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  • Writer's pictureBarry Shirley


Hi Guys. In this February 2022 blog (Issue 25) I contemplate the subject of ‘Reflections on Your Journey’.

As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views and opinions of past and current masters, sages, mystics, gurus, philosophers and generally wise people. I also tap into worldly belief systems, religions and philosophies to draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom. So, if you are beginning to realise there is more to this life than you think, and you have the merest hint of something happening in yourself – read on.

These blog posts are designed for those interested in mindfulness/spirituality/philosophy and will only give you a taste of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there (and all points raised can easily be further researched). I will also include text from my previous blogs as appropriate.

There have been many books on the aspect of ‘Your Journey’whether it be a spiritual one or your life path itself. I wrote a blog post some 18 months ago on this subject and will draw some material from it.

There may be a time when you begin to question your interactions with the world. You might contemplate questions such as; “is there more to life than what I am experiencing right now?” - “who am I really?” and, “What am I doing with my life?” or even “What makes me tick?” Following these sorts of questions and depending on how you reflect on them to further understand yourself, you may find you are on a ‘journey’ which is spiritual in nature (but should be very much on your own terms).

I was asking these particular questions of myself some 15 years ago and was critically reflecting on my personal and professional growth. I had growing feelings about what I should do on my life path and was discounting long held perceptions about my profession and what I could and couldn’t control in my life. And, certain dynamics were in play which guided me to make choices both intuitively and logically to facilitate my emerging self-discovery. I also discovered Yoga at this time, and I found the immediate holistic benefits were astounding.

As it transpired, about 10 and a half years ago, I was walking to work through a beautiful lush park and saw people walking their dogs, playing with their kids, generally relaxing, doing tai chi, etc and I basically then had a peculiar feeling of release/freedom (or an epiphany if you will) indicating it was time for me to resign from work and see everything from a perspective of my true nature and a fresh awareness. When I finally got to work, I resigned without fear!

In fact, coupled with some recent philosophical/mindfulness reading that had enlivened me at that point, I had unwittingly embarked on a so-called spiritual journey with a yearning for more knowledge and understanding of my new path of self-discovery.

In referring to a spiritual journey per se, it is absolutely nothing to do with any religion, doctrine, dogma or philosophy (i.e. religion is basically given to you at an early age and spirituality or awareness is something you actually discover through your own intuition later in life). It is about freeing ourselves from the restraints imposed by ego and habitual thinking (mainly fears and attachments that control you) and simply to be more curious about living life by your choices and not by chance.

The following diagram illustrates a reference to our life path from the time of our first socialisation in childhood through adulthood and eventually to become what you think you are or by awakening to a choice, which, if taken, then bifurcates to a spiritually styled journey taking you to become what you are seeking – i.e. self-awareness.

When we are born and in those early few years as a baby, we are considered to be innocent, pristine, a pure soul, a ‘flawless diamond’ with no ego. In early and later childhood our emerging personality, nature and outlook, are initially influenced by our parents, family, custom, culture, school, peers, religion/belief system and socialisation. Individual development is formulated and there is early ego development and possible early barriers to recognising the higher Self or any awareness. In some children, there could also be a whole bunch of questions and inherent curiosity about life’s purpose.

At the abovementioned time when I described walking to work through a park, I had been ruminating over a quote from the current Dalai Lama – it proved to be a catalyst for me, and I have carried that quote ever since. It was in response to the following question posed to him: “What thing about humanity surprises you the most?” – his answer was: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money: Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present: And as a result, he doesn’t live in the present or the future. And he lives as if he’s never going to die: And then he dies having never really lived.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895/1986) was an Indian philosopher, speaker and writer. He wrote many books and was the author of Freedom from the Known (1969).

In this book he infers that there is no religion, doctrine, philosophy or even a teacher to help us if we are trying to truly understand ourselves. He indicates that for centuries we have been spoon-fed by our teachers, by our authorities, by our books etc and we have been conditioned (influenced) to conform to certain patterns and given preconceptions. He states that; “We must have a completely different approach altogether and that nobody and nothing can answer the question but you yourself and that is why you must know yourself. Immaturity lies only in total ignorance of self. To understand yourself is the beginning of wisdom."

He continues; “You have to be your own teacher and your own disciple. You have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary.” And;“I must become aware of the total field of my own self, which is the consciousness of the individual and of society. It is only then, when the mind goes beyond this individual and social consciousness, that I can become a light to myself that never goes out.

Now where do we begin to understand ourselves? Here am I, and how am I to study myself, observe myself, see what is actually taking place inside myself? I can observe myself only in relationship because all life is relationship. It is no use sitting in a corner meditating about myself. I cannot exist by myself. I exist only in relationship to people, things and ideas, and in studying my relationship to outward things and people, as well as to inward things, I begin to understand myself. Every other form of understanding is merely an abstraction and I cannot study myself in abstraction; I am not an abstract entity; therefore, I have to study myself in actuality - as I am, not as I wish to be."

In the first few paragraphs of chapter one of this book he asserts the following: -

"Man has throughout the ages been seeking something beyond himself, beyond material welfare - something we call truth or God or reality, a timeless state - something that cannot be disturbed by circumstances, by thought or by human corruption.

Man has always asked the question: what is it all about? Has life any meaning at all? He sees the enormous confusion of life, the brutalities, the revolt, the wars, the endless divisions of religion, ideology and nationality, and with a sense of deep abiding frustration he asks, what is one to do, what is this thing we call living, is there anything beyond it? And not finding this nameless thing of a thousand names which he has always sought, he has cultivated faith - faith in a saviour or an ideal - and faith invariably breeds violence.

In this constant battle which we call living, we try to set a code of conduct according to the society in which we are brought up, whether it be a Communist society or a so-called free society; we accept a standard of behaviour as part of our tradition as Hindus or Muslims or Christians or whatever we happen to be. We look to someone to tell us what is right or wrong behaviour, what is right or wrong thought, and in following this pattern our conduct and our thinking become mechanical, our responses automatic. We can observe this very easily in ourselves.”

Krishnamurti was a contemporary of Aldous Huxley (1894/1963 – English writer and philosopher) who greatly admired his teachings. Huxley had very similar views, was a pacifist and was a follower of Vedanta (ancient Indian scriptures teaching that our real nature is divine) and consistently examined the spiritual basis of both the individual and human society. Huxley was instrumental in gaining a wider audience for Krishnamurti who in turn influenced such as Deepak Chopra MD (current day speaker/teacher of metaphysics, mindfulness and Vedanta).

In terms of Krishamurti’s concerns about social conditioning, it is interesting to see that on 21 October 1949 Huxley wrote to George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty Four (futuristic dystopian novel depicting how ‘Big Brother’ controls every aspect of people’s lives) congratulating him on "how fine and how profoundly important the book is".

In his letter to Orwell, he predicted:

Within the next generation I believe that the world's leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narcohypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.

See - Huxley, Aldous (1969). Grover Smith (ed.) Letters of Aldous Huxley London: Chatto & Windus – ISBN 978-07011-1312-4. In the same vein Huxley wrote his own futuristic dystopian novel on technocratic hell called Brave New World (1932)

N.B. On this point and as a matter of interest, propaganda took prominence in the 20th century as a major factor of social influence through various emerging media. And has generally continued in the 21st century with influence in all modern media continuing to facilitate conflict and culture wars.

Check out more of Aldous Huxley’s work in The Divine Within - Selected Writings on Enlightenment (an Anthology)Harper Collins by Jacqueline Bridgeman 1992 and The Perennial Philosophy – Chatto & Windus – London 1947. In Huxley‘s book he reflected on the universal perennial philosophy view and interpreted it; as the divine (eternal self) is the absolute principle of all existence; and the last end of every human being, is to discover the fact for himself, to find out who they really are.

Yuval Harrari is an Israeli author and professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Dvir Publishing 2016) he sets out to examine the possibilities of the future of Homo sapiens. The premise outlines that during the 21st century, humanity is likely to make a significant attempt to gain happiness, immortality and God-like powers. Throughout the book, Harari openly speculates various ways that this ambition might be realised in the future based on the past and present.

He also tackles the idea of spirituality versus religion as follows;

"The assertion that religion is a tool for preserving social order and for organising large-scale cooperation may vex those for whom it represents first and foremost a spiritual path. However, just as the gap between religion and science is narrower than we commonly think, so the gap between religion and spirituality is much wider. Religion is a deal, whereas spirituality is a journey.

Religion gives a complete description of the world and offers us a well-defined contract with predetermined goals. ‘God exists. He told us to behave in certain ways. If you obey God, you’ll be admitted to heaven. If you disobey Him, you’ll burn in hell.’ The very clarity of this deal allows society to define common norms and values that regulate human behaviour.

Spiritual journeys are nothing like that. They usually take people in mysterious ways towards unknown destinations. The quest usually begins with some big question, such as who am I? What is the meaning of life? What is good? Whereas most people just accept the ready-made answers provided by the powers that be, spiritual seekers are not so easily satisfied. They are determined to follow the big question wherever it leads, and not just to places they know well or wish to visit. Thus, for most people, academic studies are a deal rather than a spiritual journey, because they take us to a predetermined goal approved by our elders, governments and banks. ‘I’ll study for three years, pass the exams, get my BA certificate and secure a well-paid job.

Academic studies might be transformed into a spiritual journey if the big questions you encounter on the way deflect you towards unexpected destinations, of which you could hardly even conceive at first. For example, a student might begin to study economics in order to secure a job on Wall Street. However, if what she learns somehow induces her to end up in a Hindu ashram or helping HIV patients in Zimbabwe, then we could call that a spiritual journey.

Why label such a voyage ‘spiritual’? This is a legacy from ancient dualist religions that believed in the existence of two gods, one good and one evil. According to dualism, the good god created pure and everlasting souls that lived in a blissful world of spirit. However, the evil god –sometimes named Satan –created another world, made of matter. Satan didn’t know how to make his creation endure, hence in the world of matter everything rots and disintegrates. In order to breathe life into his defective creation, Satan tempted souls from the pure world of spirit, and confined them inside material bodies.

That’s what a human is – a good spiritual soul trapped inside an evil material body. Since the soul’s prison – the body – decays and eventually dies, Satan ceaselessly tempts the soul with bodily delights, and above all with food, sex and power. When the body disintegrates and the soul has the opportunity to escape back to the spiritual world, its craving for bodily pleasures lures it back inside some new material body. The soul thus transmigrates from body to body, wasting its days in pursuit of food, sex and power.

Dualism instructs people to break these material shackles and undertake a journey back to the spiritual world, which is totally unfamiliar to us, but is our true home. During this quest we must reject all material temptations and deals. Due to this dualist legacy, every journey on which we doubt the conventions and deals of the mundane world and venture forth towards an unknown destination is called a ‘spiritual’ journey."

In terms of self-reflection we can turn to both Greek and Zen philosophy for guidance on knowing one’s self. Socrates (470/399 BCE) was a Greek philosopher widely considered as the founder of Western Philosophy. Famous for his pursuit of knowledge, his particular style of examining things (Socratic dialogue) and asserting that we do not know or understand as much as we think we know. He is reported to have said, “One thing only I know, and is that I know nothing.”

He also said, "The unexamined life is not worth living.” Meaning that by deeply contemplating our life we will begin to understand our true nature and reflect on our personal and spiritual growth. During these crazy COVID – 19 pandemic times we have all been spending a lot more with ourselves and probably should occasionally find time to question ourselves on any long-held beliefs and habits, as we might act without reason or an unwanted emotion.

There is also a Zen (a Japanese form of Buddhism) proverb on opening yourself to new ideas which might be interesting. The story goes that a Zen Master was receiving a visit from a potential novice who asked the Master to teach him about Zen. The potential novice was full of his own opinions and thoughts and interrupted the Master constantly. The Master calmly suggested they should have a cup of tea. So, the Master poured his guest a cup. The cup was filled, yet he kept pouring until the cup overflowed onto the table, onto the floor, and finally onto the novice’s robes. The novice cried “Stop!

The cup is full already. Can’t you see?”

“Exactly,” the Zen master replied with a smile. “You are like this cup – so full of ideas that nothing more will fit in. Come back to me with an empty cup.”

Don’t be trapped in a certain mindset, adapt or let go, or accept things you cannot control, grow and change.


  • “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway – 1899/1961 - US Author.

  • “The longest journey is the journey inwards. Of him who has chosen his destiny, who has started upon his quest for the source of his being.” - Dag Hammarskjold - 1905/1961 -Swedish diplomat, UN. Secretary General longest journey is the journey inwards. Of him who has chosen his destiny, who has started upon his quest for the source of his being.” - Dag Hammarskjold - 1905/1961 -Swedish Diplomat, UN Secretary General.

  • “Be like water”, “Empty your mind”, Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.” – Bruce Lee – 1940/1973 Hong Kong and American martial artist, actor and philosopher.

  • “Know thyself” – Socrates – Ancient Greek Philosopher.

  • “No matter how long your journey appears to be, there is never more than this: one step, one breath, one moment, Now.” – Eckhart Tolle – German born spiritual teacher, prominent self-help author and speaker.

  • "Together we are all on a journey called life. We are a little broken and a little shattered inside. Each one of us is aspiring to make it to the end. None is deprived of pain here and we have all suffered in our own ways. I think our journey is all about healing ourselves and healing each other in our own special ways.” – Ram Das born Richard Alpert (1931/2019) – American spiritual teacher, psychologist and author.

Take away

  • Dissolving the ego mind and achieving self-realisation is the ultimate destination. You can change the course of your life this instant by letting go of fear and your habitual obsessive thoughts (i.e. mainly the past) and any unhappy feelings. Focus on the present moment – it is all you have.

  • Honour your journey – live big – love big – forgive big.

  • Challenged your assumptions and long held beliefs (social conditioning imbibed by you on your life journey)

  • You cannot always control what happens to you in your life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.

  • Enjoy the journey and perhaps seek the company of people who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, will always try it on (thank you Billy)!

  • Also, try yoga, along with meditation – a natural combination for overall well-being.


Compiled by Baz Shirley.


*See also:

Instagram: @bazabstractart - Facebook: Barry Shirley

And all my previous posts on:*

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