Once you step on this path, you’re on it. No going back. You may pause, you may loiter, but Spirit knows you now, knows you are sincere, wants to help, and couldn’t care less about time or space. You have probably been on this road for a while. Your current feeling of being confused, conflicted, or stuck is simply a sign you are reaching a new level of growth, like a snake about to shed the skin it has been wearing for a while in order to accommodate its future size and shape. But the snake won’t shed its skin lying still. In order to grow, you need to be in motion.
If you ride a bicycle or motorcycle, you know that speed stabilizes the bike. Standing still, a two-wheeled vehicle between your legs is pretty tippy. But at even a few miles per hour, everything achieves balance, and, at higher speeds, you have rock-solid stability and power to help you deal with all the twists and turns.
Spirit can’t help steer you if you’re not growing toward your purpose. You’re too tippy. And like learning to ride that bike, the lessons in balance can be pretty alarming. But there is also opportunity for tremendous joy, serenity, and fulfillment on the road ahead.Autonomy and freedom are two core values shared by most true spiritual paths. Autonomy means you are in control—you decide how, or even whether, to follow a spiritual path and in what way you will do so. Freedom means you can make those choices without fear of Divine judgment or the judgment and control of other people.
The very thoughts, feelings, and actions that will lead to fulfillment on a spiritual path violate the behavioral and social requirements of earthly institutions that tell us we are flawed, and we must continually beseech God for forgiveness and to hold back his wrath.
But the Divine is interested in only one thing—that we grow toward reunion with our source and have experiences that broaden our perspective and increase the wisdom of our Souls. I believe there is one rule, which is ascribed to Wicca but appears in many other philosophies and teachings:
Harm none, including yourself. Beyond that, do what you will.
I consider this rule essential, because the two things that can derail you completely from your path and purpose are guilt and fear. If you appear to harm another, you will experience guilt whether you acknowledge it or bury it, where it will resurface as anger, projected outward. You may also fear retribution. Neither is conducive to the peace, joy, and fulfillment we seek from a spiritual path.
The Cost of Dependence
Few things are as unsettling to someone who has been trained under a tightly controlling system (work, family, church, government) than the phrase “do as you will,” because if things go wrong, you have only yourself to blame. You made a choice, as opposed to following the instructions of the perceived authority, and you reap the upside and the downside.
Fear of making a mistake pervades so many belief systems, which creates the need for an intermediary to negotiate forgiveness from God for “sin” that, as some believe, was committed
by someone else before you were even here. There is an important distinction between what we generally speak of as “religion” and a spiritual path or practice.
In my view, a religion has a book of scripture, an organization with a clergy structure, a code of conduct, and behavioral expectations that have to do with living this life in a manner considered appropriate. A spiritual path may have some of these but not all. The principle difference is that all spiritual paths are experiential. The intention is to have a direct, autonomous relationship with spirit. There are teachings, methods, and practices that lead you there, but you choose the method, the path, and the speed at which you travel.
On the dogmatic path, you are in trouble with God for failing to abide by the churchly code of conduct. On the spiritual path, you have done nothing wrong in the eyes of the Creator. You may make mistakes and feel you need to make amends in this world to absolve your own guilt, but Deity is not interested in anything other than that you learn the lesson, which always involves forgiveness, and that you be happy.
There is no specific time frame to do this work, but forgiveness will always bring peace.
The spiritual paths are experiential. The forms, tools, rituals, techniques, and organizations are many and varied, and can be learned. That is not the hard part. If you have grown up in a dogmatic system and now find yourself embarking on a spiritual path, your first task is to change the way you think and see, from dependence on someone else to make decisions for you to independence, and from accepting others’ authority to experiencing your own sovereignty.
Then, it’s a matter of doing—study and practice. And the guiding principle will be: If it works for you, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, move on and try something else.
Growing up in such a dogmatic system is not all bad—you develop a relationship with the Divine, you learn and grow. It is not a “mistake” you need to correct, and the last thing you need is fear of getting it “wrong” again.
Han-Shan, the ancient Chinese poet said, “No path goes all the way.” You have not made a mistake. The time has simply come to set out on your own, in a new direction. Different spiritual traditions have different ways of doing things, and if you join them, you agree to honor those ways.
However, among Pagans, “honor” does not mean “obey.” It’s a question of personal integrity—if you make an agreement, you keep it. That does not reduce your freedom—you have made a choice, and you can always choose again. Your key relationship is with Deity—earthly relationships will come, evolve, and perhaps go. You remain in charge of your own destiny.