"Sharing the Path
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -
Last evening as my wife and I drove out of Los Angeles, returning to our desert home, I had a flash of insight about traveling a spiritual path. There were thousands of cars on the road with us in typical L.A. “bumper-to bumper” traffic; and although we all shared the same highway we were extremely insulated from one another, sheltered by the protective layers of the glass and steel of our own individual, separate cars. As I looked over at my wife who sat next to me inside our car it was incredibly comforting to realize that we were traveling companions –such tenderness and intimacy amidst the onslaught of all the noise, chaos and indifference of the highway.
I was struck by the fact that this highway “scenario” was, in fact, a powerful icon of how most of us travel through everyday life. We feel separated from one another, sheltered within the protection of our own individual egos, the world is often a chaotic place, sometimes lonely and indifferent; and so we need the intimacy of traveling companions on the journey with us. They pull us out of our own egos and comfort us with that deeper peace we all seek.
I often use the term, “spiritual journey” to describe my own path of faith as I make my way though life; and so from time to time I need to be reminded of the fact that I do not walk alone on this “spiritual journey.” The goal of any spiritual path is to find connection and to be connected, to be enlightened with the awareness that everything and everyone belong together in a dynamic web of relationships - it’s all about relationships.
From time to time I post this blog in various internet chat and discussion rooms dedicated to the topic of spirituality. I find it very interesting that in most cases, the various images and pictures posted in these rooms are almost always of a sole person sitting quietly, eyes closed and meditating. It seems to me that, for the most part, we imagine the spiritual quest as an inward journey, an individual search for greater truth and deeper meaning. I actually think the opposite is true - the spiritual journey always pulls us outward and places us in relationship. We find greater truth and deeper meaning by traveling together.
I am reminded of a story about the Buddha:
The Buddha’s faithful friend, Ananda, once asked about the importance
of having companions on the ‘way.’
He asked the Buddha whether having friends and companions
wasn’t half the holy life.
The Buddha replied:
‘No, Ananda, friends and companions are the whole of the holy life.’
The Buddha sat alone under a tree for 40 days until he “woke up” to the truth that everything is relationship; and immediately after his enlightenment the first thing he did was to gather together five faithful companions to accompany him as he traveled from town to town on the path of his spiritual journey.
Jesus did the same as he gathered his 12 apostles and other disciples to accompany him on his travels as “companions on his way.” And when Jesus finally sent his disciples out on their own, he sent them out in pairs telling them not to walk alone but to support one another as they went from village to village healing and preaching the good news.
A spiritual path is not meant to be walked alone. We walk the journey with our companions on the way - It’s all about relationships.
I am quite grateful to be back home today as I sit in my garden for my morning quiet time- away from the noise of traffic and the chaos of the highway; but as I sit alone my eyes are wide open and I am so very acutely aware of relationships - my relationships with the awesome beauty of the desert in these autumn months, my relationship with my wife, such a faithful and tender “companion on the way” over all these many years. I am deeply aware of my relationships with family and friends, such beautiful gifts given to walk along with me on the path. I am even aware of all those many strangers I have not yet and will likely never meet –they too are my companions on the way because there are no different others.