Monday, December 5, 2011

Paths

Scott Bradley


"Paths are made by those that walk them." — Zhuangzi

There are numerous well-established formal paths to spiritual growth. And we may choose to follow one (or more?) to our advantage. Yet ultimately, whatever path we choose, its actual expression can only be our own unique working out of who we are. Some formal paths understand and encourage this more than others, and that, for me, is one criterion by which I sort through them relative to my own needs.

I see my own path as outside any formal path, though some might question that considering my constant reference to Zhuangzi, chapter and verse. Yet, though he does indeed inspire my thought significantly, I really don't find anything concrete and systematic enough there to 'follow', even were I so inclined. But this doesn’t really matter one way or the other, and is not, in any case, really germane to what it is I want to say here.

I think it would behoove us to think of a path as primarily a uniquely personal journey, not some fixed teaching or methodic program. There is no path to follow, only the path we make. If a path is a working through of our own unique experience, then it must of necessity be unique to ourselves. We each have our own experience — our own ups and downs, our own joys and sorrows, our own thorns in the flesh, our own emotional baggage. Thus, even in the context of a formal path, the path we make within it is our own.

Is there anything I ever write here that is not an expression of my own working through of my life experience and the person those experiences have wrought? I don't think so. It is true that we all have a great deal in common, yet the journey which uncovers that commonality must pass through the land of our individual selves.

What I discover about myself and how that guides me may very well be helpful to you, just as your discoveries may be helpful to me. But that helpfulness, to be authentic and truly helpful, is best realized by way of example and sharing, not by way of prescribing a path.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

3 comments:

  1. Certainly we follow our own paths because we have our own feet. But sometimes, road signs and rest stops are welcome. We don't have to chop our way through jungles when just 30 feet to the right or left may be a perfectly good path on which we may find friends and advisors (or theives or charlatans, to be sure, let the walker beware).

    When hiking with my husband I often followed him on"shortcuts" which meant stumbling through bees, spiders and snakes, climbing straight up when we could have arrived, not much later, via an easy switchback.

    The view from the top, however, was always the same no matter how we got there.

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  2. ...And you get better stories with the bushwhack.

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  3. Yeah, you'd enjoy the story of when my husband descended by a shortcut on a scrubby hillside in Hong Kong. Once he reached the main trail, a guy on it asked him, "Did you see the cobras?"

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