New Thought visionary Alan Cohen provides his “Daily Inspiration” bits of wisdom online. You can request them without charge at firstname.lastname@example.org. They arrive every morning in your inbox. What he offers is a sentence or two of sage advice, either from someone else, often a famous person from the past or present, or from himself. Today’s (8/28/20200), one of the latter, struck me as especially thought-provoking: “Your life is a series of opportunities to become yourself.” Indeed. We’ve been down this path before in these weekly blogs. My metaphor for getting there is the pilgrimage, the step-by-step struggle to reach a sacred destination. My wife’s and my walking 120 miles of the Camino to the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Campostela, Spain, in 2017 comes to mind.
Cohen’s point seems to be that we arrive on this planet in our bodies, which foreshadow our spiritual development by the process of physical growth. This growth happens automatically, so long as we eat and are kept safe. Our ego, or personality, also develops automatically from some combination of genes plus parental and societal influences. Although life experience, especially hard knocks, can lead to our becoming our true selves—what I have called our B & B, or Biggest and Best, Selves—there are no guarantees. Experience provides only the ingredients, the bare opportunities. Like chefs, we have to supply the labor and the skills. Self-actualization, to use the technical term, requires work. In other words, growing into our true, essence-based selves is in Colorado terms like scaling a Fourteener. There are many paths up the mountain, but to get to the top requires motivation, discipline, good physical shape, and perseverance.
What’s true for individuals is equally so for countries and the world. The United States will soon face national and state elections. Our country cannot grow into “a more perfect union” without work on ourselves, both individually and collectively. I’m currently reading Debby Irving’s Waking Up White (2014). In it she recounts her bumpy journey to becoming aware of her unquestioned white privilege, the cause and result of the historic disadvantaging of people of color. Unless a critical mass of us white Americans wake up to this unpleasant fact, racism in America will never go away. Prince Siddhartha did not become the Buddha by staying in the protective opulence of his palace. He had to get out, experience deprivations, and try out different approaches on his pilgrimage to enlightenment. May we as individuals, countries, and the world go and do likewise.