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Which Path Are You Walking? – pt. 1
Are you walking the right path? Some say there is a pathway through life that will take you to the right destination. Some call it a spiritual path based on self-realization. Others see it as a religious path based on faith, and yet others say it is just a human path based on right values. Path in this sense implies there will be an arrival, a destination that is defined by the reward of freedom, happiness, and goodness, and the recognition that you walked the ‘right’ path i.e. you lived your life the ‘right’ way.
And then there are some who say there is only ‘one’ right path. It’s their way or no way! They spend much time attempting to convince others to follow in their footsteps, otherwise, they say, “There will be trouble ahead”! And then there are those who say life has no path. They believe that ‘real’ life is simply living from day to day and from moment to moment. They say that life happens in a pathless land, so forget all about ‘finding your path’ and just get on with it… they say!
And then there are those who say that we are here to carve our own path, plow our own furrow, and like the white water behind a boat we leave our own unique wake. They are convinced there is no one right way, just the way you ‘create’ as you go. This ‘can’ sound ‘righter’ than the others as it seems to honor the two callings or imperatives already present within us all. First, our creative capacity, whereby true creativity is based on how we live our life, which means how we respond to people and situations around us. The second is an innate awareness of what is true, of how to act, and how to create the right actions in alignment with our truth. And when we act in alignment with our truth then the way forward opens up smoothly and we are in harmony with ourselves and with the world around us. Sometimes this is called ‘flow’. When we act against the current of what is true then there is a ‘jarring’, an awkwardness, things do not proceed smoothly, and we ‘feel’ something is not quite right.
The reality for most of us is that our day-to-day lives are filled with moments of discomfort at some level. We see obstacles in our way, have stressful feelings, and occasional if not frequent waves of negative thoughts. These are signs that indicate we are not creating our way forward in the right direction or in the best way. It means our creativity is either distorted, disabled, deluded, or disconnected from our truth. We are not responding with wisdom to the world around us. It also means we are most likely to be creating and walking the Path of the Slave. It is a common path that has seven essential steps, not necessarily always in this order, and not always all in the same day. See if this path is familiar to you. In essence, it goes something like this.
Something or someone gets your ATTENTION. You become ATTRACTED and go towards the object/person of attraction. You then lose yourself in the person/object, which means you are ABSORBED. This seems nice at the time, it seems normal as you enjoy the stimulated pleasure of the object/person, but it also means you are becoming ATTACHED. This will be signaled by a craving/desire for more! Sometime later if something happens to the object/person, or access is denied, you become AGITATED with emotion. But instead of seeing the emotion as a signal that you are on the wrong path, you become ADDICTED to it and crave more of the objects/persons. And that means that at some stage you will have to ATONE, which simply means ‘pay the price’ for your attachment/addiction.
This is not only the Path of the Slave, you may also recognize it as the way to all suffering, whatever form the suffering may take. As you explore each step a little more closely you may also begin to see the nature of your miscreation.
As a conscious being you have the capacity to focus and ‘concentrate’ your attention at all times. When you allow your attention, which is essentially your self, to be distracted, you are not exercising your ‘power of concentration’, you are not aligned with the truth that it’s your job to focus your attention. This is why a loss of concentration is a signal of mental discomfort. The first and recurring choice throughout day-to-day living is what you give your attention to. Where your attention goes your energy flows. And today it seems our attention is easily ‘pulled’ and impressed by the world and its objects. Our attention is up for sale and we allow ourselves to be bribed. We ‘pay’ with our attention and as a result, don’t pay attention to the quality of what we attend to. We are easily led. Modern technology is screaming for us to attend to it, and its multi-media messages. Lesson: If you want to maintain conscious choice in your life, strengthen your ability to concentrate and focus your attention.
As a conscious being, you are first and foremost an ‘attractor’. You are at your most ‘attractive’ when you are not attracted by anything or anyone. Being constantly attracted usually means you are suppressing your own self-esteem. It’s as if you are bowing down to something/someone outside yourself and saying ‘I am less than that’ or ‘I need that to make me more attractive to others’. Lesson: If you want to build and maintain your self-esteem practice not being attracted to, and not being impressed by, things and people. At the very least ask yourself what is it about the object of attraction that seems to fill a neediness in me?
As a conscious self-aware self, when you are in your highest and truest state you know and feel your self to be whole and complete. This feeling and ‘knowingness’ disappears when you allow your consciousness to be absorbed in or by something or someone. When we become absorbed in anything we feel overpowered, sometimes overwhelmed, and eventually we may realize we only disempower ourselves. Lesson: If you don’t want to lose your power don’t lose yourself in anything or anyone. That doesn’t mean you stop ‘caring’. Quite the opposite, when not absorbed you will be free and therefore able to discern and offer the most appropriate form of care.
When we constantly allow ourselves to lose ourselves in others, in objects, or in situations, we are initiating and creating an attachment. The original and true state of the self is freedom. You are a free spirit by nature and so it is unnatural not to be free! And real freedom at this inner level, what some call the spiritual level; means there is no attachment to anything or anyone. Attachment means the self is ‘trapped’ in the object of attachment and that is where happiness is lost and all fear originates. Lesson: If you want to maintain your freedom don’t get attached to anyone or anything. If you don’t want to lose your true happiness or contentment don’t get attached. If you want to be free of fear it’s a good idea not to be attached. Not so easy after a lifetime of… attaching!
The consequence of any attachment to any thing will be some kind of inner disturbance or agitation. This is simply because attachment will ‘always’ result in one of three families of emotion – sadness, anger or fear. The true nature of the self is peace. To be agitated is the sign you are out of alignment with your true nature. All emotion is agitation so all emotion is a signal you are out of alignment with the true you. Lesson: If you want to be free of suffering, and therefore at peace with your self and the world, don’t express or suppress whatever emotion arises. Transform the emotion by first observing it, seeing the internal cause of the emotion and then detaching from both the emotion and the cause. This is process is sometimes referred to as meditation!
Even though the emotion/agitation is not comfortable we will still become addicted to it, as it seems to be ‘enlivening’. We may even become addicted to a ‘deadening’ state such as sadness and depression. And eventually we will become dependent on what triggers these states and then to the states themselves. As a spiritual being you can only be truly, sustainable happy, which means content, when you are not dependent on anyone or anything. Any dependency at any level sets up cravings and desires, which are simply signals that you are compromising your true state. Lesson: Watch out for your cravings, see the addiction/dependency behind them, and experiment with letting go or doing without for progressively longer periods.
The true state of every human being, which means every point of consciousness, is to be whole, complete and ‘one’. It is a state of consciousness in which there is no sense of fragmentation within the self, there is no confusion about identity, no desire to subtract anything from the self or to add anything to the self. The Path of the Slave is the journey away from this inner natural state. Atonement means a return to this awareness of ones own oneness, to be ‘at one ment’…again! It is a deep inner state of your being that can never be lost or changed, only temporarily lost to your awareness. Lesson: If you want to feel whole and complete remind yourself you do not need to acquire anything from anyone to be content with your life. Find ways to give of your self unconditionally without wanting a return. In time you may see you already have, you already are, all that you can be.
But, as always, it’s only possible to ‘not’ walk what could be called the Path of the Slave when you realize you are the one who is actually creating it. In other words don’t believe a word you have just read. Go within, watch carefully, observe accurately, and see for yourself. Then you will know beyond belief. And the power of knowing the truth that it’s you and not someone else that is creating your path may be the beginning of your journey along the Path of the Master. One thing you will see for sure is that the real path, the true path, is within.
Question: Which of the above steps did you recognize in your self most strongly?
Reflection: What is the most frequently occurring form of agitation (emotion) in your average day and what is the attachment behind it?
Action: If this is the Path of the Slave what might the Path of the Master look like?
Written by our professor Mike George.