Journeying Wide and Deep
For more than four decades, I have followed a Spirit trail. The trail took me from Protestant Christianity in my twenties; through forays into Buddhism and yoga in my thirties; through the goddess movement, Sufism, and Native American Spirituality in my forties. I made pilgrimages to sacred sites, walked labyrinths, chanted at temples, meditated at ashrams, and danced on moonlit beaches with circles of women. It was a spiritual sampling of grand proportion, a sumptuous journey!
John Mabry, PhD, author of Spiritual Guidance Across Traditions, would have considered me a “spiritual eclectic.” And if I’d participated in the survey offered by the Pew Foundation on religious preferences, I might have been forced to check a box that designated me as one of the “Nones.” Other designations from different organizations may have labeled me as “New Age,” or “Spiritual but Not Religious.” Certain individuals might have even branded me as “confused,” “flaky” or worse.
Today my spirituality is unique, grounded, and inclusive. It is my priority and my passion to stay rooted and focused on and in the Divine as I understand it. As a spiritual guide (director) whose companions are very similar, I know there are many more of us out there, even more than the Pew Report indicates (33% of Americans), who are on a profound and life-shaping journey to settle into a spiritual life that genuinely nourishes us and, at the same time, serves others.
This can be the nature of the spiritual journey, the quest or “hero’s journey,” as Joseph Campbell named it. If it is authentic and soul-centered, it can be eclectic, for we must try it on for size, sift and sort, and discern what speaks to us at the deepest level of our being.
As a spiritual guide, I feel honored to walk with people who are genuinely searching. I strive to have no opinion about where they go or what they discover on their sojourns. I utilize “Pure Presence®” to help me listen without judgment and to hold them in compassion, for all that they are experiencing is so tender, even raw. I know, because I have been in this place myself and have felt the critical assessment of others for navigating my inner life this way.
I long for each of us to be free of religious designations and the inclination to label one another accordingly. A root teacher for me who represents this view is His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has said (and I paraphrase), “I call myself a simple monk. If I were to call myself a Buddhist, I will have separated myself out from you.” And this is why after such a circuitous journey—chanting and dancing and praying through any number of spiritual traditions—I find myself, instead, bowing to the One that upholds them all. I do not wish to separate myself from you or anyone else based upon our personal spiritual truths.
Perhaps it is specifically a wide and arched path that has delivered me to this place of desire and belief that my way is just one way. There are a multitude of paths to spiritual understanding, in fact, Hindu tradition purports that “all paths lead to God.” Today, my heart is aligned with civil rights leader and author Howard Thurman who wrote in his book Creative Encounter, “It is my belief that in the Presence of God there is neither male nor female, white nor black, Gentile nor Jew, Protestant nor Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, nor Moslem, but a human spirit stripped to the literal substance of itself before God.”
When I am sitting one-on-one with a fellow journeyer, this is the landscape I hope to rest in: the place of no names and labels and religious designations. The place of grand receptivity, which allows me to see my own judgments clearly (and to tend to them), so I can be open and hold presence for the other. And, if I am in that place, even “the other” is an inaccurate designation. It speaks of separation.
This is the beauty of the spiritual guidance relationship. As I sit with you and listen, I may hear how my own opinions and judgments surface about who I think you are and how your journey should be. In that moment of awareness, I am invited to self-reflection, transparency, and self-compassion, and I journey deeper into my true self.
As I sit with you and listen, I receive your story, listen for the movement of Spirit, and hold you in compassion because I know in the depth of my being that you are a pilgrim just like me who wants nothing more than to know the truth of your own existence and how to best live. In this way, we journey to our depths and we are both well served. We are one.
In the end, it’s all one journey, the journey of returning to Love.
Dr. Janice Lundy is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute, a leading-edge organization engaging in education, experiences, and relationships for practical, integrative, unitive living. She is an interfaith/interspiritual guide, the author of several spiritual formation books including Your Truest Self and My Deepest Me, and the creator of the Pure Presence® method. She resides in Michigan, USA.