If you want to awaken, how do you know what to do? Where can you turn for guidance? In previous episodes, we’ve explored a number of options: you could turn to technology for awakening, you could turn to a spiritual teacher, or you could turn to a spiritual or religious group. I’m sure there are many other options, as well.
But, knowing you have options still leaves you with a problem: how do you know which option to choose? How do you know when to seek the guidance of a spiritual group or teacher, how do you know which group or teacher to choose, and how do you know when it’s time to leave that group or teacher and move on? If you’re not following a group or teacher (and you’re not drawn to do so), how do you know what to do on your own to support your awakening?
The Creative Process
In many ways, this problem is similar to the problem faced by an artist, an engineer, or an entrepreneur. On a regular basis, artists, engineers, and entrepreneurs face the task of creating something out of nothing. An artist faces the task of creating a work of art, an engineer faces the task of creating technology, an entrepreneur faces the task of creating a business—and if you want to awaken, you’re faced with the task of creating a spiritual path for yourself.
If you’ve done any creative work, you know how the creative process goes. You might start with some idea of what it is you want to create, and you must work within certain limitations. Within the constraints of those limitations, you use your knowledge, experience, and intuition to do something. You take one step toward creating something out of nothing. There’s no guarantee that the step you take will be effective; you can’t know for certain, in advance. But, you take that step anyway.
Then you evaluate where you’re at. If you’re an artist, you look at how the artwork is coming together. If you’re an engineer, you test your partially-completed technology. If you’re an entrepreneur, you look at the feedback the market is providing. And, if you want to awaken, you evaluate your own evolution, comparing where you’re at now to where you were at before.
Now that you’ve taken this step, the problem has changed. You now have new capacities and new constraints. You now repeat these same steps. Over and over, you use your knowledge, experience, and intuition to take a creative step forward and then to evaluate the results. As a result of this process, if you’re an artist, your artwork evolves; if you’re an engineer, your technology evolves; if you’re an entrepreneur, your venture evolves; and, if you’re a mystic, you evolve.
Mystics as Spiritual Creatives
I use the term mystics to refer to people like me, and perhaps people like you, as well—people who take responsibility for their own evolution by creatively defining their own spiritual path. The path that a mystic takes may, at times, coincide with paths that have been defined by various groups and teachers; however, mystics are spiritually independent. For us mystics, awakening is a creative process of navigating our spiritual path, one step at a time. It’s an internally-guided journey without a clearly-defined destination—not a problem that can be solved by engaging with any particular spiritual group, teacher, or technology, or by attaining any particular state of mind or stage of development.
Skillful artists, engineers, and entrepreneurs don’t try to create everything from scratch. They have various tools, supplies, and technologies available to do their work with. They’re aware of what others have done before and they make use of existing ideas and technologies to do their work more efficiently and effectively. Similarly, skillful mystics make themselves aware of what others have done before to support their awakening. A skillful mystic isn’t afraid to engage with existing technologies, teachers, and groups; however, mystics engage with these resources in a different way than non-mystics, in that we don’t allow ourselves to become subservient to these resources. We have our own, internal guidance system.
An important part of that guidance system is the call of awakening—a compelling feeling that calls us on a journey toward growth, healing, and self-transcendence. (I describe the call of awakening in a previous episode which you can access at jacobgotwals.com/the-call-of-awakening.) It’s the call of awakening that lets us mystics know when and how to engage with various technologies, teachers, and groups—and it’s the call of awakening that lets us know when it’s time to move on.
Mystics as Spiritual Pioneers
What do mystics do when the call of awakening calls them in a direction where there are no technologies, teachers, or groups to provide guidance? They do what all explorers do when they reach the edge of civilization, where roads and paths peter out: they start bushwhacking! Mystics are willing to work with technologies, teachers, and groups when those resources exist and are helpful; however, when the existing technologies, teachers, and groups don’t cut it, mystics set out on their own. They go exploring, guided by the call of awakening.
They sense, pursue, and integrate the extraordinary—in the wild, on their own. When they return to society, they may define new spiritual paths—new groups and new technologies—to help others more easily go where they have gone. Or, they may modify and improve existing paths and technologies.
These mystics are our spiritual pioneers. The founders of many of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions could be viewed in these terms; however, you don’t have to be the founder of a religion to do some spiritual bushwhacking. You just have to be willing to follow the call of awakening wherever it’s leading you—even if it takes you off the beaten track. See what you discover there—and if it seems worthwhile, share it with others when you return.