I have been saying for a while now that I’m on a spiritual journey.
I am searching for myself. I have become a detective of patterns, fears, hidden emotions, ancient scars, and deep wounds.
But as a million thoughts fill my mind and just as many emotions fill my heart, I wonder if this habit of questioning, analyzing, and reflecting upon every single aspect of my life—every pattern, every action and its reaction—is actually pushing me farther away from enlightenment, samadhi, nirvana, peace of mind.
A spiritual journey is nothing but the path we take when we start questioning our belief systems. It’s the process we go through when we try to come to a reconciliation between our way of experiencing the world and the world itself. Everyone’s journey is different, but the goal is common to all: reaching some sort of personal agreement, some deep and centered state of inner peace.
It’s a journey to self-knowledge and self-acceptance that stems from coming to terms with who we are independent of our achievements, titles, possessions, relationships, and degrees. It’s trying to answer the big questions—like why are we here? What is our purpose? How can we fully express ourselves into the world without getting sucked in by its many traps?
What are these traps, anyway? Well, first is the trap of identity. Ever since childhood, we have been trained to identify ourselves with labels. You are either a boy or a girl, a good kid or a bad kid, a nerdy kid or a sporty kid—the list goes on and on. Love, affection, and acceptance from the outside world (that begins with our parents) slowly becomes so important to who we are that we start evaluating every single action we take in terms of how its outcome will be perceived by others.
Feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and anger start to sneak in and get stuck in the most obscure corners of our minds and bodies, only to reemerge at the most unexpected times. It’s only when we come to a major life transition, or a major setback or crisis, that we stop to think and reflect on what it really means to be who we are.
Then there is the trap of attachment. As we gradually become super attached to the identity we have so masterfully created, we also get attached to the experiences, the people, the things, and the places we come across that we feel have made us who we are. We start feeling emotions like possessiveness, jealousy, envy, and greed.
Finally, there is the trap of addiction. Addictions are nothing but coping mechanisms. If someone is (knowingly or unknowingly) carrying around the heavy weights of guilt, shame, anger, fear and so forth (while still wearing the mask of their identity), then we can expect them to put in place coping mechanisms that allow them to keep the show going. Food, alcohol, sex, relationships, recreational drugs, painkillers, over-spending, and even social media can all become the slow and silent killers of our physical health and our mental stability if we allow them to run our lives.
The first fruit we reap from embarking upon a spiritual journey is awareness. We suddenly see things about ourselves as if looking in from the outside. We become the avid readers of our own story with all its twists and turns, and then we become true witnesses to our actions and their consequences.
A state of awareness is both a fascinating and terrifying place to be—there’s a reason they say ignorance is bliss. For once we discover ourselves in this way, we enter the limbo of “what now?” We become so intimate with our story—knowing the why, the where, the when, and the who—but we just can’t figure out the how of how to move beyond where we currently are.
In this limbo, our monkey minds haven’t stopped monkeying around yet; they’ve just gotten smarter, deeper, more balanced, more objective, less judgmental, less punitive. They still can’t quite shut up. We keep reading books and attending workshops, trainings, and lectures. We start incorporating yoga, meditation, chanting, sound bathing—you name it.
We work to shed the layers of our perceived identity or ego. We work to adopt a more self-centered and less outcome-oriented or attached approach to our experiences and interactions with the world. We work to accept and feel pain as a way to enlightenment, instead of trying to covering it up or soothe it with various addictions.
And yet, we still have to live life. For this reason, I call it a journey—and as with any journey we will ever take, the destination—a place of balance, or samadhi—is only secondary.
“Clinging to life, flowing by its own potency [due to past experiences], exist even in the wise.” ~ Pantanjali
Author: Vita Semeraro
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis