point in the road consisted of a problem-solution pair. That meant that there was trouble quite frequently. And each time one problem was fixed, a new one would appear. But in retrospect I can see that every difficult time during that phase (coupled with the corresponding solution) brought me closer to the mountaintop.
Phase 2 : I reached the mountaintop.
Here I looked back like in a 180 degree U-turn at the one who was looking (awareness-watching-awareness meditation), got the fact that I am awareness and felt the deep peace of resting in awareness. (see post Describing the ineffable)
I think of coming to see myself as awareness as the important key point in my journey. Therefore, I place it on the mountaintop.
I depict awareness as a lake because that is what it feels like for me. Diving into the silent void feels like diving into a deep, still lake.
This phase was also where guidance came through strongly.
Phase 3 : going downhill again.
It consists of two strands.
- Strand A is about integration which, in my case, has the following components:
Insights, lessons, and tests,
development of intuition and courage,
divine help and manifestation.
(Strand A is not contained in the drawing above.)
- Strand B is about guidance and sharing (or the resistance to it).
I think of it as a river that flows downhill from the lake at the mountaintop. The direction of the flow of the river indicates the will of Source. My guidance nudges (or kicks) me to enter the river and to go with the flow and share more.
But I sometimes resist and rather stay at the riverside where I just run in circles – until life gets too painful and I eventually surrender and enter the river, only to get out of the water again when I feel too scared or resistant for the next assignment.
The whole strand B is about coming into alignment with what my soul wants to do here. Sometimes it feels like coming into alignment is my only subject in Earth school at the moment.
From reading the stories of others, I know that there is more ahead. Bernadette Roberts, for example, described her journey in her books as diving into ever deepening states of stillness. She lost the ego which resulted in the unitive life; and then some years down the road, she permanently lost the sense of self.
Just to put my journey so far into perspective, when I compare my current position with Bernadette’s map, I see that I am not even fully in the phase termed ‘unitive life’ yet. And that which seekers in non-dual traditions strive for, the permanent loss of the sense of self, is far out of reach. Bummer.
But writing and publishing this post was another step towards surrender and entering the river.