Choosing Your Own Spiritual Adventure

As far as I’m concerned, there are very few things in life which must be done one particular way.  A “right” way rather than a “wrong” way.  There are “effective” ways and “efficient” ways and “preferred” ways, but there is very seldom one single objectively “right” way.

Interestingly enough, there are usually a lot more “wrong” ways than “right” ones.  If a methodology is ineffective, it’s wrong.  But just because a methodology is effective, that doesn’t mean it’s the one, singular “right” way.  In other words, there are more things which disqualify a manner of approaching a project than there are things which define a way as “right” or “best”.

This is especially true in spiritual terms.

Establishing a spiritual tradition for oneself is not an endeavor which lends itself to “best practices” necessarily.  What works very well for one person may not work at all for another.  Certainly there are many things we should absolutely all avoid: blind devotion to a spiritual leader, for instance.  And while I think we can often glean wisdom and guidance from those who have similar beliefs and goals and outlooks, there are probably as many good ways to build a spiritual practice as there are people looking for meaning in the world.

So on the “wrong way” list, perhaps we should add “letting someone else tell you the best way to find your spiritual path”.

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In Someone Else’s Footsteps

All through my long spiritual life journey, I can’t say I’ve ever really had a guide, teacher, mentor, or instructor.  Even when such relationships are purposefully arranged (for instance, when I became Catholic I had a sponsor who was supposed to guide me through the process), I don’t tend to use that person as intended.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never met anyone who seemed to be further along a specific spiritual path along which I desired to tread.  Perhaps it’s because I’m too arrogant to accept that someone else can teach me more than I can find through my own research.

In any case, I know many of my friends in pagan circles have turned to mentors and teachers to guide them through initiatory paths.  It’s a spiritual process I’m intrigued by. What would I look for in a spiritual guide or instructor if I were to seek one?  And what would have to happen to make me want to seek one?

If spirituality is a journey, organized religion is something like being part of a tour group. You don’t have to worry about getting lost, the path is established and secured, and all you really have to do is get on and off the bus when told and stay with your group.  What you don’t see, though, is all the really enriching off-the-beaten-path stuff.  It’s safe, but it’s also pre-packaged, and you’re thrust together with people you may or may not wish to travel with.

In the same analogy, studying under a mentor or spiritual teacher is like hiring a guide to show you around a foreign place.  It’s not something most of us would do as travelers unless we anticipated having difficulty communicating, navigating, or avoiding danger.  A guide can take you nearly anywhere, if they’re willing to do so, and their job is to facilitate your progress more than direct it.

And that, I think, is the crux of why I’ve never felt the need for a mentor or guide in my spiritual life.  I’m confident in my own ability to pick a direction and navigate the path without assistance, and, in fact, prefer to do so.  I don’t want to be led along a well-traveled path, stepping in the footsteps of those who have gone before.  It’s not the kind of traveling my spiritual self prefers.

Do you have someone you consider a guide or a mentor on your spiritual journey?  How did you find them and what made you choose them?

Where do you expect them to take you?