Path Basics

Wake-Up Calls: Taking Your Life In Soulful, New Directions

Our shared culture is like a sleeping spell that disconnects us from our Deep Self that holds our true beauty, unique essence and authentic humanity. As children, we’re not asleep; we naturally, innocently express our true beauty and inclinations. And then slowly, relentlessly, the forces of culture — through our families, school, the media and countless other aspects of our shared outer reality  —  domesticate our free spirits and lull us to sleep by telling us, over and over,  how we’re meant to believe, think and live our life. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have lost our roots in our Deep Self and are fast asleep within cultural-defined reality.

A wake-up call is an unexpected, often startling event and profound gift that prods us to remember who we truly are and take our life in soulful, new directions.

Artist: Igor Morski

Yet our soul longs for an authentic life, where our outer existence is a natural expression of our Deep Self. Though our waking mind may be asleep to these things, our soul remembers who we are and the life we long for. It speaks to us through our most secret, cherished desires, the things that give us joy and satisfaction, and in a restless hunger for something missing from our life that we can sense but often not name.

From the midst of these opposing energies, wake-up calls emerge.

A wake-up call is an unexpected, often startling event that prods us to remember who we truly are and to take our life in soulful, new directions.

It can take on many forms: from something as dramatic as an accident or illness, to something more subtle, like a gnawing, brewing discontent that just won’t go away. Big or small, direct or subtle, drawn from the familiar or the wildly unexpected, wake-up calls are profound gifts that offer healing and transformative change.

Recognizing Wake-Up Calls

The intention of this exercise is to heighten your awareness of the presence and impact of wake-up calls in your life transitions. With this awareness, you can become more attuned to the small and large ways your Deep Self and the powers of life work together to shake you awake and steer you in a more positive, soulful direction.

Wake-ups calls are typically best understood in retrospect. With this in mind, this exercise will focus on a life-changing event from your past.

1. Consider a time when your life made a significant change in direction, positive or negative.

How did your life change direction at this time? What did this change look like?

Think back to the circumstances surrounding this change in direction. What was happening at this time that was shaking up your life?  Identify a specific event, positive or negative, that initiated this change process.

What was this event? How did it impact you? What did you learn? How did this specific event initiate a change in direction for you?

2. If this first approach doesn’t work for you, consider a time when you were experiencing a dramatic event in your life, either positive or negative.

Name and remember the details of this event. What happened? How did it impact your life circumstances?

What did you learn from this event?

What happened after the event? What changes did you initiate? How did you take your life in a new direction?

3. Compare your life before and after the change in direction or dramatic event that you discovered in Step 1 or Step 2.

What key parts of your life changed? What new insights and experiences came to you? How did these things shift your self-awareness, beliefs, values and life choices? What did you discover about the things that matter most to you, and that give you joy and satisfaction?

As you answer these questions, dig beneath the surface, seeking out the voice and longings of your soul within these life changes.

You may have to work harder to root out your soul’s voice if your life made a negative change in direction, but it’s there. Where there’s a big life shift, you’ll find the presence and longings of soul.

4. Embrace the notion that the event you’ve named and explored in these life transitions is indeed a wake-up call.

When you embrace the notion of wake-up calls, you acknowledge that the events of your life have deeper meaning and purpose.  Life isn’t something that happens to you; instead it’s a purposeful journey with events and situations to further your healing and personal growth.

For this exercise, witness and honor the gift of your wake-up call as the impetus for learning, growth and taking your life in a new, soulful direction.

The self-awareness focus in this exercise can be used not only for big, life-changing events but also for the whispers of your soul in the smaller, more subtle impetuses to take your life in new directions.

The more you can heed these whispers and increase the fluidity of your responses, the less you’ll need big dramas and consequences to drive your healing and pathwork process —  because every moment is really a wake-up call to rub the sleep from your eyes that blurs your vision and blocks you from a full, beautiful life of soul.

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Enlightenment as a Verb: The Process of Becoming Lighter

I know enlightenment as a verb is grammatically incorrect. Enlightenment is a noun that, in a spiritual context, indicates an egoless, awakened end state. It is an ideal attained by the very few, the masters, mystics and gurus in our midst. Therein lies its problem.

Re-vision your spiritual work as a process of lighten your soul’s load, becoming enlightened, through little steps of clearing the inner debris that weighs you down.

Enlightenment as a noun is beyond the reach of most of us who travel a sincere path of spiritual healing and evolution. If we think we have reached a state of enlightenment, the very act of naming and claiming it indicates the presence of ego, and ego is the antithesis of enlightenment. If we want to reach this state but can’t get there, we are probably short changing our spiritual accomplishments.

Either way enlightenment can inflate or deflate your spiritual process.

Though this may sound like blasphemy, I think enlightenment is a red herring that can distract us from the very important business of healing our own soul. Each of us comes into this life with soul work to do. For the vast majority, this work is to heal and to grow. For the very, very few, it is to achieve the rarified state of enlightenment. All of this spiritual work is essential to the greater healing of our humanity, and the only piece we can claim is our own.

This brings us back to enlightenment as a verb. My suggestion is that you think of enlightenment, or its verb form of enlighten, as the process of becoming lighter.

Imagine your soul being buried under the accumulated debris of your old stories and habituations of beliefs, thoughts and life choices. What your soul fervently desires is a free-flowing alignment between your deep inner self and your outer life. But this is only possible if you lighten your soul’s load by cleaning out and healing the debris that weighs you down.

An Exercise in Re-Visioning Your Spiritual Work

For this exercise, I invite you to re-vision your spiritual work as a process of becoming lighter/enlightened through little steps and small moments of cleaning out and healing those things that weigh you down, and allowing your soul to shine forth in your everyday life.

1. Start with a small event or exchange in the recent past where you were challenged or you experienced positive change.

Look for instances where you acted with courage or shifted something inside of you. It doesn’t have to be anything momentous or even visible from an outside perspective. Maybe it was allowing yourself to feel something you usually repress, or to speak your truth, or to seek out help, or to stop doing a negative behavior, or to say yes to something new, or no to something that doesn’t serve you.

Journal the details of what happened and how you dealt with it.

2. Consider the roots of this small event or exchange.

What deeper issue or part of your personal story is present in this situation? How did your actions and choices shift this deeper issue or story piece? Did you unblock, heal or clean out anything that has gotten in the way of your personal pathwork or of living from your best, soul-based qualities?

How did you become lighter?

Even if you felt stuck or made choices that you are not happy with, leave your self-judgment behind and look for the positive. What did you learn from this situation? How did it wake you up to things that you would like to heal and change in yourself and your life? What did it teach you about the other person(s) or your external environment? How will these lessons and insights affect your future behavior?

How can you use this situation to unblock yourself, become lighter, rather than continuing to re-enforce your old stories, behaviors and choices?

3. Select a longer period of time or a bigger event or exchange from the recent past where you experienced a greater degree of challenge and change, positive or negative.

Go through the same process and questions as you did for the smaller event/exchange. Keep your attention at the micro-level of individual incidents and exchanges that are part of the bigger situation. And also look for the connection or domino effect between these individual incidents.

A Little Steps Journey of Becoming Lighter 

The importance of this exercise is to realize that small events and little shifts matter, even when considering a longer period of time or a bigger, more complex situation. We don’t go from a wounded state to an evolved, healed state in one leap. We take little steps and make little changes. These shifts and changes can happen in a negative or positive situation, and when we handle things well or badly. As long as we are paying attention and looking for our healing and unblocking lessons, change will happen.

Over time these little things can add up to big leaps. Or a big leap may seem to come out of nowhere, but if you look closely, you will be able to see all the little things that came before. You get lighter, enlightened, a bit at the time.

Perhaps in this soul work, you will have moments of crystal clear awareness, an enlightened glimpse into the most profound secrets of life and the Universe. Perhaps you will step beyond the bounds of ego and self into an awakened state that we have collectively named enlightenment. Perhaps this will be for a moment, or forever. But do not look for this, or cling to this notion. Whatever comes to you is your journey of soul, not to be compared with outside constructs or the soul work of others.

And perhaps a master, guru or mystic, an enlightened one in its traditional definition, will be a source of wondrous of information and insight along your way. But you can be equally inspired and guided by the everyday people in your life who face their hardships with humor, grace, love and presence, and who bravely choose to live bigger, more fulfilling lives — people who are becoming lighter and more soulful in the course of the ordinary events of life.

So put aside your ideas of what your spiritual journey is supposed to look like and any idealized end state you are trying to achieve.

Instead of judging yourself when you make a mess of something or seem to be resisting rather than embracing change, take a deep breath and let yourself know this is a learning moment. Your awareness and willingness to shift your perspective make this an enlightening opportunity.

Step by step, issue by issue, you clean out the debris that weighs you down, and you naturally become more present, more powerful, more aware, more beautiful and more soulful. You become lighter, or enlightened, and in this new lightness of being, your soul shines through a little bit brighter and you bring new light into this world.

Honor and celebrate every bit of yourself you heal and reclaim on your journey of becoming lighter. Enlightenment is the journey itself.

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Artwork by: Tatiana Plakhova

The Imperative of Choice: Choosing Between the Beauty and Beast of Humanity

The media feeds us an ongoing narrative of the horrors of humanity: political corruption, environmental devastation, mass shootings, to name but a few. Yet our lives are also touched by acts of philanthropy, creative expression and everyday goodness by the bright-souled, golden-hearted people in our midst. Between these polarities, we are left disoriented, torn between repulsion and reverence for these base aspects of our human nature.

Open your consciousness wide to encompass the totality of our human nature. We are beauty and beast. Then choose which of these polarities will rule your life.

Who are we as a species? Are we beauty or are we beast? Does fear or love drive us? What rules our world and our lives – an ethos of domination and destruction, or of nurturance and creation? And what do we make with our pain? Beauty and goodness, or more horror and pain?

I want to reach out and touch your heart. To feel your warm flesh and pulse under my palm. I want to tell you everything is going to be okay. That we can figure this out, we can find our way through the madness and destruction that dominate the headlines, and align ourselves with those that come into this world to spread goodness and beauty.

But I can’t. Because we live in a turning moment, a time of choice between all that we are and all that we can be.

Instead I have to tell you to open your arms and your consciousness wide to encompass the totality of our humanity, both the light and the shadow, and the beauty and the beast.

Individually and collectively, we need to stop being afraid, stop judging and stop insulating ourselves from the raw truths of our joy and our pain. And hardest of all, we need to accept that the horrors the media feeds us and the beauty that touches our everyday lives are both expressions of our inner humanity.

In this acceptance, you can come to understand that you are not separate from the beastly and the beauty out there in the greater world. Your life story is woven from the best and worst of your personal history and makeup. And you, like every one of us, were born into and entrained within a collective ethos that produces terrorists, mass murders, poets and philanthropists.

When you see and name the best and worst in yourself and others, with clarity and compassion, you are given the blessing of conscious choice.

What do you do with your personal pain? What do you do with your gifts and opportunities? Do you make more sorrow and pain for yourself and others? Or do you allow life to teach you, and help you blossom and grow into your true, big, shining self.

It all comes down to the imperative of choice making. In the face of the suffering and joy, and light and shadow of your life story, what do you choose?

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Artist: Karina Pavlova

Our Undimmed Lightness of Being

One Reality:

I’m in magical circle. We’re in a group trance, traveling to the isle of the dead to commune with our beloved Ancestors. I’ve done this meditation many times before, yet this time is different.  As we reach the shore of this blessed isle, we unzip our flesh coats and step forth as beings of pure shining light, tethered to our living, breathing bodies by a silver cord.

Bring a little of your life light and unbounded beauty into today, and then tomorrow after that. This is how you help build the world you want to live in.

Artist: Brad Kunkle

There will never be enough words to capture such a lightness of being. For this blessed time, I’m free of my human body, and my mindscape of fears and tangled habits that make me less than I am.  I’m pure light, untainted love, unbounded beauty, in the company of other bright shining beings, both my living companions and our blessed dead.

I understand, in the deepest parts of my being, the truth of this moment: that I am this being of light, always. This is my naked, true Self, and our naked, true humanity. We are, always, pure light, untainted love, unbounded beauty. When I follow my silver tether back to my human body and zip myself back into my flesh coat, my skin seems to loosen its fibers, letting more of that inner light shine outward.

Another Reality:

A few weeks later, I’m on the treadmill at the gym, working to make my body strong.  There’s a screen in my face, blasting out the daily news: a gang rape by teenage boys from a Catholic high school; a high profile, high drama murder of an international journalist; the latest political fiasco.  My heart squeezes tight and my adrenals spike. Barely halfway through my cardio routine, I’m already drenched in the toxicity of status quo reality.

Damn! It’s caught me again, off guard, that constant, outer noise pushing its way past my defenses, triggering my fears and negative mindset, trying to spellbind me into believing in the worst of my humanity. I forget, in these short moments, my ritual experience of the light being in my core. Loathing rises up in me, and horror, grief and rage. I feel dirty and ashamed of my flesh coat and our collective humanity.

Big breath in. Big breath out. I tune out the screen, and focus instead on the reassuring rhythm of my striding legs, my hard-working muscles and sweating skin. I love my wondrous flesh coat; I clear my mindset of fear and loathing; I remember the shining light of who I am, and the true, untainted nature of my humanity — the spell of our shadow humanity is broken.

Two realities.  Two versions of our human nature.  Which do we choose to believe in? Which do we give our attention and juice to? Which do we allow to steer our choices and actions? Which will help us build the world we want to live in?

The shadow side of our humanity is true. We’re doing terrible things to each other and our planet home.  Rape, murder, social injustices, war and political fiascos are daily occurrences. Our flesh coats and mindsets are burdened down by fears and tangled habits born out of our personal and collective histories of trauma and wounding.   Yes, these things happen; they are real and seemingly omnipresent.

The pure, shining brilliance of our humanity is true. We’re blessed with the glorious gift of living in a light and beauty infused world. We ourselves are light and beauty infused beings. Love, kindness, justice, compassion, creativity, courage, humor, sensuality, and so much more: these are the shining of our inner light outward.  These things are real and truly omnipresent.

We talked about this dual nature of our humanity at the end of our ritual, and the overwhelming challenges and atrocities that have come to dominate our shared society and non-stop news cycles.  How can we be a force of positive change, we asked ourselves? How can we make a difference?

One of my brilliant companions answered simply, “we have to bring a little of our light into today, and then tomorrow after that.”

Nothing or no one can ever dim our lightness of being.  We’re meant to shine bright, gifting the world with the brilliance of our pure, naked Self, unbounded beauty and untainted love.  But we’ve been convinced to do the dimming ourselves.

Individually and collectively, we’ve been bullied, shamed and abused. We’ve been indoctrinated into the shadow reality of humanity, fed to us constantly, unrelentingly through the one-sided messaging of mass culture. We’ve been spellbound through lies and illusions about our unworthiness and tainted nature. We’ve become lost and fear tangled, our flesh coat and mindset made into prisons and our shining inner core forgotten.

But this doesn’t have to be your truth. You don’t have to give your attention and juice to the shadow reality of humanity.  You can choose to believe in the shining brilliance of your Self and human nature.  You can begin to undim your life light, loosen the fibers of your flesh coat, and let more and more of that glorious beauty that you are shine through.

Big breath in. Big breath out. Tune out the outer noise. Focus instead on the reassuring rhythm of your beating heart, the wondrous motions of your hard-working body, and the caress of air on your sensing skin. Reach inward to that shining light at the core of your being. Unzip your flesh coat, just a little bit, as much as feels good and safe. Take a little bit of your light into today, and tomorrow after that. Little by little, breath by breath, moment by moment, shine your lightness of being outward, and brighten the world around you.

In each of these undimmed moments, the shadow spell of humanity is broken, and you’re set free. You may forget, be caught off guard, or choose to hide again. Don’t worry, these are natural parts of your journey of reclaiming your full-shining Self. Once you unzip your flesh coat and taste your own innate brilliance and beauty, even a little, you’re no longer lost. You’ve woken from your spellbound sleep and set your feet on a path that will guide you home to your true Self, undimmed moment by undimmed moment.

Trust that this journey takes time and practice. It’s done in small steps and big leaps, where, again and again, you choose to wake up, disconnect from the negative, shadow-reality messaging and experiences outside and inside of you, and re-align yourself with your shining core and a positive, love-filled vision of our humanity.

With every bit of your light you reclaim, you’re gifting yourself and everyone who crosses your path with bright new possibilities.

In these small steps and big leaps, we build the world we want to live in, each of us bringing a little of our unzipped light into today and tomorrow after that. Together we can break the spell of our shadow humanity, forever, and bask in our collective, undimmed lightness of being. From this vast, untapped resource of love, beauty and power, anything and everything are possible.

Check out Path of She book offerings in the Path Store.

Meet Me in the Good

I don’t care that your politics, religion or spirituality differ from mine, or about any of the myriad of particulars that mark us as dissimilar. I honor that how you walk this Earth is your personal business. But I do care, from the depth of my soul, about creating a better, more loving and sustainable world together.

So let’s step to one side of the conflict and camps of difference, and meet in the good.

Meet me in the good inside and all around us, just waiting for us to turn our faces back to a love- and life-centered ethos. Meet me in the good and together we can create our lives and this world anew.

Meet me in the inside-out living of our best qualities and nature.

Meet me in embracing the beauty and power of our differences.

Meet me in acts of kindness and goodwill toward our fellow human beings.

Meet me in resisting the tyranny and abuse of others wherever it shows up in our lives.

Meet me in falling deeply in love with the Earth, and in protecting Her fragile, essential systems.

Meet me in the smell of fresh baked bread, the laughter of children, the kiss of wind and sunshine on exposed skin, the sweet bite of a crisp apple, and the brilliant orange-pink light of a new dawn.

Meet me in the good inside and all around us, just waiting for us to turn our faces back to a love- and life-centered ethos.

Meet me in the good and together we can create our lives and this world anew.

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Artist: Sergey Shenderovsky