Finding Your Path
Some of the most commonly asked questions and discussions I have been involved in over the years relate to the topic of finding direction or path and purpose in one’s life. A growing number of people are uncertain about what to do with their lives, how to add value to, meaning for it, to find some measure of personal peace or happiness in them or pursue deeper spiritual awareness. When asked, a common point I make is that one’s path is a spiritual journey by nature and not about mundane things like finding ones ideal vocation or being financially successful and so on. That may very well be where ones path takes them, but our journey is one of awakening and our path is not something our minds can determine.
Regardless of any intent, direction or purpose we may have in mind whatever path we take will be an expression of our individuality or uniqueness. I believe that when we find and commit to a choice in direction that is in our best and highest interests we create an empowering and energizing synergy. The synergy we develop between the outside world and the one within us truly enriches everyone.
Before going any further I need to clarify something in regards to "finding our path". The statement is vague and notions about the concept vary accordingly. In one sense, the entire notion of personal paths is a misnomer because by default any path we take will be ours and hence personal. Also, when someone talks about the path one takes what they are commonly referring to are acts, beliefs, methods or techniques and so on that would be the most helpful and suitable, or most harmonious for their personal and spiritual development. These things, while relevant, are not the path. You could say that they are what carry or take us along whatever our path is. However, this is a topic for another discussion. What we are looking at is how one goes about becoming more aligned with their "inner self" as this is our path no matter where it takes us.
Many have asked me for help in directing them to what they refer to as "path", one that would be suitable for them. At times, I have found the urge to answer tempting, notably when what they need to do may seem obvious to me or I have an intuitive sense of things. Instead I have tried to provide council rather than directly advise them of a path. The reason is simple, and goes beyond the idea that it is very difficult to really know what is in someone else's highest good. The reason is by telling people what to do we are doing more harm than good. By doing so, outside of situations where an individual would be in serious jeopardy without intervention, we take away their opportunity to learn for themselves.
Those seeking to find their path, to become aligned with their true nature, need to consider that while others can advise them they do not know what is best. The fact is our personal intent and desire (1) must be in line with our path or conflicts will arise. We see these conflicts in our everyday lives, they are our challenges. Doing what others suggest can lead to a whole host of new ones. We must take ownership over our lives and decisions and be committed to and accept full responsibility for them. That is more likely to happen when we figure things out for ourselves rather than follow the words of another, regardless of how wise they may be.
One’s life path and their individual uniqueness are related. Hence, finding the right path means getting to know ourselves first, developing a stronger sense and awareness of self, wherever this may take us. Those who think they should answer such questions for others need to examine their reasons for believing they know better than the person themselves and perhaps why they feel it appropriate to tell another how to live. Just as those who feel the need to ask someone else what to do should work on developing the strength to make decisions for themselves.
"To think that anyone but ourselves would know more about our journey is wonderfully amusing" Larry DiTommaso
Everyone has heard that life is a journey and not a destination. As we journey through life, we can do so with a goal and path in mind. A path does not have to be specific at first, or necessarily ever, this is a matter of personal choice. People will do what they are capable of doing, however much that may be. So, one could deliberately set out using various means to reach their goal or they could go with the flow of their lives rather than with deliberate intent or something in between.
The funny thing about paths is, as I mentioned, we are on ours regardless of whether or not we have consciously chosen one. Which of these ways is better? To this I say " No path or choice of ways to reach one's spiritual goals is necessarily better or worse than any other." One may have taken the specific path of healer, teacher or builder, a path of excellence in a field or personal pursuit, a general path such as service to others where possible, trying to be a better person or following a road less travelled or no chosen no path at all. In this later case, I am not talking about people who drift through life aimlessly, though we will learn regardless of which we choose to do. What matters is how much we apply ourselves to our efforts.
When people think about a path in life they think in specific terms such as one’s vocation, their pursuit of wealth, their support for family or community or the types of personal pursuits they engage in. I would argue that while one's vocation, monetary status and so on can be an aspect or part of someone's path they are not the path itself, they are a reflection or manifestation of who we are. This would be like saying that what we do shows the kind of person we are inside, rather than the kind of person we are inside shows in what we do.
The two previous statements are not equivalent. That so many see it the other way around is not surprising, for if as a whole humanity understood this we would be better off than we are. Few realize that the type of life they lead, the types of jobs they have, their personal pursuits and interests and so forth are the external expression of who they are on the inside and the outside. They reflect our uniqueness through the prism of our experiences and our reactions to them. Further, our growth happens within, not without.
Rare exceptions aside, the only way for us to know the path we walk is to have reflected on our life and experiences. By this I mean contemplating what and who we are, what we stand for, our strengths and weaknesses, what we love to do and what we have manifested in this life as a result of them. We should also consider what we would have liked to do but were not able to for whatever reason. If you have looked within, observed yourself and the life you lead and feel you have a good idea of whom you are and what your life’s path is then continue to follow it. Do so with all the passion you have. Those in this group need only to work on the challenges they face on their path such as the influence of others, self-doubts or second thoughts. If you have not looked within then this is where you start.
The challenge of discovering ones path may seem insurmountable, even pointless, to those who believe their searches were unsuccessful. However, they are really looking for something that doesn't exist. So, if you have not found it do not dismay, it is not crucial to know one's path, you are already on it and always have been. Even contemplating it moves you ahead for it is our considerations of self that most benefit us. Without this we are not likely to grow much or quickly and certainly not consciously.
Questions about one’s path in life such as “What is my path?” or “Am I on the right path?” are difficult if not impossible to answer from the outside. The first question is the only one that matters for we are always on our path whether we know it or not. As for what one's actual path is? Well, there are far too many factors and intangibles to have a pat answer to this question.
The second question, like the first, can only be answered by each of us for ourselves. If we are asking the latter question it is likely we are not in balance and could be going about things differently (I used "could" rather than "should" deliberately). How we could is something our lives tell us, we have to work on learning how to listen to it. This is where meditation and mindfulness serve us well.
While there is no set method for understanding or getting to know our path there are ways to go about doing this. Note the use of the word doing. What most seek is not their path but what they should be doing in life as an expression of their path. We should not consciously choose our path or way in life arbitrarily or casually because it seems to fit, or is preferable to other alternatives. I emphasize this because we are where we are supposed to be and by doing this can set ourselves back. We all are on our path and experiencing and learning what we need to. It has been established by our actions and choices in this life and past ones just as where we will go or end up is affected by the choices we make moment by moment. We must also remember that the simple act of having a thought is also an action that affects our choices here and now and hence our future. This is another reason why a significant part of the journey involves self-examination.
I have mentioned that a life path is, by nature, a spiritual one. There have been countless scholars of all stripes, from scientists, philosophers and lay people to spiritual and religious leaders, who have shared their perspectives on the meaning of life and its purpose. Their perspectives, based on interpretation of observations or doctrine, only become our personal views when we accept them. We should be mindful that we are not enamoured over something because it fits what we think and the thoughts we have. This begs the question: what have we already accepted as personal beliefs and truths?
Naturally, as part of self-examination, there are many questions one should ask of themselves. Some of them are:
- What do I believe about who and what I am?
- What kind of person am I?
- Do I believe there is a purpose to life?
- Do I have a purpose for my life?
- What beliefs do I hold?
- Why do I believe what I do?
- Are my beliefs based on what I have learned or on what I’ve been told and accepted?
- Am I willing to act based on my beliefs?
- Am I fully committed to my beliefs?
- Do I like the person I am right now?
- What are my natural gifts?
- What do I enjoy doing?
We struggle with discovering what our path or direction in life is when life is tough or when we have uncertainty around who we are, why we are here or what we are capable of doing or should be doing and so on. This internal struggle leads us away from being in balance with life and ourselves. The greater the struggle the further away we get. While we may not care for them, our struggles are essential. Issues just don't materialize on their own, we created and need to deal with them. Getting past them is certainly part of our path.
Fundamentally, the inner beauty and strength we have is less likely to manifest if we struggle and are unable to see it in ourselves. By observing our own lives, by asking ourselves direct questions, and trying to answer them honestly, we shed light on our inner selves. As we come to know and understand our beliefs, we start to see where our beliefs are in harmony and empower us as well as where they unnecessary, poorly formulated and adversely affect our choices and lives.
If we lack a clear understanding of the type of person we are inside then a clear path is certainly a challenge. This does not mean we should give up, as our "path" is not a specific road we follows; it is a choice in direction guided by our intent. We can choose, for example, to become a better person, help others in need, to find oneself rather than base it on vague notions or what some book or others might suggest for us. We do not need to have the qualities we would like to in order to begin to develop them. We should try to find our path, that being our notion of what is best suitable for us or in our best interests, through thoughtful consideration. This is because to get results we must commit ourselves to it and if we are not committed we will find it a problem.
As you look at your choices, base your direction, or path, on what you feel deep down inside is right for you, one that resonates with you. Actions find their base in choices. Choices find their base in thoughts, which in turn are the result of previous experiences, as are what one believes. By looking at ourselves honestly we can see where we have acted in opposition to or in cooperation with what we think should be the case. In the process we can see more clearly where our beliefs are invalid, incongruous, contradictory or simply false. We can even examine and learn to understand the reasons behind our choices.
People often believe “something” but cannot explain why they believe it. Nor do we even know about the bulk of beliefs we hold so we do not notice those that are preventing us from seeing or understanding our path. Do you question your worthiness? Do you question your ability to find peace in this life? Do you question your ability to serve to the benefit of all? Do you question your right to live the way you feel is right for you? If you do question any of these then you have some long held beliefs tucked away in your rational mind of which you are not aware. When we begin to re-evaluate our beliefs and the choices we have made we must do so deliberately.
We must be a warrior in pursuit of self-awareness. This means being ruthlessly honest with ourselves, and taking full responsibility for our lives. As we learn through experience, our answers to the above questions will shift. This is not an issue as the actual answers themselves are not as important as the act of asking and trying to answer them. The process of understanding ourselves is not unlike how one peels an onion. This seems to lead us to the question of "How does this help one find their path?"
Among the spiritual perspectives I have encountered I believe those that look at fundamental aspects of what we can express as embodied spiritual beings are the best. One of these suggests that there are seven fundamental planes and we are influenced by the archetypes of one or more of these planes. These seven archetypes can be stated as (from Ernest Wood, The Seven Rays, 1925):
- The person of will who seeks freedom by mastering self and environment (ruler)
- The person of love who seeks unity through sympathy (philanthropist)
- The person of thought who seeks to comprehend through the study of life (philosopher)
- The person of imagination who seeks harmony in a three-fold way through unifying the internal and external worlds (magician, actor, symbolic artist or poet)
- The person of thought who seeks truth in the world (scientist)
- The person of love who seeks God as goodness in the world (devotee)
- The person of will who is seeking the beauty that is God manifest in the world (craftsman or artist)
You will note the word God in the above. It is a word I rarely use for a variety of reasons. His use of the term is in the generic sense and should not be associated with any particular definition of what God. Besides, most peoples definition of God are vague and vary dramatically. When I use the term I am not referring to the God as espoused by any particular religion or as taking any defined form as depicted by man. We can conceive of “God” in many ways, as a result I am referring to God as the source or originator of all that we are and not as an individualized consciousness or a being of any kind. In essence I view God as "All that was, is or every will be". This makes us and everything in the universe part of God rather than separate from IT. If this weren't the case then the notion of unity in the Cosmos evaporates.
How you choose to define or perceive of God is personal and in the grand scheme of things is only relevant, in relation to paths, in terms of our recognition that there something greater that we are and part of. All notions of God are personal and subjective and should be treated as such. When we try to put boundaries on or apply qualities to God we are putting limits on that which is limitless and beyond our ability to conceive let alone perceive. In doing so we are essentially limiting God and elevating ourselves; however, many have come to need this view for a variety of reasons such as to make sense of things or give them hope and alleviate sense of aloneness, of separation that many feel. Our consciousness in all its capabilities is but a miniscule part of that greater whole and we are subject to the capabilities of expression built up in that greater whole over eons of time. God is not "out there somewhere" for there is nothing that exists that is not God.
The path we all follow is one that will eventually lead all of us to look within for all the answers we seek are there. This is why even Jesus stated "...if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty". We can try to resist our inherent qualities though we will have to deal with the consequences of our choices for we cannot avoid nor change them.
From (Leadbeater, The Masters and The Path, 1925):
"Anyone who hears about the Masters and Their teaching, if he has any grasp at all of what it means and involves, must instantly be seized with a most intense desire to understand Them and enter Their service; the more he learns the more does he become filled with the wonder and beauty and glory of God' s plan, and the more anxious does he become to take part in the work. Once he has realized that God has a plan of evolution, he wants to be a fellow-labourer with God, and nothing else can possibly bring satisfaction."
I will shift for a moment at this point from overall life paths as this can seem irrelevant if one has more pressing issues. In such cases know that resolving any of these does not take you off whatever path you are on. They are part of it. See them as stepping stones along the way. The material on this site will help you to find and work on your challenges. If you have a number of them it is likely best to tackle them one at a time as they arise in your life or as presented to you by your experiences. Choose the one(s) you can handle or the one you that if left unresolved could result in the most harm. Do this with passion and embrace it, doing so not only builds your strength but helps you to draw on it!
Life can be tough with harsh lessons that seem cruel. We may feel we can be so much more and also believe that life has dealt us a losing hand. I understand that it can be hard to accept that what we manifest the experiences we have in order to work and grow. What I can say is accepting this will be of immense benefit. Life is not fair, it just is.
Denying responsibility over the events in our lives or our lives themselves makes it very difficult to work on our issues. Our options are to blame someone or something else, which resolves nothing, or accept responsibility. The fact is we cannot fix what we don't own and this is what we are doing when we deny responsibility for the consequences of our choices.
If we do not clear what is within us, which is the source of our problems, they will continue to manifest in one form or another. They are likely to get "worse" the longer we put them off. Our challenges and lack of balance in life are never someone else’s fault. We can play that game but it's a fools errand. We cannot avoid our lessons; we can only defer them, often leading to harsher consequences later. They are part of our journey and our path, and in order to progress we need to lose our fear of them. We need to embrace and move past them. It is only by doing this that can we begin to be as we imagine ourselves to be. When we do this we often surprise ourselves by what we are capable of doing.
We also have to remember that fully choosing one's path in life is not something most of us can do without significant effort. This is because free will is mostly an illusion save for those few who have become mostly or fully conscious of their emotions, their thoughts and intent. As a result most of us are not fully cognizant of how we manifest the experiences we have and make choices based more on thoughts we are not conscious of than those we are. When we are not in conscious control of our minds our acts have less to do with free will and more to do with the momentum of our past. We are reacting to our own previous reactions and not what is occurring here and now. This limits not only choices but possibilities as well.
We cannot find our "path" by thinking about it. In fact, we want to keep our mind out of it as much as possible. This is because the reason we have not found it is because of the thoughts in our minds. The mind is based on the past and if it could have figured it out already we would have. Also, our minds tend to take the path of least resistance, and have their own needs and preferences. It can have us convinced that the one thing we actually need is not good us.
When we consider notions of what we should be doing in our lives one thing is clear - we need to get our minds out of the way as much as possible. If we cannot then it is likely this is something we should be working on. I will not go into how we can do this as there are many essays on the Twin Powers website, in this curriculum and the General Writings section about it.
Fundamentally, the experiences we have are based on what we need to learn. This is why it is immensely important to work on what life is presenting to us here and now. The more we do this the more we come to know and understand who and what we are. This makes it easier to see things as they are. In turn, this helps us make better choices, ones not merely based on the past. There is no way around this regardless of what path we decide to take in life. Why? It is because we cannot avoid our lessons and the secret has always been "Know thyself." This is how we become more consciously aware and gain more free will and possibilities.
"The obstacle is the path..." Zen proverb
For those who feel they already know their life's path the question may be one of confirmation or certainty that it is the best way for them to proceed. It can seem that every choice has roadblocks and our fears can have us resisting what is in our best interests. However, in terms of spiritual life paths specification is not required, personal awareness of self and dedication and devotion to something greater or beyond ourselves is. Whether that awareness is about our strengths or growth points (2) or what we like or love to do what is important is intent and desire (1). If you have these and remain faithful to your intent and continue to try to grow and learn, you will find your way past uncertainty.
Our dedication and devotion should not be part time endeavours applied only in certain areas or under specific conditions. By stating this I am in no way belittling the fact that some effort is better than none. Yet it remains true that to get to where we want to go we must commit to it. If we aren't committed little will happen and this really shows on the spiritual path where it is required in spades. For a spiritual life the commitment is not to any particular belief system. The commitment is to come into harmony with the idea that there is greater purpose to life than simply living for "I", we are not separate from each other and what each of us does matters. Accepting and following through on this commitment is the way we learn to accept and love ourselves. This allows what is inside of us to shine forth. For most of us this means clearing old issues, removing blocks and discarding judgment so we can open up to the wondrous beauty all around and within us. Do not fear the commitment. You will find it easier as your dedication and devotion grows.
When you are looking to find your way recognize that you can find the answers you seek by looking within. No one can know you or your life the way you do. Your experiences may have occurred in the past yet they remain within you; explore them. We carry the past with us in our reactions to our experiences. We can discuss our journey with others but should resist the urge to ask others what they think we should be doing. Consider anything they may say objectively, do not take it personally and take any advice given with a few grains of salt. Use all feedback you get in your exploration and then define your life for yourself. This way you will not need reassurance or validation from others.
During your journey accept what knowledge comes your way but do not let each variation steer you in a new direction. There are many roads to knowledge, wisdom and happiness. It is important to choose one that suits your temperament and thought constructs. For instance, the thought constructs of the Western World are different from those in the east as traditions, history and collective awareness vary between cultures. This affects how one goes about pursuing spiritual growth. If you cast your net too wide, you will likely find you have thoughts that do not align. This is not to say one is right and the other wrong, just that they can have different definitions or understanding of terms and perspectives all of which affect our understanding of and ability to follow them.
Conflicting beliefs make progress more challenging as our minds will struggle to reconcile the differences. Some can be irreconcilable. The result is mental and likely emotional blocks to progress in any area that has a commonality with them or for which they may be the foundation. It is good to expose oneself to ideas from all the major spiritual schools to expand awareness of the diversity of thought and schema’s. At the same time, do no not try to embrace them all until you have sufficient knowledge to understand the subtle variations within them. These variations do not affect the truth of what is stated, they affect the way we understand and relate to it. When you do choose, embrace it, but do not assume that it is the only path or that it is the only way to view ourselves or and wondrous Cosmos around us.
The intent of the material presented here is not to provide you with a path for you are already on it. Your are on and creating it as you read these words. It was to provide you with some perspective on the entire notion of "life paths" and in part as a guide to clearing the way so you can find your own. While each of us must find our own purpose or path in life, and this can be a challenge, we find that when we do find it we are not walking alone.
© 2009 Allan Beveridge
Last updated May 4, 2016
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