copyright © 2020 Oliver Bardwell
"It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path."
—Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
There are many paths to spiritual understanding. No matter what religion you belong to, if you sincerely study the teachings of the spiritual master upon which your religion is based, you will find
“The Way” hidden within. Sometimes in life, our spiritual practice can become confined to one trip a week or maybe only a holiday sojourn to our local church or temple. We forget that life itself is our spiritual practice, and that as we live, breathe, and interact with the world every day, we are presented with the opportunity to uncover and express our true nature. As you read this book, I’m inviting you to see how every moment of your life is part of your spiritual journey.
Following are seven realizations of “The Way,” as I have found them in the sacred scriptures of the world and along my own spiritual journey. I welcome you to explore them and to adopt them into your practice, either in their entirety or in part, in whatever way feels right to you.
God, Being or Source permeates the universe, and underlies and resides within all beings and all creation. Nothing exists that isn’t made up of this creative and loving force.
We are all children of this force, children of God. Living in joy, happiness, love, and prosperity is our birthright. We have the free will to choose this birthright or to turn away from it.
By practicing meditation, prayer, and mindfulness, we can learn to experience our connection to this loving force and bring its presence into our daily lives.
Cultivating joy and gratitude allows us to open our hearts and experience a world of infinite possibilities.
In times of trial, learning to embrace and understand our suffering and the suffering of others allows us to open our hearts further and to cultivate empathy, understanding, and forgiveness.
Expressing compassion and loving-kindness to others teaches us to share our divinity with the world.
A Life of Purpose
There is no one like you in the universe. You are unique and made up of the stuff of stars. You are here to discover your dharma, develop your unique talents, and share them with the world. It’s never too late.
Inner and Outer Reality
For behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Your vision will become clear when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakes.
The doorway to the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. It is ever-present, beyond the many layers of mind and ego, beyond regrets about yesterday and worries about tomorrow.
I remember reading a Sunday school story once about some people from long ago who needed to help God hide. It was a beautiful story designed to help the children think and interact with the teacher and to help them realize how close God truly is. The people from long ago thought to hide God in the mountains but knew that when someone was walking through the mountains and witnessed their beauty, they would realize that God was there. They thought to hide Him in the Ocean but knew that when people saw the wonders of the Ocean, they would know that God was there. Should they hide Him in the grasses of the plains? Or should they hide God in the trees of the forest? Finally, they decided the best place to hide God would be in the human heart. They thought few people would look inside themselves to find God.
They were right. How often do we take the time to look inside ourselves? Most of the time, our attention is focused outward. From the minute we wake up in the morning until we close our eyes to go to sleep at night, we are bombarded with external stimuli. What we fail to realize is that there is a whole universe within us. When we open our hearts, look inside ourselves, and feel the love that’s always there, we’ve found inner peace. We’ve found God.
Practice: I invite you to remember a time you felt truly at peace, with love flowing in your heart. It could have been when you were alone in nature or with a significant other, or when you were spending time with your family and completely present in the moment. Your thoughts and mental judgments may have slowed down, or temporarily ceased. Whatever experience this was for you, it is still there, and you can access it at any time. All you have to do is close your eyes and put yourself there. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Become aware of your body and allow your breathing to slow. Imagine what you experienced. See what you could see. Hear what you could hear. Feel what you felt. Now just focus on the joy and inner peace of that moment and feel it now. No sorrows. No worries. No pain. No suffering. Only joy and peace. As you sink into this feeling of inner peace, you may feel immersed in warm, enveloping light, love, and peace, extending endlessly, in all directions. Allow yourself to experience this state of inner peace.
After some time enjoying this peace, think of a recent experience that didn’t go so well or of a future situation where you might need this extra resource. Now imagine the scene of the past or future experience playing out on the movie screen of your mind. You could be experiencing the situation from the inside, or as an observer. If you are thinking of a past situation, imagine how bringing your inner peace would have changed the outcome. If you’re thinking of a potential future situation, how does it play out when you bring your inner peace to it? Once you’ve done the exercise, let it go. The past is gone—it’s only one version of a story we like to tell ourselves; and the future doesn’t exist. There is only the present. Repeating this practice can change how you feel about something that happened in the past, and better prepare you for a potential challenge that you may be concerned about in the future.
When you learn to cultivate this presence, to sit in stillness or to be in the moment, whether you’re alone in nature, or in a crowded city, it will allow you and those around you to experience this peace.
The Buddha called this state of peace nirvana: a place of no suffering, a state beyond the cycle of death and rebirth. At a deeper level, this feeling, this place of peace is oneness with God, the Source, or the Creator; it is the vast light and cosmic song beyond our physical senses, underlying and emanating throughout eternity and the many worlds within it.
Peace love light eternal
Never-ending joy and happiness
Like a sleeping child
Being held to the bosom of the Divine Mother
The child, tired of playing in the sea of desire
Ever longing and searching for God
Through vigilance and lifetimes of unceasing effort
Escapes the clutches of Mara the Tempter
Conquers the delusion of Maya
And, at long last, returns home.