Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” – Napoleon Hill –
It is much easier to climb a mountain if you take it one step at a time instead of looking at the steep peak ahead of you.
Several times I had to tell myself this during the last couple of days walking the Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain.
There is also a saying on the Camino that the last few kilometers are the hardest. You climb one hill and then you find you have to climb another at the next bend.
Obstacles – the blessings in disguise
Just reflect a little on your life so far. It is mostly the obstacles, the setbacks, and those down on the ground moments that have triggered the biggest transformation.
Sadly, we often throw in the towel before we have learned the lesson or just before we are about to achieve the biggest breakthrough.
Life is not meant to be easy. We whither and die spiritually and physically if we procrastinate in a comfort zone.
A crisis, whether in an institution, in the job or in a personal relationship, is a message from the universe telling us that something is out of balance and needs to change.
The journey has to continue
We can for a moment look back on the winding steep road that we have climbed, appreciating the view and the accomplishment. But at some point we will have to continue the journey.
We human beings are hardwired to explore, and discover. As long as we live on this earth we will constantly be challenged to redefine purpose and meaning.
This morning I found a spiral etched into stone by the ancient Celtic inhabitants of Galicia. The rock site was perfectly aligned to the rising morning sun. Obviously the area had been a place of religious significance eons ago.
The ancient people were acutely aware of the laws of the seasons, closely studying nature. Beyond the perceived chaos of natural phenomenon lies a naural order of all things. The spiral is found in miniscule shells and flowers, and our DNA but also in the shape of our expanding galaxy.
Spiritually the spiral motif represents the path of the soul from the outer ego personality to the divine unity. It is the symbol of constant evolution and growth – a divine song of renewal moving from age to age.
While on my current pilgrimage walk to Santiago de Compostela I was given the gift of a hand-painted stone with the word „Hope“ on it.
I thought it was a fitting message sent by the universe. During these times hope is such an important antidote to negativity and hopelessness.
Our thoughts, beliefs and habits determine so much of who we are. My greatest hopes are:
An elevation of consciousness moves humanity from the false belief that one religion, belief, ideology or other „ism“ can ever be imposed and enforced onto others.
Humanity realizes that we are part of and not separate from nature. May we move from exploitation to restoration of natural ecosystems. May we have a future where the oceans are teeming with fish and healthy coral reefs. May many newly planted forests across the world echo with the sounds of countless birds, wild animals and rushing crystal-clear streams.
May truth and the voice of reason, peace, love, harmony and holistic thinking prevail in the public discourse.
Hope has the power to move us from paralysis and the depths of despair to optimism, trust and faith.
Quoting the American virologist Jonas Salk: „Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.“
The English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley once pointed out that “at least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.”
It pretty much describes the current Zeitgeist where “tribal bubbles” confront each other on almost every major issue of our time. Its either true or false, black or white, red or blue with a nuanced debate taking cognizance of the complexity of most issues becoming almost impossible. It is causing the break-up of families, friendships and relationships. What you may be asking is happening?
What we see and believe is selective reality
An opinion or belief is mostly based on a past experience that does not necessarily conform to the true events and is colored by perception of what we believe to have been reality. We know from numerous psychological studies that we humans have the tendency to believe what we want to believe.
What we see and what information we select can be very selective as Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris revealed and their classic test of the gorilla walking through the room.
The platforms offered by social media are fodder for the ego-mind which needs constant validation and attention. An ego-mind is rooted in all the external trappings that come with status, fame, personality, titles and wealth. We fail to grow and expand because the ego-mind has built an image of the self that is an illusion. Opinions and beliefs merge with the personality. Anything that threatens such a carefully crafted “avatar” of the self is seen as a threat. Tribal survival instincts are triggered. Its “us or them” and all sense of a common humanity gets lost as the battle lines are drawn. Fixed belief and opinion is the reason people slide into that fatal abyss of fanaticism and ultimately engage in violence and war.
Ego-mind versus heart-mind
Political and religious demagogues are extremely adept at stoking the underlying fears and insecurities of the ego-mind. An ego-mind refuses to look inward, refuses to take responsibility for self-inflicted wounds and projects all its own shortcomings in fanatic rage onto those opposites that reflect the weaknesses. No rational argument or scientific fact on the ground will persuade the ego-mind from changing its opinion. It is too proud to come down from that ladder once it has been positioned firmly against a wall.
We are seeing at a global dramatic changes on all levels that is very scary for the ego-minded personality. Deep down the ego-mind desperately wants to hold onto an illusion, a world, that was and is no more. Religious dogma prescribes certain doctrines, obligations and rules of obedience that can be particularly attractive to persons battling with the uncertainties and up-and-down cycles of life.
The heart-minded person however sees change as opportunity for growth, and transition into new consciousness.
It is rooted in a child-like humility. It is why Jesus rebuked his disciples when they tried to prevent the children from seeing him, saying: “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God”
He was making his disciples aware that spiritual elevation, finding the Kingdom of God, could only be attained through a childlike humility. Just prior to becoming aware of the self, children are still free from an agenda in a down to earth honesty before pride and position come into play as personality takes shape.
A key principle of creation is diversity with the universe in a constant spiral of expansion and growth. If we are to survive as a species we will have to learn from nature which is an expression of God. Throughout the eons only those species that have learned to adapt quickly to changing circumstances have survived.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience
An inward-looking heart-mind is mindful of the impermanence of all things external and the eternity of soul. The French philosopher, paleontologist, and Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin is quoted as saying that “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
In those quiet moments of reflection and meditation we can reconnect with soul nature, that divine spark within and the remembrance of the eternal.
Experiential spirituality is an individual path of exploration and discovery. It is a reconnection to the soul where unconditional love, compassion, harmony, forgiveness, peace and joy reside. From within the true nature is crafted that tool for divine intention and the humility and acceptance that we are born into this life to walk a pilgrimage path of constant growth, creativity, adventure and new insight.