The Journey

The Contemplative Journey Add comments

Isabelle Robinson

The Journey…Unlike any other journeys the spiritual journey doesn’t have a beginning and an end. It is neither fast nor secure. It is not straight or predictable. It is a never ending path which “in one place moves straight like a castle, across a chessboard. In another sideways like a bishop. Now surging like a wave cresting, now sliding like a fish, with always his feet making geomancy symbols in the sand recording his wandering state” says the poet Rumi.

This particular journey is all about wondering and wandering through the maze which is one’s life, trying to find a glimpse of the divine behind each twist and turn. At its core is a thirst to Know God, if not just to know about Him. And that alone transforms the whole journey into something exciting and always new. At the same time, this is a journey into the unknown where incertitude is actually the chosen path to acquire “divine” knowledge. Betty Davis used to say that getting old was not for sissies, well, the spiritual journey is not for them either.

Once you decide to enter that unknown the road is wide open, and there is no specific map to guide you, no signs to show you the way… that is where you start, a nagging sense that something is indeed missing, a “God shaped void” which keeps tugging at your innermost being, going forward into an unknowingness which knows you. Until then you were already on a spiritual journey of some sort since God always walked by you, at times side by side, at time holding you but always there even when you were not. But now that the question has been asked and the void acknowledged, you still can go either way. The questions can be answered quickly and the void can get easily filled with worldly responses. Notice the word “quickly’: the spiritual journey isn’t quick, isn’t obvious, isn’t simple, it is not black and white. This is a world where answers come often at odds times, in odd ways, from the side, from the hip, rarely from the head.

One of my favorite things to do on the last days of my vacations is to make lists: What I call my “What, When and How” list. Needless to say it is much more fun to write it down than to follow it and I am never very good at that either. Too much planning, too much “knowing”, too much “wanting” can just kill the spirit of any true quest, squeezing it dry like a lemon. The spiritual journey needs space to breathe and grow. We can’t control the spiritual journey like we plan a trip in Spain. We do need to have a hand on the steering wheel, but let it be a light touch, not a forceful grip which can throw us into a spin. Let thirst be your guide instead. Let the journey unfolds under your feet, one step at a time, listening to the one to come instead of planning it ahead.

That being said, to advance on the journey does require some muscle strength and the appropriate equipment. This is where discipline comes in. That word has been so used and misused that it permanently carries an aura of punishment and sacrifice. In this particular instance though, it has to do with specific methods chosen to advance on the spiritual path and the training it takes to acquire them, to embrace them, to live them. And that means practice, day after day, year after year, through thick and thin. Sometimes it feels light as a feather, something it is like treading through heavy mud. This is usually where our judgment rushes in. This was good, this was bad. This is a treacherous road which can discourage and frustrate the most genuine seekers. How the experience feels is somewhat irrelevant. What truly matters is “to show up” says Father Sheehan who has been teaching the practice of Centering Prayer for years. And leave the rest up to God.

Teilhard de Chardin says it best:
“For you, there is only one road
That can lead to God and this is fidelity
To remain constantly true to yourself,
To what you feel is highest in you.
The road will open before you as you go.”

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