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The spiritual journey often begins from humble origins, and nobody can predict where the path with take you, who you’ll encounter, or the place you’ll end up.

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?

Community Connection

Don’t miss “20 Questions for Every Spiritual Seeker”, and the classic “Art of Spiritual Travel.”



About The Author

Ian MacKenzie

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.

  • JoAnna

    I don’t know if I’ve ever had a moment of spiritual enlightenment, but I have had moments that have completely changed the course of my life. I know it sounds cliche, and I swear I’m not saying this just because you wrote this post Ian, but being asked “Why not?” at Burning Man this past year really hit me hard. Since being asked that question – and asking myself that question since – I’ve taken chances and started to live a life that I truly love and appreciate.

    • Ian MacKenzie

      Glad to know I played a small part :-D

  • John Wasko

    Three books: Sexual Politics, Kate Millet, In the Year 2000, Herman Kahn, Understanding Media, Marshall McCluhan.

    The result: Publisher in American Samoa married 25 years, two kids. originally from Chicago ex 1981.

  • Hal Amen

    D.T. Suzuki’s “An Introduction to Zen Buddhism” blew me away. I was 16.

  • Christine Garvin

    For me, it was being forced to find spirit in my holistic health program. I’ll never forget that day in the intro class where my Professor said, “It doesn’t matter what it is, but you must have a spiritual practice while in this program. It is not an option.” I began to sweat as we circled the room, saying out loud what each of our practices were.

    I coped to being vegan, and how that connected me to all living things. Yeah, it was true, but it wasn’t a fully-flushed out belief system. I credit that “push” from the program for finding my spiritual self, which, similar to Tom, was necessary for my health to improve. And now it is just a continuous journey for the rest of my life; like JoAnna said, “Why not?” pushes us forward in ways that nothing else will.

  • Alex

    I used to have trouble getting asleep in highschool, I read something that suggested reading prior to bed (recommending something spiritual and relaxing)… so I picked up my bible and gave myself even more trouble getting to sleep because it caused me to think.

    That got me interested in researching and delving into religion even more. I became fascinated at the intricacies of islam and got very deep into it. I became muslim when I was 16 and never looked back. It has been a very interesting ride.

  • Lola

    I grew up in a religious (AND spiritual) household so pretty early on, I was aware of something much larger than myself.

    I think the turning point for me (as a cognizant human being) was in my early teens when I was in a tough boarding school in Nigeria. During a revival, I watched a good friend of mine writhe uncontrollably across the floor, foaming at the mouth, and speaking in the most hair raising voice I’d ever heard.

    She was violently resisting something, someone much stronger than she was. A few minutes later, she succumbed, eyes clear, enveloped in a certain calm.

    I think at that moment, I fully realized that there were powerful spiritual forces on earth beyond what the human eyes can see, and that one of those forces seemed much stronger than the rest.

  • Angela

    My spiritual journey began as a teenager with a knowing that God was real and true, but not real to me. As I began to realize that the emptiness inside me was because I did not have a relationship with God, the more I wanted to be filled. It was then that the truth of what was written in the Bible jumped out at me and I became a Christian by accepting a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Throughout the years, my faith in God has always guided and sustained me…even in tragedy, sin, and especially in daily life. God is true and so is His word. I continue to hold on to every promise I see in the Bible and go deeper into knowing God more by praying/meditating on His word.

  • Karina Mezhvinskaya

    It was January of 2008 when I began my spiritual journey. Like you describe in your article, I too was not a person who was aiming to find any greater cause in my life other than my current surroundings. In that cold winter month, I stepped on the soil of Israel for the first time in my life and I cried. I’ve never felt such an emotion toward a country, let alone an airport. It could have been the surrounding welcome smiles or the fact that I was on vacation, but I truly believe that for the first time I felt a purpose and a direction that I so desperately wanted and needed. Today, as I look back I realize that even though I did take a foot forward in the right direction that initial day in my beloved Israel, I’ve never made a point to continue with my spiritual learning. Perhaps, inspired by your article… I too will (again) pick up that book of life and regain my connection to the powerful and majestic beauty that is Israel’s identity. Ironically, the epicenter of human history will for me always be the root of my journey into myself.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us! :)

  • Zoe Murphy

    i think that spiritual life is much more important compared to our earthly life.”‘”

  • Corey

    I was always exposed to a Judeo-Christian concept of spirituality and religion when I was younger, having a chaplain come to our primary school to talk and sing about ‘God’. Because I was heavily interested in the big scientific questions at the time, the concept of a ‘God’ that created the world never satisfied me and it was around 7 that I suppose I started to consider myself an atheist.

    However, I consider that my spiritual journey started this year in January – something drew me towards picking up The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho in a bookstore in Sydney and buying it on impulse. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop and at some of the most simply written moments in the story I was crying my eyes out as I felt my heart speak to me for the first time. After, I started picking up books on intuition, meditation and ultimately came to reading about Buddhism. I’m still at the very beginning of my journey, but I can’t wait to see where it will take me :)

  • Roy Smith

    I was an agnostic throughout my adult life — until my first spiritual awakening in 1990. That first awakening set me on a path of profound personality change that lasted 10 years. In 2000, I experienced a second spiritual awakening. Since then, I have been pursuing my spiritual journey consciously and with dedication. For a decade I have been studying all things spiritual. In 2008, I founded a spiritual discussion group called Spirit Quest, because I discovered that working in a group can greatly accelerate my spiritual growth. It’s been the adventure of a lifetime!

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