In my first year of university, I’ll never forget the moment I was browsing the shelves, thinking about my next class.
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I was more interested in passing the time. Various covers caught my eye briefly, before my gaze and thoughts continued on.
Finally, just as I was ready to leave, I found myself drawn to a particular book titled “The Zen Commandments.” Aside from the clever play on words, there wasn’t anything that particularly stood out… yet I felt compelled to pick it up. And buy it.
On the bus ride home, I cracked open the pages and began reading. I didn’t stop until the bus driver had pulled up to my stop and I’d almost missed getting off.
Turns out, the book was my first introduction to Eastern wisdom, presented in a witty and entertaining format by the author, Dean Sluyter. I had never encountered the idea of “the present moment” or the joy of watching your breath. Though I’d been baptized in the Catholic church, my family had shed organized religion early on in my childhood – hence I’d grown up technically agnostic.
But it all changed when I read that book. I guess you could call it the start of my spiritual journey, or more appropriately, the awakening of my spiritual self.
Get A Spiritual Life
Blogger and spiritual coach Tom Stine recently shared his own story behind the origins of his spiritual journey. He writes of a doctor’s visit:
After a thorough examination that lasted over an hour, Norm and I sat down to chat. As we neared the end of our time together, he looked at me and said, “What do you believe in?” I had to ask him to repeat the question because, well, no doctor had ever asked me such a thing. I said, “Well, you’re born, you live, you die. Nothing before or after. No soul, no God, nothing. I guess you could say I’m an atheist.”
Norm looked at me with a kindly smile, and said, “About 5% of the population believes as you do. And that’s okay. But statistically, people who believe in something beyond themselves tend to be healthier and happier. The research is pretty clear on that score.”
Then, he absolutely floored me with what he said next: “I’ve examined you thoroughly, and as far as I can tell, there isn’t anything physically wrong with you. You are quite healthy. Yet, you feel lousy. If I were you, I’d get a spiritual life.”
I’ll never forget the next words out of my mouth: “How the hell do I do get a spiritual life?!”
With that, Tom began an exploration into his spiritual life, and has been profoundly changed ever since.
Starting the Journey
That’s how it starts…with a doctor’s visit, or a particular book in your hands. From such humble origins, nobody can predict where the path with take you, who you’ll encounter, or the place you’ll end up.
But if anything, the spiritual journey is a willingness to delve inward, listen to the inner voice, and surrender to the flow of life.
I suspect many BNT readers have their own stories on the start of their spiritual journey (or spiritual awakening).
Share in the comments: how did the spiritual journey begin for you?
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Ian MacKenzie is the founder and former editor of Brave New Traveler. He is Head of Video at Matador Network. Ian is also an independent filmmaker, with his first feature (One Week Job) released in 2010. His more recent projects include Sacred Economics and Occupy Love.
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