(Part of a series on How to Awaken.)
After I caught the awakening bug, I started exploring various spiritual traditions, looking for teachings and practices that spoke to me. Intuitively, I could tell when my practices were “working,” but I lacked a clear, high-level map of my personal spiritual path.
Some of the traditions I was exploring did have descriptions of their respective paths; however, these descriptions tended to be written in arcane jargon that made them difficult to understand, and they were often translated from other languages (which compounded the problem).
It’s only recently that I’ve started to make sense of my personal spiritual path. This series of articles is my attempt to give you a clear, concise, high-level map of what’s worked for me, why it’s worked, how it’s worked, and how all the pieces fit together.
Five Faculties of Awakening
On my spiritual path, I’ve been cultivating five faculties: vitality, mindfulness, insight, compassion, and intuition. Vitality practices work with energy, mindfulness practices work with attention, insight and intuition practices work with cognition, and compassion practices work with emotion and relationship.
There’s nothing particularly magical about these five faculties; they just happen to be ones I’ve focused on myself (so they’re the ones I feel qualified to talk about). You may not be interested in all five of these faculties—and that’s fine. You may be interested in additional ways of cultivating awakening (ways that aren’t described in this map)—and that’s fine, too.
Where to start? If there’s a faculty you feel especially drawn toward, go there. If not, I recommend that you start cultivating vitality, mindfulness, insight, compassion, and intuition, in that order. These faculties tend to be mutually reinforcing; because of this, I don’t recommend focusing all your attention on one faculty before moving on to the next. Just develop enough vitality to start cultivating mindfulness, enough mindfulness to start cultivating insight, and so forth. When you start cultivating mindfulness, continue cultivating vitality; when you start cultivating insight, continue cultivating vitality and mindfulness; and so forth.
- I don’t claim that this path is the only way—or the best way—to awaken. It’s just my way. I hope it might be helpful as you find your way.
- The “How to Cultivate…” articles in this series describe practice intentions—not practice instructions. I don’t recommend using these articles as practice manuals for awakening, because they don’t contain enough detail to be used in that way.
- These articles covers a lot of ground; they summarize 15 years of experience with various forms of spiritual practice. If you’re new to spiritual practice, try not to get overwhelmed by all the options. There’s no rush; awakening is a lifelong endeavor. Choose a practice that’s calling you and just get started.
- The resources listed in these articles can be used as starting points for further exploration. If you want to make sense of these resources in terms of my framework, this may require some “translation” since the frames of reference of these resources are different from (but, I believe, mostly compatible with) my framework. I hope that eventually there will be more resources for awakening available directly through Spiritual Awakening for Geeks.
Beyond This Map
After you become familiar with the territory described by this map—that is, after you’ve actually made some progress in cultivating vitality, mindfulness, compassion, insight, and intuition—what would you do next? You could do what I’m doing now:
- Keep practicing! The process of awakening is never finished.
- Explore other maps. Each map creates its own frame of reference. Each frame of reference reveals some phenomena and casts a shadow on others. By familiarizing yourself with more maps, you will gradually get a more complete picture of the territory.
- Go off-map. If you explore around the edges of any map, you will inevitably encounter phenomena beyond the edge of the map. Explore this uncharted territory and make sense of it!
- Create your own map. These maps were not handed down by God; they were created by people like you and me, doing their spiritual practices and making sense of their experience. Eventually, you may come to a place where the maps created by others just don’t cut it for you anymore—so make your own map! And—if you’re so inclined—share it with others, as I’m doing now.
For me, spiritual awakening has been (and continues to be) the ultimate adventure—and there’s no end in sight!
Connecting with a community of like-minded practitioners can help facilitate awakening—so, check out our community, or find another one in which you feel at home.
(Read the next article in this series: How to Cultivate Vitality.)
Photo Ebstorfer-stich2 (Photo of a reproduction of the Ebstorf Map) by User:Kolossos is licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.