At some point in the path -- or perhaps at various points -- the question arises: "what to do next?"
"What's the next step?"
"Where am I to go?"
If anyone is serious about their spiritual evolution and growth, they will undoubtedly come to a moment such as this on their journey.
The fear comes in....
Perhaps anger, confusion... pain...
All manner of feelings can come up in this space.
When in contemplation, there may be a deep sense of unrest and unsettledness.
Sometimes it is more painful to reflect than it is to just put the head down and trudge onward, so we avoid the reflection and put one foot in front of the other, carrying out the motions to "continue" with our life.
So... what are we to do?
The question "what to do next?" hangs in the air.
I wish to share today from my own personal experience about this threshold moment, as I seem to be going through a version of it now. Maybe my words will find someone out there and support them in their "what to do next" moment as well...
Over the years I've crossed over different stages of death to my old identity. These "deaths" have not been easy, fun, or comfortable. And yet I've repeatedly been shown that "the best is yet to come". In moments of supreme confusion, despair, helplessness, a sense of loss, fear... there is and always has been a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes that light seems obscured behind the clouds of doubt and uncertainty, but when I get quiet and look, there is a sliver of light creeping in behind the closed doors of my heart. Yet a spark of divinity continues to animate that beating heart all the same, and if I stay very still, I can sense that spark smoldering underneath the coals of my old self. 'Cause at least part of me, at that point, has become burned wreckage. The death of the old -- transformed through the fires of life's initiations.
Yes, it would appear that life initiates us. I mean, undoubtedly this is the case, yes? Whether or not we accept it, there will certainly be challenges that force us to grow and expand through our limitations to reach a new sense of Who We Are. This is the metamorphosis of our conditioning, the pruning of the garden of our mind; this leads to a more enlightened, a more expanded, a more full version of Self. These "initiations", as it were, are examples of life ensuring that we face the hard parts of life and learn the lessons that seemingly could not be learned any other way. In Yoga, the energy that rules the learning of "hard life lessons" is known as Shani, the Lord Saturn. Yes, the planet. In Yogic metaphysics, which is rooted in Vedic astrology and the cosmogony known as Samkhya, Saturn travels through the sky slower than any other visible planet and thus carries with him the energy of finality, ultimatums, learned lessons, and that very special Sanskrit term karma. Karma is a unique pattern embedded in our reality that makes sure nothing -- and we mean nothing -- in the material Universe escapes the profoundly intricate interconnectedness of All substance. This concept of karma, which Lord Shani (Saturn) is the ruler of, is entangling the universal web of life and making sure that "what goes around comes around". The initiations we face in life? Whether they are voluntary or involuntary, they make sure we learn what we need to learn so that we balance the scales down the road. Life is evolving and we are evolving with it. A large part of this evolution is in the process of "healing", which is the completion of old cycles so that new cycles can begin. Without initiation, there is no "death of the old" and thus the new can never properly begin.
Thus, challenging situations bring us to these moments. The old program has got us this far... but it is no longer relevant for the next stage of existing. The discomfort in this space is real, as all that has been learned is not helpful anymore and something new must be adapted in order to carry onward. When we try to build on the old without first integrating it completely, the new becomes a faulty structure with a shaky foundation. This "integration of the old" is what happens when we "learn the lesson" or "heal". The experience of "returning to wholeness". The old part -- including all of our old beliefs, identities, and realities -- of us that has died or been sloughed off is suddenly integrated as wisdom for the newer model of Who We Are, and where we need to go in the world. Thus, the entire community of our mind, philosophies and belief systems is oriented towards a New that is different from where we were. This process changes how we relate and interact with the world around us because everything inside of us is different. We are a different being than the one we were. An effective initiatory process is one that carries this process out in its completion. And... what's more is that sometimes these processes can take longer than just a few days or weeks. Sometimes we remain in that chrysalis-goo of the liminal space just beyond the Old and not yet at the New.
The space of just after ... and not yet.
A profoundly uncomfortable moment. Where nothing makes sense. Where we are in denial, resistance, fear, despair, helplessness. Not yet sure of our next step and yet clear that the Old is no longer right for us.
Can you imagine what our ancestors had to go through? This process appears to have been happening since... well, forever. It makes sense that ancient culture built initiation into the structures of their society and ensured that young men and women went through a transformative process such as what we are discussing here. This seems to be very much a part of life; perhaps it is biologically wired in us. Certainly the vestiges of initiatory processes are embedded in hidden ways in even modern society, although they no longer hold the function they once held. I'm talking about things like birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, job promotions etc. All "initiatory moments" which carry out the process of acknowledging that a threshold has been passed, and a new stage of life is emerging. However, these modern versions of initiation do not carry the clout and the seemingly necessary challenge of a proper transformative process. So, the old versions of us start to live on through the thresholds and life gets kinda "backed up". Up until the moment of involuntary initiation -- an accident, the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a big move or career shift, etc... These experiences tend to tip us over the edge and into the whole new territory where we are forced to confront hard truths about ourselves and about life. Our ancestors understood this and attempted to implement processes that allowed wisdom to develop before the involuntary life situations. This would help community structures remain in-tact despite the incredible hardship(s) that they inevitably faced. Now, even though our tribal systems have all but dissolved, our soul remains indigenous to the Earth and to the natural ways of life that pulse through our blood. Thus, we carry these codes in us still... and life ensures that we continue to learn, grow, and heal.
It is said that the erasure of preference and the termination of identity leads to a greater community identity. One that is in service to the Whole. A more open heart. Greater compassion. Greater trust in the unknown. This is the result of these egoic deaths -- the deaths that come through the initiatory process described here -- which inevitably bring us to a "New" way.
The 'New Earth', as is often mentioned, is emerging through each of us as the remaining vestiges of the old crumble off and into the sacred fire of the Heart. The "sacred fire of the Heart" : a place of pure presence and love. The mind resists this Presence because this is the graveyard of the mind and all its ideas, preferences, and beliefs. The mind has no foothold in the Heart. When it finally arrives here and surrenders completely, the lesson that emerges is one rooted in Love and Truth, which are the same. Unless and until the mind has submerged fully into the Heart, lessons remain in the world, awaiting discovery, as our karmic chains continue to entangle us in the circumstances and situations that make sure life balances out [in the end].
The mind is what sends us out of the Heart, looking for something other than the Truth that is present right here, right now, which is the Truth of the Present Moment.
And it is here in the Present Moment that everything is revealed.
The invitation is to feel it all. The fear, the discomfort, the unease. In the feeling, wisdom emerges as the body somatically integrates the experience of the mind. The two -- mind & body -- come together and suddenly "what's next" becomes an obvious realization: be here and the step will appear.
Be here and you will "know".
Be here and the path opens up.
Or, as it says in the Bible, "be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
Be here, be still, trust, open, allow.