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The three paths

Posted by Simon Parke, 08 August 2017, 6.00am

How do we like our growth?

Where do we imagine we will find it?

Here I describe three paths.

The first is the path of information. Those travelling this way will love new information and will excitedly read a new book.

(Their self-help library may be extensive, no author un-skimmed.)

Or perhaps they will go a new course which they have heard about, drawn by the leader’s interesting ideas.

The idea of receiving new information, discovering the final piece of the jigsaw, the one thing that will make sense of everything - this is a powerful driver.

How shall I grow? I shall grow through information!

It is a relentless, exciting journey, and often stimulating… which is sometimes mistaken for growth; though this path can leave us weary and disillusioned.

There is light along the way, but it’s a journey of the head, an exercise in mental distraction, and ultimately, in and of itself, leads nowhere beautiful.

The second is the path of understanding.

The path of understanding is beyond mere information, and feels more grown up.

It is a slower moving river, not quite so flighty, less tempted by the new.

It’s more about sorting out the material available, what makes sense, building up the big picture – understanding likes the big picture.

It’s like starting with an empty bookcase, and slowly filling it with the books you want there, the books you like.

They may be different sorts of books, you pride yourself on breadth; but together, they make for you a satisfying and interesting whole.

There is wisdom to be found on this path, and occasional wonder - it’s the chosen path of many religious leaders; though mainly it’s about control.

The path of understanding is less about growth and more about control, through the ordering of information…and, like the path of information, still a head fuck.

The path of understanding is not an affective journey; it is a wisdom journey, which left to itself, grows into nothing but ordering concepts…

...and a sense of control in an uncontrollable world.

The third path, and less travelled, is the path of dissolution, in which we surrender to the truth of ourselves.

The path of dissolution leaves concepts behind, so often a tool of avoidance, and engages with our present experience of life.

This path can seem to disappear at times, and leave us with the impression we are lost.

There can be an absence of signposts… though the sunsets are better.

It is an un-walled path, unlike the other two…there is a sense of un-walling about it, of kind and helpful dismantling; a sense of old protective structures being
dissolved.

It is an affective path, not another head game, and may well involve the feeling of feelings long walled up… which can disturb.

‘I didn’t sign up for this!’

But it becomes the contemplative way, where nothing, no aspect of ourselves, is rejected; where everything belongs and all can joyfully be held.

The surrender to the truth of ourselves, which is the leaving behind of shame, is the happiest of surrenders, if not much practiced.

(We do need to talk about the insidious power of shame.)

But when everything belongs, and every aspect of ourselves can be owned, the particular direction of the path becomes less important.

Instead of a troubled ‘Where am I going?’ it is a joyful ‘I am!’

Beyond information, understanding; beyond understanding, dissolution.

Though whichever path you walk – and we can travel all three in a day – remember only self-kindness.

 

 
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