Robert D. Bessler
Understanding “The Path”
Updated: Jun 17, 2019
In nearly all forms of practice regarding personal growth and spiritual expansion we’re presented with the concept of “The Path.” This is commonly expressed in martial arts as well, yet do we truly grasp the meaning of the path? This idea of the path can cause confusion in the beginning to those reading the infinite ways in which the it’s seems to be presented these days. In spiritual practices, we hear this idea addressed in a multitude of ways that can become very confusing to the seekers of truth. Teachers often place different meanings on this depending upon the point they’re attempting to make, just as translators may use this term (correctly or incorrectly) in the translations of texts from one language to another. Spirituality is about truth, therefore it requires clarity, so I hope to help you better relate to this concept.
Walking the Path. To sum up this concept in a nutshell – “the path is another way of describing the actual study and practices of a particular process that leads to awakening.” Awakening is an ongoing journey, whereas, the term enlightenment infers a destination point. Awakening is the more proper term. This speaks of the importance of the journey, not the destination, as the journey never truly reaches completion. We continue to learn, to grow, to expand, and to become more awakened all the time throughout our entire lifetime. However, it’s not just any path, it’s referring to a journey with a specific purpose. To “walk the path” in spiritual practice is to engage the process of awakening through particular practices such as meditation, qigong, breathing and heart opening exercises, etc. The term “walking” means to actively engage in and pursue these practices – it’s the idea of taking appropriate action. When you’re actively engaging in specific practices that are proven effective from hundreds or thousands of years of tradition, with specific goals of self-improvement, personal growth, or spiritual expansion, you’re walking the path. While there are many paths that all lead to the same place (more or less), the important thing is to find a path that has the potential to lead you to truth. It should be noted that there are multiple paths, not multiple destinations. Universal truth simply is. There are not multiple ways to comprehend it. This is much the same way that there are thousands of rivers that all return to the ocean. In reality, there’s only one major body of water on Earth.
Walking Your Own Path. It’s becoming increasingly common to hear advice that instructs us to walk our own path. I find that this really throws people off track due to the obscurity of it. To walk your own unique path doesn’t mean to do whatever you want or to believe you understand insights when viewed through the filter of your current level of undisciplined understanding without the benefit of undergoing actual practices. Formal practices offer the foundation you need to build upon. This is symbolized through the bottom square of a stupa, it’s the foundation upon which the rest of the stupa can be constructed. To believe you can associate whatever meaning you feel like at that moment to ancient wisdom is a grievous error that can result in strengthening the ego and prevent you from making any real progress. Walking your own unique path refers to undergoing specific practices that focus on a particular area such as spiritual expansion, while choosing to experience it in your own unique way. It’s the understanding that you’ll make progress at your own pace depending upon your own unique life experiences. There are countless forms of practices to choose from that come from thousands of traditions, and the idea is to feel which one’s appeal to you the most. This is the idea of “your own path.” Choosing the tradition, the teacher, the practices that you enjoy and that seem to work for you. A deeper understanding of this is that your path is the one that your Higher Self is guiding you on. Path here is the guided life experiences that result in soul-expansion. This concept also speaks to the fact that you must make the effort in your own awakening, no one can force you to do it, nor can they do it for you. You need to do it for your Self.
There is no Path. Most often, this is taken completely out of context or just out rightly misunderstood. This is presented in the manner that nothing actually “exists,” that life is an illusion. In some methods of presentation it’s based in the theory of emptiness. The truth of the matter is that while we’re hear in the world of time, space, and matter – there is a path. This path is the experiences that help us connect with our Higher Self and to follow it’s guidance in order to live the experiences we came here to for, resulting in the expansion of our soul. This expansion is why you decided to manifest from your non-physical Self to the physical being you see in the mirror every morning. This non-physical Self is still you, you’ve just adopted a physical vehicle that allows you to experience the physical world fully. Today, it’s becoming accepted to dismiss the idea of the path, but this favors the strengthening of the ego and when the ego dominates the mind, there can be no spiritual expansion. Where there’s ego – there can only be the absence of essence (spirit).
The Path of Pathlessness. While this sounds obscure from the perspective of the exoteric, thinking mind; it makes crystal clear sense to the esoteric mind. This is known once the practices have become integrated with your very core being and becomes the way you live and the essence of who you are. At this point, everything you experience reveals itself as part of your path. Then it’s realized that there is no path other than living the adventurous celebration of life. This is best understood from the conscious awareness of no-mind. This is the knowing of transcendence.
Choosing our words carefully and understanding their intended meaning is essential when living a consciously aware (mindful) life. Words are a reflection of thoughts, so carless words or words used without understanding, reflects the mindless. The awakened mind knows that the best thought is no thought, and that the words that pour from the lips from this state of (no) mind are pure and divinely inspired. From this, only good, positive, loving actions can be manifested. Find your path in life. Get clear on the path in order to understand the process that lies before you. Then take that all-important first step.