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What is "the Path"?

Contemplating here this morning on the concept of "the path". Maybe you've contemplated on this throughout your journey. I certainly have, and do quite often. What is "the path"? How do I know if I'm on it? Where am I going? What is my destination? Is knowing all of this important?

Certainly there is value is understanding, at least conceptually, the goal that I am seeking (if I am seeking). Right?!

I think so.

I also think that there is value in honest self-reflection; looking at the steps I've taken and have yet to take. I see it too often: people become stagnant when they no longer invest themselves sincerely into their growth. We fall into our comfortable ruts. Happens all the time. I've been there. Guilty. And I know that, after periods of extensive self-development, I tend to sit back on my laurels and wait for the next phase of "growth". But, am I waiting and resting for longer than I need to? Or are there areas in my life that I am not attending to where, if I could honestly focus my energy and attention there, it would lead me to some big expansion?

I wonder about these things.

You know, I try not to look out at the world and blame or criticize. I try. I'm not perfect. I still notice judgments arising within me from time to time. And I see how difficult it is to be on this "path", as we are calling it. But... why?! What even is this thing about?

The answer, as I reflect on it, becomes evermore complex, and at the same time, very simple.

What I am learning and have so far learned is that we are all bound by some sort of sacred duty. "Sacred duty" is the best concept I can come up with to explain this thing that binds us. And, when we look out in the world and we see what troubles us, we are informed directly by the mirror of the Universe of this "sacred duty". Our emotions and feelings become guideposts to explain the situation that we are in right now and also give hints as to where we'd like to go.

It's pretty obvious and simple, actually. Our dreams and inspirations coupled with how we feel when we look out at the world are the basic building blocks of "the path". We all have our calling(s) -- the things that inspire us, and motivate us into action. When we listen to these emergent whispers and follow their impulse, we end up doing the things that bring us joy and satisfaction in life. When we don't listen to them, oftentimes it is because the noise of the world is drowning out this subtle internal guidance. Or our own ego is getting in the way.

You know, I think about what it takes to do something great. I think about the people who've inspired me along the way on my path. I put myself in their position.

I've been lucky enough to spend time around some pretty extraordinary humans. I look at the life they've built and I think about the tremendous sacrifice in time and energy that went into the creation of their reality. As best as I can tell, it has not been an easy path for them. They put in some serious work. Then I look at my own life and where I am today. Also not easy. AND, there are many more steps ahead of me to lead me to where I want to go. It's both humbling and rewarding, this knowing. Knowing that I am in a good spot that I worked hard for, and knowing that there is an even more beautiful life ahead of me -- which will require further hard work. Ha ha, yes, humbling.

Doesn't seem to be any other way around it. It is almost laughable when we look at the way New Age philosophies related to manifestation, creating the New Earth, and other similar ideas are touted about. Some of this stuff really glorifies "the path" and makes it seem so ... shiny. So rainbow-y. Like we can suddenly manifest our dream life using crystals and affirmations. I mean, I'm exaggerated but you get my point.

As far as I can tell, this is absolutely NOT how it works.

The whole coaching scene where people are hiring people to mentor them for $10s of thousands of dollars ... to do what? To make more money? When/where does one draw the line? When does the "work" that one is doing start to feed the ego and no longer bring them into deeper alignment and harmony with their soul essence? What is true... and I mean true service???

Or, further still, at what point do we deeply and sincerely contemplate the real reason we are here? What are we here to do? Is that even a valuable question to ask? Is it to coach people to make more money? To teach yoga? To lead retreats? To sell mortgages? What is the path? We have to really be careful not to jump ahead and reach any hasty conclusions, I think. And knowing the destination will be really helpful at helping us direct our energy, sustainably, with alignment, in truth, and with a deep inner knowing that we are on the right track.

I think this is very, very important. This knowing of the destination. I believe this is what helps shape our actions. And then the activities we do are less important. Perhaps we DO end up coaching people for ridiculous amounts of money. Or selling mortgages. But, it is the way in which these activities are done, and to what end they lead us -- this is what matters most.

And -- we have to be honest! It's so easy to fool ourselves into believing all sorts of nonsense. It's so easy. Self-deception runs deep and is a hard pill to swallow for most. Many people believe that they are following their intuition when, upon deeper investigation, realize that it is deep-seated karmas or unresolved trauma that is motivating their behavior. This is where "the path" becomes tricky. The same thing happens when people are motivated to teach or facilitate. I see it sometimes. The motivations to teach, facilitate, coach, or hold space for others -- while these can be noble pursuits and certainly the world needs more of this happening in quality ways -- sometimes they arise from an inner lack. Sometimes it comes from a need to prove something, which may be the result of not receiving adequate attention or love as a child, and now having that sort of power over others satisfies a deep inner wound.

I have to be careful of this in myself, obviously, as I am committed to this sort of work, and seeing it happen in the world helps me self-reflect and get real with myself. Why am I doing what I'm doing? Seriously. Why are you doing what you're doing? .... Seriously.....

These are deep reflections and contemplations but we were diving into the rabbit hole of "the path". I think investigation is required to help us all stay on track. And I sincerely hope that these words of mine are helping someone out there question.

Perhaps that is the answer... the questioning. After all, "the path" is definitely mysterious. I would have never imagined I'd end up where I am today. All the little twists and turns that have pushed and prodded me along, the bumps and scrapes, the mistakes and successes. Nearly all of the formative moments in my life arose from mysterious circumstances. Perhaps you can relate. And it is only in my silent moments of inquiry and questioning and serious self-reflection or contemplation that I am rewarded with the tiniest slice of cosmic pie and suddenly can "see" the path. Or feel it, rather.

And when this happens, through deep inner investigation and meditation and silence and space, when "the path" becomes a little more clear to me, I laugh at all most of my actions leading up to that point. Because I see how driven by ego I really am. How motivated by my own karma I am. And how my silly desires -- most of them, at least .... to do this or that, or get this or that, or go here or there .... how many of these desires are driving my life forward and how few of them are actually, truly aligned to what I know deep down is Truth.

It's hard! It's a hard thing to admit. I mean, I feel like I'm getting better at getting real -- every day a little more -- but still, seeing how much I still want to escape the profound Dharma of Life.... how much I want to veer off the path and take my own road when life is so clearly presenting the simple and obvious choice forward.

This is why we need sangha, I think. And sadhana. And opportunities to self-reflect clearly and honestly. And not just be in a place where everyone is patting us on the back for a job well done but a place where we can all strive to do just a little better. I mean, we are dealing with seriously difficult to manage forces -- the forces of ego within each human psyche. Places within us where selfishness exist, where harsh judgment exists, where straight up evil exists. These things are inside of us and if we are not careful, they will direct our life and we will call it "the path".

The purpose of spiritual practice -- authentic methods of training to overcome our own conditioned physiology -- is to bring us closer to the One Organism of Life. To be in harmony and alignment with All of Creation. Not to only get better at manifesting our desires ... but to truly walk "the path" where the destination is way more than simply getting what we want, or think we want. This is a difficult and narrow road, I think. Mistakes will be made. Errors in judgment. Time wasted, perhaps? Who's to say?

As best as I can tell, my work is to continue to do my best. That's all. And to be honest with myself when I say I'm doing my best but, in reality, I'm not. And to try to do better. To try to be less judgment, less critical, less selfish, less fill-in-the-black and to replace these behaviors and patterns with more compassion, more love, more generosity, more openness, more fill-in-the-blank.

It's a tricky road... but the reward feels far, far greater than any measurable or material attainment. I could have all the money in the world but if I wasn't in good company with a joyful heart, who cares? I could be teaching thousands of students all over the world but if they weren't becoming better humans, who cares? Who cares about the "method" I'm using if it's not helping anybody? On the same token, who cares about the "method" if it IS helping? Stepping outside of what we think we ought to do and towards the truth of what we know we ought to do ... this is the path.

It happens in small moments. Picking up the trash that we pass by on the sidewalk. Pausing before responding. Listening deeply to someone's reflection and offering them truly honest feedback instead of something that just feels good to hear. Not trying to be liked but rather being truly valuable. Saying no to something exciting when we really need to focus on our mission. Tightening up our lifestyle so that we can be healthier and more energized. "The path". So mysterious. So tricky. Hard to overcome our own ego's bullshit. But possible with perseverance... with enthusiasm.... with trust...

I'm not perfect... far from it. And I know that the only real perfection is in this Great, Mysterious (and yet imperfect) Universe, which I am a part.

My job, my sacred duty, my "path" as it were... is to do everything I can to listen, and learn, and bring beauty and harmony to Life. If what I'm doing isn't that, it would be hard to argue that I'm on "the path". And this happens in every single little activity -- down to every itty bitty thought that crosses my mind.

It's profound, and it's simple, and it's beautiful.

I'm grateful to be walking it and learning about it with you.


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