I don’t believe it matters how we start, when we start, or even where we think we’re heading, the only thing that seems to matter is listening to the part of us that longs for and just knows there’s something more.
We tell ourselves, or are told by others, many things about why we should ignore it (that it’s silly, that it’s selfish, that we’re tired, or bored or mad, or bad) but we don’t often consider, even the slightest possibility, that it could be something infinitely more positive; the Spirit moving within us and calling us on to the next growth stage of our lives.
The nay-sayer inside us will tell us that we’re too young, or old, or weak, or stupid, or afraid to do anything about it. The nay-sayers around us will tell us that we’re too selfish, or headstrong, or stubborn, or naive if we follow its call. But the voice of Life doesn’t call us for no reason, it calls us because it loves us and it knows that, deep inside, we were created to respond to, and to begin searching for, that Love-inspired ‘something more’.
I call it the Holy Spirit, the sacred Spirit of Life, the divine Spirit of God’s Love, trying to capture our attention in a gentle, kind, but unsettling and deeply intimate way. I believe that it moves itself within us, around us, and between us; prodding us out of our comfort zones and calling on us to notice it, to listen to it carefully and then to follow where it leads us, to a more abundant, fuller, richer and more fulfilling experience of Life.
From listening to countless people’s personal experiences of responding to that call, I believe that the place it leads to is as unique and different for each one of us as we are from each other. But, at the same time, I believe that the call is universal and that each time it calls it’s inviting us to move closer to a fuller experience of divine love.
For me, the place it led to was recognising the reality of God’s felt and active presence in my life and, more importantly, the life-changing sense of God’s ever-present, unconditional Love. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, imagined, or been told it could be at any time before…but I had to find it in my own way; and following that ‘something more’ call was the way that led me to it.
It’s what gave me, and continues to give me, the confidence to keep listening to that quiet voice within as well as, and often in preference to, the multitude of differing voices around me.
“Start here, start now, start from any place inside or outside, but start…and keep starting…until there is no more will to start” is what the voice inside was really saying. “Start out on your true search for me, and leave aside anyone else’s opinion of how and where you’ll find me. Just bring a truly open heart and mind and I will do the rest.”
If, like me, you abandoned your belief in God long ago when you rejected what others, in their certainty, told you God was, I invite you to suspend that disbelief. If you believe that your way of relating to God – following a specific religious doctrine or a particular secular theory – is right and other ways of relating to God are wrong, I invite you to suspend that sense of certainty…and to start out on your own, deeply personal pilgrimage. A pilgrimage of the heart, a pilgrimage towards true Love, a pilgrimage that will continue for the rest of your life.
Because Love is a deeply personal, continually evolving and intimate experience. It’s the most intimate, subtle, beautiful, life-enhancing and spirit-and-soul regenerating experience known to man. And I’m only talking about genuine, shared, human love when I say those words.
The Love of God, and the experience of that Love, is far deeper, greater and more powerful in its intimacy. It stripped me naked of my preconceptions and ripped down my defences in an instant. It flooded me with a tidal wave of forgiveness and unconditional acceptance that was so unsought, and unexpected, that it left me stunned, tearful and overwhelmed with a profoundly physical sense of gratitude and relief. I’ve only felt it once, with that level of intensity, but once felt, it can never be forgotten.
It’s a Love that’s taught me, if I choose to live with daily conscious awareness of it, that I must release my need for certainty and control. I must be prepared to ‘lose my life to find it’ and I am. Because I understand that God‘s Love is mystery, divine mystery, and to live in intimate relationship with it is to trust in its divine purpose. It’s a level of trust that, on occasion, will call me to follow paths not knowing where they’ll lead or not understanding why. But experience has only increased my faith and trust, because the ‘why’, and the loving intention behind it, always becomes clear in time.
It’s a level of trust that often asks me to confront certain fears or to let go of certain situations and to allow the Spirit to lead me to a deeper, truer, richer, more love-filled and love-aware experience of Life.
It can feel deeply challenging and uncomfortable at times, particularly if I’m being called away from a secure, conventional, socially-acceptable way of being or living. But responding to it has always lead to a greater sense of gratitude and reverence for the gift of life that I’ve been given and to greater compassion and understanding for those who struggle to feel the same.
Because, at it’s heart, true pilgrimage is not really a journey to the physical site of any religious temple or relic. Rather, it’s a way of travelling to the internal place within us where we find a growing understanding of who and what God is, and what meaning this understanding creates within our lives.
It’s where we gradually and ultimately come to see and accept how the Love that is God moves within our lives. It’s where the first steps of our deeply personal relationship with that Love are formed and it’s where we slowly learn the healing power of speaking and acting with increasing respect, congruence and honesty. Because when we do this, both privately with ourselves and in our dealings with others, we discover that it’s the very core and essence of that Love.
It becomes a way of being that helps us find the spark of inspiration, the root of our belonging and the way of seeing what really matters. And, in the seeing and understanding, our personal pathway begins to take shape, leading us to the sense of purpose, meaning and inner peace we all seek and desire within our lives.
And in these moments, when we speak, listen and live from a place of internal respect and truth, we discover how inseparable truth is from true Love, and how inseparable true Love is from divine Love. The Love that is God.
It takes courage to start out on a personal pilgrimage, one that trusts more what the Spirit moving inside us is trying to tell us, than the voices around us who want us to ‘stay safely as we are’. But every act of true faith involves confronting the fears within us and the fears of those around us.
So let me be the voice that encourages you. Start walking your own personal pilgrimage, whatever and however that may be, and I guarantee that you will meet with the divine Love that is God in a unique, personal, totally-disarming and life-enhancing way…as sure as the sun rises on the distant horizon, each and every day.
I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve seen it happening, time and time again; God responding, in seemingly miraculous ways, to people’s sincere and heart-felt desire to find the truth that is Love and to know and understand the meaning and purpose if their lives.
Because, for all our beautiful difference and individual uniqueness, at heart we long for the same simple but deeply profound three things: non-judgmental acceptance, compassionate understanding and unconditional Love.
And these three things, I’ve come to see after many miles of personal pilgrimage, are simply other names for God.