I have been thinking quite a bit about my path lately as it has been rapidly shifting, opening, and changing. A lot of my path as of recent has been about education. This has not, nor will it, change.

I do think that there is a place for non-fluffy spirituality out there, devoid of the sort of illusions (and delusions) that are so commonplace… despite hearing again and again that most spiritual books in order to sell need to be at a fifth grade reading level, I do know that there are others who are willing to look beyond the crass sort of commercialization, simplistic answers to complex questions, and romanticization of spiritual topics that fill bookshelves and message boards.

There are two distinct paths when it comes to spirituality. There are two basic reasons why people are interested in spiritual subjects, basically. For a long time this confused me, as like many people on the second path, I didn’t have much of a choice about being “spiritual” in this lifetime, and simply didn’t understand until I did a lot of healing work how/why people were guided to spirituality and spiritual paths that have much different aims. I have long made my peace with the difference between the paths, but hopefully writing about them will ease confusion and/or pain for others who need to reconcile this, as I once did.

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The First Path
This is what most people look for out of spirituality. If you want a number, I would say 97 percent of people interested in spiritual topics, religion, shamanism, and so forth, are on this first path.

This is the path of easy answers. This is the path of comfort. Information is geared towards quelling the fears of death by giving simplistic answers for what happens after we die. There are easy, one-for-one answers about everything from disease, dying, what spiritual experiences mean, what certain animals mean, and so forth. We love answers, our brains love dictionaries, and the people on this path rarely move beyond the one-for-one ratio and mental/intellectual spiritual path.

This is the path of being special. A lot of spirituality is geared towards making people feel special, unique, and heard. This is the whole “be your own shaman” thing, and has unfortunately engendered a lot of people to believe that they are truly called to be a “shaman” or that being an “indigo”, “empath” or whatever the terms are these days makes someone separate.

This is unfortunate because once someone sort of globs on to these terms, they will ultimately blame all of (or most of) their issues on these terms. They are in pain because they are an empath, for example. And while being empathic can certainly create some difficulties, mostly what I see people doing in this category is labeling themselves so they don’t have to look internally at what is going on, or take any sort of personal responsibility for their lives. And most people who are “psychic” or sensitive simply need some skills that they have not learned yet.

There is also the added factor that most people who state that they are a “shaman” or “psychic” or “empath” and so forth in this category curiously do not really know what those terms mean. The amount of people who have announced to me that they have had a kundalini awakening, or are a shaman, without having any sort of idea of the very specific signs, symptoms, and experiences that have been related for decades (if not longer) in books that can be checked out of the public library (you just have to look for non new-age books) is still occasionally curious to me. The fact that people don’t bother to get a reading done, or to ask the opinion of anyone else, before labeling themselves with such terms (and by this I mean living, breathing teachers) always tells me a lot.

I will likely write another blog about this, but I can count on both hands the amount of actual shamans I have interacted with. I can count on both hands and toes the amount of people going through a full kundalini awakening (as opposed to feeling some energy once or something, which is relatively common) I have interacted with. People who really and truly have these experiences have power. They have a very specific energy to them which is quite noticeable.

And most people on Path #1 want the illusion of having an experience they consider “profound” rather than the reality of it. For example, if someone who calls themselves a “shaman” were to actually find themselves cursed, or see a full apparition of a spirit, they likely would fear for their lives. If someone who considers themselves “kundalini awakened” were to suddenly feel volcanic heat surge through them, their body to moving into painful yogic contortions on a regular basis, near-death experience(s), and sudden shifts in consciousness that are so rapid that everything you knew to be true five minutes ago is no longer valid five minutes later… you can understand why the illusion of such things would be preferable to the actual path.

Generally this path is about creating illusions. It is about creating stories or mythology about the self or the world in order to feel more comfortable, positive, and special in a world, in a daily existence that may not be showing the person that at all.

Life is difficult, and the creation of illusion to get through is understandable.

On the reverse end of this path are people who get so locked in to their illusions that they actively create pain and difficulty for themselves. This can also be a part of this path. They may think that they are being persecuted by karma, or that their path is more horrible or difficult than anyone else, or that they are an extraterrestrial, or that they cannot heal or move forward in their lives. Often this type of person will find one sentence from a guru (or a paragraph) to prove that their illusions (or delusions) are valid. They will create a bad guy (or girl, or group) that have caused all of the pain in their lives.

By the way, I am of full realization of the fact that people come from odd places, they experience odd spiritual things, and I work with that sort of thing all the time. But if it is creating pain, and the person is fixated on something so they don’t have to pay attention to their own lives, there is a reason for that. And it can be worked with if the person is ready to.

Much of this is a result of trauma that could be healed. I am no longer under the illusion that everyone can be healed, by the way. I am also no longer under the illusion that people will let go of anything, even if it is creating harm, until they are ready to. People tell me all the time how uniquely awful and horrible their lives, paths, and so forth are, and how they are destined for hell, or nobody can help them. And until they are in a place to see outside of their illusions they have created, they will continue to live them.

But basically, path #1 is filled with illusion, easy answers, and spiritual bypass. The person will often look to the spiritual to not take responsibility for their own lives and their own pain. They will not want to look at the world, or understand the pain of others. If violence or difficulty arises in the world, there will be talks of “looking within” and at the shadow, but this is another form of bypass. This allows for the person to look away from the world and the pain of others, and to feel okay with being selfish, with inaction, with only considering their own needs. Ultimately, for Path #1, spirituality is all about the person and what they need to get through. It is a way to escape out of every-day life that is viewed as difficult.

I will say, of course, in making neat categories like Path #1 and Path #2, that it is possible to be on both paths at the same time, or switch back and forth a bit. But most people want very different things out of their spirituality and spiritual path.

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Because Path #2 is about finding the Truth. This truth is rarely comfortable. It strips you down, it makes you realize that you are not special. It makes your realize that everyone is special. That no matter what you have gone through, the odd and fantastic experiences that you have, that in the grand scheme of things, that they are not that big of a deal.

Path #2 is about authenticity. That is a bit of a buzzword these days, but this path is really about stripping down anything that is not “you”– a process of moving through all of the illusions you have created for yourself, a path of healing the trauma and wounds that influence and create your life and your world.

It is a path of service. This is a distinct difference to me between path #1 and path #2. You are not of service to others by “looking within”, you are of service to others by actually serving them. By volunteering, by becoming a healer or teacher, by doing your part to help others become whole. This can be done in a variety of ways, but if you are on path #2, you will want to be of service to others.

I will say that the path of the “wounded healer” can be in Path #1. A lot of people become spiritual teachers because they believe they are special, or become healers because although a part of them is considering Path #2, it really allows for them to work through their own issues. And while this a part of any path, the healer, teacher, therapist, etc. should be beyond enough of their stuff that the session can be totally about the client. One of the ways to tell if this is a factor is if all of your patients/clients are you. If they are all past you, if they all are dealing with similar issues that you have dealt with or are dealing with, that would signify that your healing work is still about you. Again, this if fine, as it is extremely rare to find a healer of any type that is on Path #2, but they are well worth seeking out.

It is a path of total responsibility. Anything that happens can be looked at to see how you contributed, what can be learned from the situation.

It is often an uncomfortable and difficult path. To strip away illusions is difficult. To realize that the Universe isn’t centered around you is often a fairly rude wake-up call. To realize that no matter who you are, what you can see or sense or what spiritual experiences you have had, that it is only one very small corner of the Universe and of the spiritual realms, is difficult to reconcile.

Our brains love logic and order. True spirituality is different. It cannot be confined to our brains. Letting go of our brains (not in a sanitized, intellectual way, but fully and totally) to feel the flows of spirit is a beautiful, blissful, thing, but it requires regularly questioning what is causing you to not be in “flow”, or to not perceive that you are in that state. Your brain cannot process spirit, it just doesn’t have the capacity.

It is a path of critical thinking, of moving beyond what has been given to you. Of being able (and willing) to look critically at your spiritual path, your life, and the world, in order to heal what needs to be healed, and to let go of what no longer serves you in an effort to recognize further Truth.

This path is all about allowing and letting go of the illusion and control that your brain has over you, that want for you to intellectualize and categorize and control everything… that want everything to be in your control. We fear being out of control, and most of Path #1 is about control– about illusions and ways of thinking you are in control of even the greatest divine flows and presences.

To realize that you are only in so much control, that Path #2 is a continual process of surrender and realization of much greater and more powerful forces than the Self, and to be okay with not having that control, is a part of Path #2. 

It also causes you to be separate and one at the same time. This is one of those “opposites” that people do not understand until they are fully on Path #2; when you intellectualize oneness, it is everything is “one”. And it is, but it is also very separate at the same time. And you can very much be isolated by spiritual experiences, realize that most people have not been where you are, or realize what you realize, and still realize that in the grand scheme of things you are not that big of a deal at the same time.

It is humbling, Path #2. It is a path of continual discovery, continual unfolding. Path #1 is all about you, all about what you need, what you can take, how special you can be and what you need from the world. In Path #2 you realize who you authentically and powerfully are… and at the same time you realize that you are but a small drop in the ocean of divinity. Each step forward humbles you, and helps you to remove more and more of your illusions. Healing on a deep level is often an uncompromising process of taking responsibility for what comes up. This process is beautiful and transcendent, but requires a lot of the participant.

I realize every day that people are on Path #2, that despite the illusory books and silliness and fluffiness that abounds that there are people looking for authenticity, for depth, for Truth. It is a hard thing to ask ourselves to do, for it is a path of beauty and of pain… but seeing the world and the universe for what it really is, knowing who you authentically are, and becoming more whole are things that anyone who is willing to traverse Path #2 will find.