The Spiritual Journey
Welcome to the first episode of Deepen your Meditation, where we’ll be digging deep into the practice of meditation and the spiritual journey.
I’m Nick. I’m a fully qualified meditation teacher. And I’ve helped hundreds of people around the world learn how to start or deepen their meditation practice.
Today we’ll be talking about the spiritual journey and how that might unfold for you. There are, of course, a million variations of how the journey can happen. But like all things, the spiritual path does tend to follow a similar pattern or structure for each of us.
If you’re keen to get started with meditation right now, you can download the free five day meditation challenge. It’s an introduction to practicing meditation in simple steps. We start with relaxation techniques, practice concentration, and finally rest in stillness. So check that out and without further ado, let’s begin.
The Spiritual Journey - Introduction
Joseph Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949. This is a work of comparative mythology, in which he talks about the twelve stages that a hero faces on his journey.
Today we’ll use this theory to explore the spiritual journey itself and how it may manifest. I’ve slightly simplified things to 7 stages as I thought 12 was a bit too much.
After each stage, I’ll mention a little about how that unfolded in my own life. So let’s take a look.
The Spiritual Journey; stage 1 - The wake up call
Stage 1 is the wakeup call. Something happens to us which starts to change our consciousness. We move away from the ordinary world we’ve previously inhabited and we have a feeling of waking up. So this could be called an awakening.
That’s not to be confused with enlightenment, which is the last stage of the journey. Awakening is just the beginning.
The wakeup call can come as a sudden shock, like a breakup. Or a death of someone close to you, or any big life change.
Or it can come in a slower way, as a growing sense of disillusionment or meaninglessness. There may be the feeling that everything is empty, or that your life has been a lie.
Perhaps a feeling that there’s more to life, or something missing.
Joseph Campbell called this stage the call to adventure. It begins the spiritual journey and propels you onto a new path, a new way of thinking.
For me, this happened quite suddenly, when I was 22 years old, with a difficult breakup. And that was the starting point of the spiritual journey for me. It developed from there.
My world came crashing down in order that I could rebuild it. There were some things missing from my life. I wasn’t who I wanted to be. And the end of that relationship helped me to see that things needed to change.
Stage 2 - The Shift in Consciousness
So then we get to stage 2, which is a shift in consciousness. At this point, you may develop different habits. You may find that you have different desires, or begin to feel, think and even act differently.
You may want to be around different people, or even away from people altogether. That happens to some people where they want to become more reclusive. You may want to practice yoga, or do meditation, learn about new theories, new ideas.
You might find yourself watching different kinds of media: books, movies, documentaries etc.
For me around this time, I was 23~24years old and I started reading Abraham Hicks and Wayne Dyer. I started reading self-help literature like How to Win Friends and Influence People. And also one of the most important books that I’ve read, which was Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.
This was a very important book for me. It helped me realize that I didn’t need to run away from the things I was afraid of, that I could actually confront them. If it wasn’t for that book, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today. So if you haven’t read it, definitely check it out.
I was also living in Thailand, I started meditating, and starter to reject ideas that I’d held before. So this is a time of change, a time of bringing in the new, and getting rid of the old. So it’s a new phase, new activities, and new meaning in your life.
Stage 3 - Meet the Teacher
In every hero’s journey, the hero meets a mentor. You can’t do it alone and this is a part which you don’t want to overlook, and many people do. I can almost guarantee you that generally most people will fail if they try to do it alone.
We live in a massively individualistic world. We think that we can master things by ourselves. But it’s very difficult.
Imagine learning the piano without a teacher. How could you do it? It’s possible and you could do it pretty well. But you wouldn’t have a clue whether you were doing it right or wrong. You’d have no feedback outside of your own mind and your own experience. So it would take you much longer to master it.
It’s the same with meditation. In fact, it’s even more necessary with meditation because the spiritual path is complex.
So it requires someone who has mastered it to help you go deep and learn the things you need to learn. It may start with meeting a meditation teacher or someone that can help you along.
But then for the serious seekers, they will want to find a true guru. an enlightened Master will guide them towards self-realization.
I met a meditation teacher when I was 24 years old. And then found my true guru when I was 28. And that was a moment of massive change for me.
Most people would tell you that when you come to meet a true guru, it’s an important moment in your journey.
Spiritual Journey Stage 4 - Transformation of Habits
That moves us on to stage four, which is transformation of habits. As you follow the teachings and techniques of your teacher or guru, you’ll begin to transform your habits. You’ll learn about the things that you’ve been doing which cause you to suffer.
You’ll begin to shine the light of awareness on those things. Meditation will help you to notice them and they’ll begin to change.
You can force yourself to change your habits. But usually, negative habits fall away when the time is right. So it’s the beginning of a healing process which purifies your consciousness. The healing that you experience and the habits that you transform lead to more healing and more transformation of habits. This creates a positive feedback loop.
One thing that happened in my own journey was that my eating and drinking habits changed. So my relationship with coffee, with eating certain foods, meat, smoking, and drinking. All these things needed to change because they were causing suffering — I needed to let go of them.
Stage 5 - Tests and conflicts
Stage five is tests and conflicts. It would be nice if we were able to start meditating, and our problems completely disappeared. But unfortunately, that’s not usually the way it goes.
And if it was, then there wouldn’t be much point in existing any more. You’re here to overcome challenges, to overcome and confront your karma. That’s why you’re here.
So these tests and conflicts are important. They’re a big part of the journey. So we shouldn’t try to reject them, but to embrace them.
Once you start meditating, you’ll realize that a lot of stuff starts coming up and that can be quite painful. Anger may arise, grief, sadness, anxiety. Some people remember traumatic events that have happened to them.
Meditation brings buried demons to the surface. They’re lurking there in your subconscious mind causing all kinds of problems. And you have to confront them. Only then can we move on to the next stage, which is where we begin to heal.
You have stuff going on inside you right now, which you don’t even know is there. But with meditation, it’s going to come up. It’s going to bubble to the surface. You’ll be challenged and that’s good. Because we need to free ourselves from these habits that cause us to suffer.
I realized that I had an alcohol addiction. And I knew that it had to stop. It was getting out of hand, and it wasn’t leading anywhere good. I struggled with this for quite a few years before I was finally able to let go of it.
Stage 6 - Deeper changes
So that takes us to stage six, which is deeper change, deeper connection. As you overcome the negative tendencies, you’ll find that you are more connected to your highest self.
And as you grow, you’ll experience greater wisdom and clarity. You’ll experience greater love and appreciation for the small things, and self-love. You’ll experience more peace, be less affected by life’s ups and downs. And also, you’ll experience more intuition .
You’ll have more control over yourself, and greater power to choose your own destiny.
So these are the some of the changes that can happen as you overcome those habits and tendencies. As you overcome the negative, the positive works its way into your life.
One important change for me was that I knew that I had to work for myself, no matter how hard I had to work. I’d rather work 80 hours a week for myself than 40 hours a week for someone else. I’ve always been notoriously bad with any kind of authority, from school onwards.
So that was a realization for me, a deep realization that I had to work for myself, and it’s helped a lot. That’s a big change that aome about as a result of me gaining clarity through my meditation practice. The same will happen to you.
Stage 7 - Self-Realization
So finally, we have stage 7: Self-Realization. This is also known as enlightenment and it’s where we become completely free.
We’re no longer bound by the ego, but we’re fully aware of our soul nature – our true nature. In the yoga teachings. It’s called Satchitananda which means, “Ever existing, ever conscious, ever new joy.” That translation was from Paramahansa Yogananda.
This is what we are: Satcitananda. And we may have glimpses of that in meditation. But when we’re self-realized we’re permanently aware of our true self. We always rest in our own highest soul nature.
I can’t talk about this one from personal experience, since I’m not there yet.
But I’m still working on it, working through my karma. But in spite of that, my life has improved so much. I’m much more connected with who I am, what I want, and appreciative of this journey of life.
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, it says:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder. Fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won. The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
So this isn’t just about you. Boons are benefits. Good things that you can bring to other people. So remember, that on this journey, your Self-Realization will affect many lives. You’ll come back with this elixir and affect thousands of lives if not more.
Spiritual Journey - 7 Stages Review
So let’s quickly review these seven stages:
- The Wake up call
- Shift in consciousness
- Meet the teacher
- Transform our habits
- More tests and conflicts
- Deeper inner change
These are the 7 stages of the spiritual journey. Of course, they may not come in this perfect order. They may shift about and change order but this is the spiritual journey as I see it in 7 stages.
I wanted to leave you with this final thought:
Don’t be an extra in the movie of you.
Don’t be someone who sits around waiting for someone else to save you. Take action, be bold, be fearless, and be tough. Because on the spiritual journey, you’re going to need it. It’s not always easy. Be the hero of your own journey.
Take care and I’ll see you again next week.