‘The Road Less Traveled‘ by M. Scott Peck is just a starting point on this journey. The TRUTH is the TRUTH no matter who speaks it or where or when they speak it, good advice is good advice no matter how many people ignore it. Many times we have been shown the starting point, have had the path pointed out to us. Scott Peck refers to this when he said, “One way or another, these concepts have been set forth before – by Buddha, by Christ, by Lao-tse, among many others”. We often feel that we are on a journey as we pass through life, the more spiritually aware we are the more we are likely to feel that we are on a spiritual journey. We may even feel that this spiritual journey is our purpose for being, the main event, and everything else is a supporting act.
Scott Peck describes how a client of his suddenly stated that it occurred to her that the most important thing was the development of her soul. Scott Peck was astounded because this patient saved hard to be able to pay for her treatment and drove a long distance to see him. He had assumed that she had always been aware of that, that the development of her soul was the primary reason for her visits to him. Scott Peck had been so sure of this he hadn’t even mentioned it to her.
Like all journeys in life, preparation is important, guidebooks, maps, instruments and, of course, companions. So study is important, reading is important, learning is important but DOING is what is, incorporating the wisdom into the actions of our daily life. “Seek greater understanding, but do not expect greater detail”. Our journey begins when our life begins. The route is way-marked but must be undertaken by each of us as individuals.
Last year i decided i would like to walk the Wicklow Way, http://www.wicklowway.com, a 127 km route south from Dublin, through the Wicklow Mountains and ending up in the lovely village of Clonegal, worth a visit in its own right, in north County Carlow. So i bought the guidebooks, looked up the web, studied the maps, researched daily distances and likely overnight accommodation and, nearly, DIDN’T DO ANYTHING. How common is that in our lives, especially when doing involves effort and something new, leaving our comfort zone. I procrastinated, and then changed my mind again. Suddenly, fortunately, i decided to just do it. That’s a great attitude to doing the things we ought to.
I booked my accommodation, the only criterium was that it was as close to the Way as possible so i would not have to walk many additional kilometers each evening and morning. My knees were bad, sometimes i had to walk downhill backwards, but the physio had given me my exercises and i persevered – a wonderful feeling. Met some very special people and made some progress on my spiritual path, as well as on the Wicklow Way. The thing is, reading and studying all the guidebooks, maps and web-sites without any walking would not have got me one kilometer along the Wicklow Way – even if i learned all the guidance off by heart and recited it, in order, every day for the rest of my life.
This year i’m thinking about walking the Kerry Way, about 200 km, but i’m still in procrastination mode! I haven’t bought the guide books yet, or the map but, if you want to join me, the web-site is http://www.kerryway.com.
Scott Peck reminds us, “No teacher can carry you there. There are no preset formulas. Rituals are only learning aids, they are not the learning. Eating organic food, saying five Hail Marys before breakfast, praying facing east or west, or going to church on Sunday will not take you to your destination”. He is not saying, “don’t do these”, or “these are wrong”. What Scott Peck is telling us is that these alone will not bring us further along our path, these alone will not mean that we develop spiritually.
Peck comes to the conclusion, “No words can be said, no teaching can be taught that will relieve the spiritual travelers from the necessity of picking their own ways, working out with effort and anxiety their own paths through the unique circumstances of their own lives toward the identification of their individual selves with God”.
So, its up to us i guess, each of us must place one foot in front of another, do our research but only really understand each step as we actually take it.
The Buddha told his disciples, over 2,500 years ago, “Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge to yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the truth. Look not for refuge to any one besides yourselves”.
Same message, same advice, just a different era. Many Buddhists have followed the Buddha’s advice over the centuries and, in recent decades, we in the western world have been introduced to his wisdom and to the wisdom of his followers. We shall be visiting the wisdom and sayings of the Buddha often during the course of this blog.
What are we waiting for?
“It is they”, the Buddha said, “who shall reach the very topmost Height! – but they must be anxious to learn”
Are you anxious to learn, do you desire to make progress on your spiritual path? And remember, even as you progress, don’t become complacent, though it is very difficult not to. Occasionally, a burst of insight, of wisdom, will flash upon you but sometimes the temptation then is to be satisfied with that development, to think “Am i not great, see how far i have traveled, maybe i should wait until the rest catch up, just a short while so that i can catch my breath”.
It is natural to rest at times, our spiritual path, like the Wicklow Way and all other mountain hikes, can be tiring at times. Some days we may not be as energetic as others or may become disillusioned with our progress, a rest may be the best option at times. And, of course, steady progress makes for a successful journey. The fable of the hare and the tortoise has much truth in it. I remember, growing up on a farm, that many of our early lessons to do with physical work was to pace ourselves. It was more important to be able to do a good steady day’s work, and be able to come back for more the next day, than to be a superhero for an hour or two before falling prey to exhaustion, blisters, thirst and sometimes, even, injury.
Pick your path with care my friends; keep learning, keep moving forward but rest for a while when you have to.