The Importance of What Is Not

In any process of learning, growth or change, it’s terribly easy to get caught up in the illusion that you’re becoming “more”.

We send ourselves to school to get titles and degrees – to acquire knowledge and develop the intellect.  We comb the far corners of the world to explore, see or experience more.  We strive in our jobs and careers in order to become richer, promoted faster, or accredited and known in the process.  We save and scheme and plan for a bigger house or more luxurious car, to live in a better neighborhood, or to send our kids to superior schools.  Elite athletes train to break records, celebrities vie for more time in the spotlight and press than their peers, and politicians must outdo their opponents in fund-raising and face time to even get in the game.

Such is the metaphor for success in the modern world: climb, rise, move up, escalate, soar, transcend.  Most days it feels like if you’re not advancing, you might as well not even get out of bed.

This is a serious pitfall for any seeker, because the reality is that all apparent “spiritual paths” are nothing more than a journey to the Self.  Strengthening the outer identity (ego) isn’t the point.  When it comes to ego, less is most definitely “more”.

All journeys reveal to you who you really are.  All apparent paths lead one to know oneself.  As my good friend and author of Be Still and Know I AM God writes, “There is no time and there are no paths ultimately.  You are already what you are looking for.”

Most people find that incredibly difficult to swallow.  It’s wildly inconsistent with our conditioned beliefs.  It flies in the face of the outer world and the society we’ve built.  We’re not taught that we’re fine “just as we are” past about the age of say, two (if ever).

But what if you realized that you – yes YOU – are the living expression of the Divine made manifest as human? What if you could see yourself as God made flesh? As infinite consciousness experiencing itself within the limitations of a human being simply so it could do just that – experience itself? (Feeling a little lost? Check out Enlightenment for Beginners)

How would that change what you choose to do with your life? Your time? How would it mold what’s important to you? How would it make you see your personal journey differently? See life – period?

With Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love just around the corner as a major motion picture release, I suspect many accidental seekers like Gilbert herself will feel far from perfect.  Like Gilbert they may feel compelled to embark on a serious seeker jaunt, or envy the author’s (or both!).  I have nothing against Gilbert or her journey – in fact, I’m a HUGE fan of that book and adore her story – but it’s HER story.  Not yours, not mine, and not a recipe for anyone in particular.

There’s no “higher”, “better”, “superior”, “transcendent” place to strive for.  You don’t need to forsake your home and family, sell it all and go live with monks in caves (but hey, if that’s your deepest desire, go for it). You don’t need to meditate until your legs are numb nor read spirituality books until your mind is.  If you have such an experience you would describe as transcendent, consider it not that you’ve reached new heights, but dropped baggage instead.

Your journey, such as it is, is not taking you anywhere but inward.  You are simply peeling an onion, layer by layer discovering what’s at its core.  And the goal – if there is one – is to lighten rather than increase your load along the way.  You are already everything you need to become, and your journey, such as you perceive it, is simply the process by which you’re discovering that.

Considering our conditioned associations with journeys and destinations, with achievement and accumulation, I think a better metaphor than “being on a path” when it comes to spiritual awakening and discovery is “coming home”.  You’re not being taken to a new and climactic place where you can feel superior over your fellow beings for having arrived first while looking down upon all the humble, ignorant souls who have yet to awaken or begin the ascent.  You are, quite to the contrary, being taken on a journey of remembrance to where you came from in the first place, and there are plenty more who have “arrived” before you.  When you remember your essence, your true essence, you’ll realize there’s no where to go, nothing to achieve, and no pinnacles to transcend.

Best of all, you’ll be able to live in the outer world from that inner space (now that’s liberation). Verse 11 of the Tao Te Ching says it – as the Tao says all – exquisitely.

“We join thirty spokes

to the hub of a wheel,

yet it’s the center hole

that drives the chariot.

We shape clay

to birth a vessel,

yet it’s the hollow within

that makes it useful.

We chisel doors and windows

to construct a room,

yet it’s the inner space

that makes it livable.

Thus do we

create what is

to use what is not.”

Let that seep into your pores this week.  And in case no one else is telling you (believe me, I can empathize more than I care to admit) I’m telling you this:  I love you, and whether you feel it or believe it or not you are absolutely perfect just the way you are.

  • Karen love this post – I really feel that too – we're letting go of all that covers our essence -feels like we spend the first part of our life gathering stuff – things, distractions, etc and the next part of our life trying to lighten our loads to be who we really are, connect with ourselves and come home to ourselves so we can be that person we really are. Remembering that we are enough, do enough and have enough!

    I too can't wait for Elizabeth Gilbert's film to come out. I was reading a travel book about Bali the other day and it talked about the influx of 'women of a certain age, arriving in Bali in search of themselves'. Thanks for the reminder that we need to find our own journey – that's the trick – and it may not look like anyone elses!

  • You're welcome Vicky, and thanks for stopping by for a visit! I so agree with you about the two halves of life. It's like we're climbing a pyramid – and once we get to the top we realize we started out just fine and never truly needed the “accomplishment” of reaching the apex, except to realize we were fine when we started. So we spend the second half of life climbing back down, and hopefully, enjoying it, right?

    Hey we have GOT to meet in person one of these days! If you're ever in Florida or passing through, give me a shout.

  • You've given me a lot to think about in that post, especially the coming home part. Thank you.

  • Dana

    In Harry R, Moody;s (PhD. I added his doctorate as a [humorous] nod to the second paragraph), “The Five Stages Of The Soul”, Dr. Moody wrote an entire chapter on how *spiritual* post-menopausal women become during the second half of our lives. He also illustrated that during the Middle Ages, the large influx of older women who entered into convents wasn't so much because they were no longer deemd “useless” by society because of being passed thechild-bearing age, but rather because after their menses ceased, they felt a strong desire for a deeper, more enlightened spiritual understanding and a more personal relationship with God. That made perfect sense to me! Without the distractions, all the noise, chaos and labor-filled days of rearing children, we are able to actually HEAR the tiny inner voice within us that speaks to us of these matters, which ultimately leads us to/down our personal spiritual path. Despite the intense, eternal love I have for my children, I look forward to when I am no longer bogged down with their needs/wants and can give MY spiritual path my FULL attention. Wonderful article, Karen!

  • Doves Eyes11

    Thank you Karen, this is beautiful and ever so true! I took away a lot of gold nuggets for the soul here.. hugs, Jenn

  • Thanks for pointing this out – the book is off of Amazon Marketplace awaiting to be published by a publisher, but copies are still available in the interim from the author directly. To purchase email your inquiry to Thanks!