I remember an exercise from my coaching training (at the University of Minnesota) in which we were given the assignment to trace our spiritual journey. We were asked to tell the story of our spiritual origins, the roots of our belief systems and the pathway that had brought us to our current place of being (as a spiritual being).
My response to the assignment was to create a visual scroll. When opened, it spread the entire length of the conference-room table (a good 6 feet), illustrated with drawings and landmarks, it was like my personal version of the book I’d studied in my childhood, Pilgrim’s Progress.
Written in the 1600s by John Bunyan, this Pilgrim’s Progress has for centuries been used for Christian religious teaching. Now, in my 60s, I had produced my own journey-map through the very messy territory of my own spiritual growth and development, decades in the making.
It’s been several years since I produced that scroll for school. More recently, I’ve come to recognize that, in the second half of my life (say from age 35 onward) my spiritual journey is very deeply connected to my fellow-traveler, and husband, Jack. I look at the phases of my journey this way. . .
- Jack-Joining (1985 – 2013) — Discovery to diagnosis. This includes all the falling-in-love, moving-to-Minneapolis, learning life as a couple and settling in together. We married in 2002. Jack was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. In retrospect, this nearly 30-year phase included a lot of unconscious living, driven by both ego and emotions.
- Jack Jail (2013 – 2017) – This was all about my reaction to the dementia diagnosis AND our ever-shifting “new normal” and was clearly built on my previous programming (we all have our personal programming from childhood) that made me loudly declare: “I DON’T WANT THIS!” It was a time of resistance, upset and exhaustion.
- Jack School (2017 – 2021) – This phase has been all about learning to be aware, open, receptive to the curriculum of life brought my way by the realities of living with someone whose brain is in a state of deterioration. It has been challenging and productive, all at the same time.
- Jack Hermitage (2022 — ??) – This is where I find myself now, seeing this as a spiritual journey, not merely a relationship journey, I am acknowledging that the work I have to do is largely an “inside job” of discovering what blocks my own happiness. I’m uncovering the many choices I’m conditioned to make (in the moment) that get in the way of the joy always available to me.
- Jack Joy (what lies ahead) – This is the phase I’m most looking forward to. In this part of the journey, I envision myself able to approach whatever comes next with the anticipation of my total wellbeing emerging from the events/moments that unfold before me! Spiritual nirvana!
Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!
Through all of this (and clearly, it’s not over yet) I’ve had many spiritual teachers. Right now, I’m working with the materials of Michael Singer (author of The Search for Truth, Three Essays on Universal Law, The Untethered Soul, and The Surrender Experiment) as a valuable guide.
Where has YOUR spiritual journey taken you?
If you were to look back, what would you find as benchmarks of your own growth and development? Where were there departures from the training of your youth or insights that allowed new teaching to enter your thinking? Here’s food for thought. . .
- Where are you headed now? Is it an intentional journey? Have you discovered ways to feed your soul and nourish your spirit along the way?
- We all have a richness of spirit – requiring an acknowledgement that much of our experience in the world does not nurture our spiritual being and doesn’t feed our souls – much of life is designed to actually turn our attention away from our spiritual nature!
- What do you want most for your spiritual being? Most of our core desires are to be freed from our fears and bathed in total wellbeing – the joy that comes from simply accepting whatever comes next.
I welcome you to join me on this journey. I am not a spiritual teacher, and certainly not a spiritual director, but I am a fellow traveler and would always welcome the company of those who are eager to explore what the Universe has to offer along the way!
Let me know if you’d like to spend some time traveling together!