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My Spiritual Journey

My Spiritual Journey &Raquo; Notes To Self By Mark Obrien

Author’s Note: I was once asked by a devotee of Simon Sinek if could state my why in five words. Because I’m a writer, I cheated; that is, I hyphenated. My response was, “I write to restore self-faith.” When I said that, I didn’t mean my self-faith. I meant I write to restore the self-faith of all those who’ve abandoned theirs, surrendered theirs, or had theirs stolen.

I seem to be developing a morbid case of FOMO (fear of missing out). It stems from my increasingly empirical sense that I may be one of the very few people on the planet who’s not on a spiritual journey.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I understand a spiritual journey is a deeply personal and often transformative experience. I understand it means to explore, to understand, and to connect with our inner selves, our higher powers, and to attain a sense of transcendence. I understand it involves questioning the meaning and purpose of life (or at least our own lives), examining the nature of existence, and trying to comprehend our relationships with the universe or with the divine.

But I have questions: To what, to whom, or by whom do we need to be transformed? Why do we believe it requires exploration, understanding, and connection with inner selves and higher powers to be transcendent? What are we trying to transcend? Why do we imagine we’re not already transcendent? What if we connect with our inner selves and discover we are the higher power?

I’m in no position whatsoever to knock or to take lightly the practices of religion, philosophy, meditation, prayer, contemplation, self-reflection, pilgrimages, rituals, or ceremonies. But I can’t help wondering why we abandon self-faith, only to seek peace, harmony, fulfillment, and happiness outside ourselves.

And I have no intentions of being — or being perceived as being — blasphemous. But in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I worked in an appliance-distribution warehouse. It was the last job I had before I went to college. One day, one of my coworkers, Andy, told me Jesus paid his bills. I astutely deduced from the way Andy pronounced the name he wasn’t talking about my Puerto Rican buddy who ran the bodega down the street. I asked Andy if Jesus paid his bills by cash or check. He didn’t answer me. I suspect he’s no closer to finding himself now than he was then, and I can only hope he still knows the whereabouts of his wallet and his checkbook.

What Price Adherence?

I also wonder why we might be tempted to abandon curiosity. Unless we accept the notion that a spiritual journey is a lifelong undertaking, what is it we’re journeying toward? If we get there — if we find what we were looking for when we get there — what’s the source of our certainty that our destination and what we found there is it? And if we adopt that it as the culmination and fulfillment of our journey and live our lives in adherence to it to the point at which we’d defend it, don’t we run the risk of being dogmatic?

The fine line between faith and dogma is illustrated by their definitions:

faith: noun
  1. confidence or trust in a person or thing
  2. belief that is not based on proof
  3. a system of religious belief

dogma: noun
   1. an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc.
   2. a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down
   3. prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group

It seems to fair to say not all faith is dogmatic. But all dogma is based on faith in something.

Genius, Indeed

Maybe, instead of saying we’re on spiritual journeys, we should say we’re on journeys to find our genius. The Oxford English Dictionary contains this definition of the word:

genius: noun
     attendant spirit present from one’s birth

If we say we’re on journeys to find our genius, we’ll be acknowledging that attendant spirit within us. We’ll be recognizing we’re on journeys to find it, to appreciate the uniqueness of it, to nurture it to its fullest potential. Then we’ll be better able to read these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson literally and take them directly to heart:

To believe your own thought, to think that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense … Great works of art have no more affecting lessons for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility, then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another. (“Self-Reliance”)

And while the genius of each of us is, indeed, unique, the journeys we’re on are remarkably the same. In the words of Joseph Campbell from The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

Looking back at what had promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and woman have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilization.

My Spiritual Journey &Raquo; Mal
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

So, here’s to our genius journeys. The measure of our success will be the extent to which we find and express ourselves.

Originally Published on

Mark O'Brien Writer, Blogger

I'm the founder and principal of O'Brien Communications Group ( and the co-founder and President of EinSource ( I'm a lifelong writer. My wife, Anne, and I have two married sons and four grandchildren. I'm having the time of my life.

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