The path appears as you walk it

Many people are inquisitive about their purpose. It’s pursued not just in spiritual circles, but in corporate strategy meetings and even the UN (through the MDGs). We often want a neat, cohesive explanation for why we exist with a clearly laid out set of tasks to complete. We focus on what we are achieving in the world and this becomes the yardstick by which we measure our progress (and allow ourselves to feel satisfied with the results). But human life is not a straight line. It has a hidden wisdom that we are not usually privy to consciously. It’s often easier to see the purpose when we look back over our life and examine the thread that has run continuously through it.

 

I have now chalked up thirty years of offering this work in the world. When I started the whole path wasn’t laid out before me. It was a bit like driving at night with headlights on. You can only see the section of the road immediately in front of you. As you move forward, more comes into view. Even today, the direction and content continues to unfold, although not in a continuous line, it’s more of an exponential trajectory. However, I have always felt certain that this work was / is what I am meant to be doing.

 

When I was growing up, I had a sense that my purpose was to be of service to the world, although in those days it wasn’t clearly defined. My only frame of reference for what that meant was the stories I heard of people who did good deeds. So, in my case I assumed I would become a nun and work in a leper colony (a combination of Mother Theresa and Jesus). I also had an inbuilt calling to explore life beyond the appearance of things.

 

I tried out a few teaching streams starting with our local Christian (protestant) church. I was drawn to the original light of those characters and events 2000 years ago, but I was frustrated by the church with its underlying premise that we are separate from God, and furthermore, unworthy of that which we were being asked to seek. I could already feel an infallible inner knowingness that could spot truth from falsehood. I instinctively knew that the teachings of Jesus on the Christ principle contained universal truths (still largely unrealised today), but the exoteric version we were taught was distorted and misleading, and as such, no longer held the key to the mysteries of the universe. It seemed like second or third-hand knowledge, endlessly repeated down the centuries, like an epochal game of Chinese Whispers.

 

So, my seventeen year-old self moved on…and read the early Western literature on the subconscious mind. I remember being curious and open to the idea of myriad possibilities outside of our known knowledge (I still am), but I didn’t pursue it further. The information, although probably accurate, didn’t draw me in at the time (maybe because it was academic, maybe the timing?). In any case, my curiosity (which I now know was my intuition) kept taking me forward towards an unknown destination, on an unknowable path. I didn’t question this at the time, I just kept following the prompts.

 

Next I studied Hinduism and yogic philosophy. For this I had to leave the UK and travel to the Himalayas. I was still pretty young and unworldly. Most young people from the UK tested their newfound independence exploring Europe on a train. I took on the whole West and South-East Asian continent (by train, by bus, by donkey, on foot)….in one massive dose. It was overwhelming, and the perfect university for one seeking truth from within worldly life. I started in Pakistan but it wasn’t until I got to India that I could sense I was finally coming ‘home’. The fullness of India (beauty, mystery, chaos, depth) challenged me, but I felt I was at last in the right place for me at that time. I spent many months visiting sacred sites, seeking out holy teachers, staying in ashrams, meditating and practising yoga. This did not make me happier or freer, but it did introduce me to a wisdom so ancient that I could feel the threads of truth running through it. I recognised that although I was unlikely to be an observant of Hinduism (I couldn’t keep track of the deities and the epic sagas – I couldn’t connect to the dreamlike quality of it), there was something still alive in the land and the masters, that I was supposed to pay attention to.

 

As many enthusiastic neophytes have done before me, I read Autobiography of a Yogi (purportedly by Paramahansa Yogananda – actually written by his disciple – but still wonderful and fascinating). The story of Yogananda’s master Sri Yukteswar, and his extraordinary abilities was so compelling that I knew I had to explore whatever it was that they knew. I met many wonderful teachers (including a 92 year old yogi that looked like a young man), and hidden places that reverberated with the energy of supernal knowledge. I began what has turned out to be a life-long meditation practice (and love of India). And to this day I still love yoga and hope to continue into old age. Looking back, I can see that India was my first encounter with living truth – truth that is consciously known and experienced by oneself, not bestowed to you by an intermediary (if you’re worthy enough/agree with the belief system/pay the price /are willing to suffer). I now knew that self-discovery through inner exploration was the only path for me, and crucially, that “I am what I am seeking”. It’s illuminating to notice that the thread I caught hold of there, all those years ago, has remained unbroken, and more importantly, was guiding me even before I became fully aware of it.

 

All my life up to that point, I had navigated by an unseen, unheard knowingness which was accepted by my childhood innocence. I knew what ‘it’ wasn’t, but hadn’t fully remembered what ‘it’ was. In other words, it was clearly defined as a concept, or a conscious reality. Over the next few years, it was as if that quiet, hidden knowingness stepped into the clear, light of day and began the process of revealing itself.

 

Next stop northern India, where for many months I earnestly studied Tibetan Buddhism with learned, esteemed (and some famous) masters. I took vows of commitment to planetary service. I took (lay) orders to be accepted into the Gelugpa tradition, which meant acquiring a Tibetan name (Lobsang Drolka – Wisdom of White Tara, for those of you who are curious. Doesn’t quite fit on a business card). You’d think after making that commitment I would have settled into that philosophy, but the path kept appearing, so I kept on walking. The next step was always there to be taken. Although I loved my time in that teaching stream and look back on it fondly (especially the jolly masters and the stunning Himalayan setting) my inner guidance knew that I had learned what I had come to absorb and it was time to move on.

 

I then studied Theravadan Buddhism in Thailand, learning with high-ranking masters in monasteries, getting up at 4am and practising all day into the night. I remember the huge scorpions which visited my room in the night – and you had to ‘escort’ them out gently and respectfully without getting stung (we had taken a vow not to harm any creature). After the highly mystical, complex and, at times, bewildering teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, I enjoyed the relative simplicity and clarity of Theravada. I love the ‘cleanness’ of the approach, the paring back of all phenomena into their original state, the clear-seeing of the practitioner, the role of the mind in creating its experience.

 

I thank both Buddhist traditions for instilling discipline and dedication in me. I am grateful for the example set by the beautiful teachers and masters I learned with. They were beyond petty thoughts, beyond anger and frustration, beyond confusion (and as far as I know, beyond the temptation of sleeping with western students, which you heard rumour of with some Indian swamis). They radiated love, joy and deep serenity. It was so moving and confirming that the teachings were manifestly expressed in real living beings! This was no dry theory. This seemed to me truth come to life. I cannot adequately express how wonderful, humbling and impactful this was for my young self. Somehow the nucleus of human potential was made visible. And it was not the potential of the striving human mind for every increasing self-potency. It was the possibility of the beauty of Spirit-made-manifest in the present day that awakened my interest.

 

That very impulse took me, after 10 years of study based in Asia, to my next stage of learning. I spent some years in the UK studying Anthroposophy, the study of spiritual science. Anthroposophy was borne from the Theosophy movement, founded by Helena Blavatsky and taken forward in different directions by many others including Alice Bailey and Rudolf Steiner. Steiner himself was also deeply influenced by Goethe. Krishnamurti, a highly gifted Indian scholar and teacher, was himself initially a student of Theosophy. Theosophy offered a synthesis of ancient Eastern teachings offered up to the Western mind. It originally had an experiential component and so mirrored the Eastern practices in developing consciousness. Now this aspect is somewhat lost, it has become dusty and academic, hardly ever practiced as was intended. In some ways you could say I had come full circle, but in reality I had come around to the same point but higher up on the spiral. I felt very close to my own (now known) lineage and I resonated immediately with the esoteric teachings. I recognised the great truths contained therein, but the heavy, laborious language of the theosophists (in 19th C English and German), is still a hurdle for all but the most ardent modern students.

 

From the point of view of living our purpose, events, situations, behaviours which look from one perspective to be failings, detours, distractions, can prove to be instructive, formative, necessary to the overall plan of that particular life. I did not settle into any one of those traditions, although they gave me precious gifts along the way. I felt the first inklings that (particularly Western) societies needed a fresh, modern relationship with its origin, in clean, accessible language. One that can be understood, experienced and put into practice in the world around us. Looking back I see very clearly, I was not meant to settle there. Something was guiding me. Something was recording these experiences, and weaving them into the experience of Spirit in matter - of being human and simultaneously Divine. In the bigger scheme of things, this is our purpose and our path. Our individual purpose is an integral part of the universal one.

 

My early experiences allowed me to test out different approaches, and provided a foundation of knowledge. I still hold great respect for all the traditions I studied, but the path I have trodden since is what I really came here for. I did not settle because I carried within me an unwavering calling to ‘realise’ a pure, clear and direct relationship between human, soul and spirit, without any intermediary, interpretation or religious schema – essentially without any division – a universal truth. And it is this calling that I have answered over the last three decades, and sought to assist others with. To stand in the joining point of all paths and truths, all religions and philosophies….to elucidate the universal truths from the place beyond - where we all originate, where we all belong. It has brought me to a greater understanding of the unified purpose and plan we are all part of, and its importance at this crucial time in Earth’s history.

 

And it comes down to very simple truths that apply to all of us, regardless of faith. Ultimately we have to leave traditions, beliefs, positions, habits and agendas behind and come into our own pure, clear and direct relationship with the universal truth of who we are. Only when we recognise (and experience) our shared origin will we find our shared humanity, and a way of being on Earth that works for all.

 

 

With appreciation,

Jeddah