With indigenous ceremonies, Yogic empowerments and enlightened transmissions available at one’s fingertips, these very exciting times also raise a question: How can all of the consciousness transforming practices available today be approached meaningfully without getting off-track?
For about 20 years, I’ve been integrating the spiritual disciplines of Amazonian, Andean and Tibetan cultures into the many nuances of the modern world. My teachers, indigenous elders of these distinct lineages, despite their differences, offered the same basic guidance. They all pointed out how the essence of these traditions must be made relevant to the greater context of one’s life.
Truly Alive vs. Daily Living
When I began this path, a health crisis acquainted me with heart-opening breakthroughs. Although such experiences initiated unprecedented glimpses into a dimension of being I never imagined, what quickly followed was a fall from grace.
With neither a support system in place nor practical guidance to nurture these glimpses into steady insights, the mundane routine became grey and disempowering. At the same time, I was disheartened by a growing popularity of ancient wisdom traditions offered as tourist attractions.
I can see how the idea that we can all achieve spiritual growth through occasional exotic rituals and rollercoaster experiences is appealing, and perhaps a nice break from the regular routine. However, in need of serious healing on both spiritual and physical levels, I found this approach diverted the original purpose of ancient wisdom traditions into a dead-end road.
My interest outgrew occasional novelty getaways into a steady unfolding of human potential, and I’m inspired to co-create a reality where “truly alive” and daily living do not contradict each other.
The Fertile Soil of Human Potential
Though times change, challenges remain. The ancestors faced ferocious animals; what are the pressing issues that you are facing in your life?
The essence transmitted has always been about the fresh emergence of human potential in the face of adversity. The view of resilient ancestors was that excessive comfort makes people weak, so it’s up to each individual to rekindle their higher purpose by engaging with the most up-to-date version of reality.
Just because I practice a particular spiritual path doesn’t make me special, different, or exempt from hardship. In fact I’m grateful to those lineages which make my shortcomings and hidden faults more painfully obvious, thus helping me get real and unstuck. Otherwise I fool myself that all is well, based on someone else’s idea of what that means, renouncing responsibility for being truly alive…
I used to foolishly think that truly living meant not having any problems, which isn’t so realistic in this troublesome world. Over time, I gradually realized that real aliveness is the capacity in each of us to remain open to all imperfections, embracing them as the fertile soil required for human potential to blossom.
The Right Relationship
To get unstuck I had to start by relating to the original intention of ancestral traditions in their natural setting, realizing that the cryptic behaviours and mystical rituals were not just for superstitious effect. They were intelligently designed to instill human qualities necessary for the perilous journey of self-discovery.
My own “ferocious animal” was that gnawing dissatisfaction propelling me to face the great unknown beyond the corporate veil. I had to make peace with that dissatisfaction first to develop the objectivity necessary for the leap of faith, rather than impulsively running off. It was a potent rite of passage, despite the unlikely setting.
What if life’s peak experiences were mere glimpses of that shared potential we can support in each other continuously? Actually, that’s the view of these ancient traditions: to maintain the right relationship with the universe by recognizing reciprocity among all beings as the foundation.
A greater motivation to overcome personal adversities can be encouraged by positive role models all around.
Speaking the Language of Evolution
One modern science that confirms and unifies this view is Jungian Transpersonal Psychology, which was developed by exploring many ancient cultures. Carl Jung discovered that the common theme woven throughout the fabric of existence, all-pervasive in nature and human history is this metaphoric language of living symbols continually flooding our awareness.
This language is key for deciphering messages of evolution and is the basis for all spiritual work.
Awakening to this evolutionary tongue, my spiritual path became a mystery initiation into the higher meaning of every possible event.
I discovered that limitless possibilities emerge once all situations are approached with the understanding that a greater whole is having an intelligent, intentional conversation with you, rather than viewing life as a random collection of events requiring isolated fixes. Afflictions previously avoided then become invitations to cultivate a positive attitude with the support of patience, generosity and relatedness among other qualities.
For such a shift of perspective to take root, I found periodical retreats to be instrumental. Since time immemorial, in many cultures people would gather for prolonged periods, amplifying a shared intention to awaken. For me, such gatherings proved much more effective than temporary respite in leisurely vacations.
An intentional retreat is essentially a shared alchemical process transmuting crude and overwhelming “materia prima” type emotional energy into the awakened freedom of unconditional heart wisdom.
Just like everyday life, there are unexpected challenges and people both inspiring and triggering in these retreats. However, unlike “real life,” everyone agrees to engage these experiences as mirror reflections for inner realization, and there are no habitual distractions to reach for when things get tough.
An evolutionary blueprint into your higher purpose is revealed when you engage with your light and shadow in a new way, instead of seeking one and avoiding the other. The intentional immersion allows time for the old habits to transform into healthier ways resilient enough for daily wear-and-tear.
The Advantage of Direct Experience
Even after all these years, the guidance of direct transmission lineages handed down through generations helps me navigate the possible pitfalls, consistently training the mind to not get discouraged by the darkest hour right before sunrise.
Facing myself under adverse conditions and training alongside experienced practitioners provided me with essential skills I found unavailable in theoretical knowledge gathered from books, YouTube, or formal education. I found the lineages I work with unique for their ability to verify the spiritual path through direct experience, negating the need for blind faith. Personal practice can then nourish this seed of experiential knowledge, further cultivating the boundless capacity to harness the ferociousness of any challenge.
These perspectives shared by elder lineage holders allow all the practices to be effective catalysts of human potential. Without these insights however, many powerful ancestral methods now available can easily be misused for the opposite of what they were meant for.
Here are some I find especially useful:
- Bring awareness into your habitual responses to challenges; acting the same, while expecting different results…
- Find a transformation path, spiritual discipline or an ancestral wisdom tradition you resonate with. Make sure it can be applied to your current experience.
- Consider all the light and shadow aspects of your current phase of development (such as people, circumstances and conditions) to be the training ground.
- Outline your desired optimal outcome and identify the state of being you associate with it.
- Make this inner state a focal point, rather than the external results which limit your wellbeing to specific outcomes.
- Consistent daily practice with periodical retreats cultivates a healthy attitude as the steady foundation for a fulfilling life.
All this points to consciousness being the navigational compass for evolution – while many methods can support it, none can substitute a sincere relationship with oneself and the rest of the world.
I find that the only real identity is a fresh, resilient attitude emerging from heart’s immeasurable wisdom. While a mere change of attitude might not seem so exciting compared to exotic ritual masks, it’s the cornerstone upon which the inter-generational wisdom was built. A rite-of-passage into the awakened heart awaits each of us and it’s right where we least expect it.