“Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. . . . Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.” – Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
Facing the truth of our lives. We die. If we are living and engaging life, we die every day. If not, we spend our time here desperately and fruitlessly clinging to what was and is no more. We live in the middle of constant change. We die continually. Every day can be great practice for our transition to the next life once our journey here is over.
You may have heard wise people talking about living in the present moment or in the now. It is great wisdom. And, almost none of us do it. It goes like this. Something happens in your life that frightens you. You may or may not consciously acknowledge that you are afraid and stressed. You may simply check out. Or, you may see something is wrong and consciously check out. Either way – there goes living in the present moment right out the window. Fear can be a great teacher if you have the courage to stay in the present moment – people who appear courageous feel just as much fear as the rest of us – they are simply more intimate with fear – they stay in the moment and deal with whatever is frightening. They get to know fear.
The spiritual journey isn’t finally getting to a place where we are safe and don’t have to engage the world. Just the opposite. It’s about learning how to stay here and engage no matter what comes our way. Eventually we learn not to become thrown off base by fear – we learn to look directly at it and see the lesson it is bringing to us. Things like disappointments and anxiety are messengers – heads up – you’re about to venture into unknown territory. Probably the most important aspect of the spiritual journey is to just keep moving – into the unknown – facing our fears. The point is to see our lives clearly, to move closer to the truth of our lives – rather than attempt to protect ourselves from what we would rather not see.
And, through it all learning to be gentle and kind to ourselves and to each other. We are all walking in changing, unknown territory all the time. And, most of us, most of the time are desperately trying to pretend that’s not true. It is. Once you see that – compassion is born in your heart – for yourself and for all beings.