Cover image for The portable pilgrim : seven steps to spiritual enlightenment
Title:
The portable pilgrim : seven steps to spiritual enlightenment
Author:
McMahon, Susanna.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dell, [1998]

©1998
Physical Description:
xxiii, 199 pages ; 18 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780440508298
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library BL624 .M3984 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Discover the infinite within you...and claim the unlimited gifts of the soul Intangible, invisible, mysterious, the soul is our connection with something greater than our physical being.  Yet, as we focus on career or relationships, we often forget to look within.   The Portable Pilgrim can help, guiding you on your own personal voyage of discovery.  Noted psychotherapist Dr.  Susanna McMahon has used the wisdom of Eastern and Western religions, the works of great philosophers, and experiences drawn from her clinical practice to  create an exhilarating road map to personal transformation.   Her seven simple but exquisitely profound lessons show us how to explore the territory of the soul.  One easy step at a time, we begin to discover an immense force of love and goodness within each of us.  The result is a miraculous connection to the infinite and an existence that is deeply meaningful and without end.   Discover: A path to the soul without religious bias Seven lessons to work through at your own pace A "teaching story" at the end of each lesson Practical exercises that let you see the soul at work in your daily life Positive moral growth you can see and feel


Excerpts

Excerpts

INTRODUCTION A pilgrim is a traveler to a shrine or holy place or, even more simply, a  wanderer. A pilgrimage is the journey made by a pilgrim or any long  journey. If we think of ourselves as wanderers and our lives as long  journeys, then by the simplest definitions, we are all pilgrims and our  lives are pilgrimages. And when we begin the search for meaning in our  lives, when we seek awareness of that which is good, important, and real,  when we quest for the sacred--something grander than ourselves--then we  truly become the more traditional definition of a pilgrim. Our journey  toward meaning becomes our own personal voyage of discovery, the  pilgrimage to our souls. Nowadays very few of us, unless we are Muslims, think of actually going  on a pilgrimage, but this was not always so. During the Middle Ages, and  lasting for several centuries, more than half a million travelers each  year went on holy treks. Christians had three possible places to journey:  Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Rome was  where Peter founded the Catholic Church, and those who traveled there were  known as romeros. Jerusalem was where Christ was crucified and arose from  the dead; these travelers were called palmers because they returned with  palm branches. Only those who traveled to Santiago de Compostela, the  shrine of St. James, defeater of the Moors and patron saint of Spain,  could be called pilgrims, for this was by far the most hazardous and  lengthy journey of the three. Pilgrims undertook this challenging and dangerous trek for many reasons,  the most common being to seek the spiritual or to find salvation. Warriors  and knights often vowed to make a pilgrimage if they survived in battle.  Clergy saw the pilgrimage as the ultimate quest for the Divine, the  culmination of their holy lives. But there were also criminals, sentenced  to either jail or pilgrimage, and there were always the thieves, beggars,  and unsavory characters who went for financial gain and preyed on the  devout as they traveled along. Also, there were merchants, architects,  weavers, painters, and all manner of businessmen who perceived the journey  as a marketplace. Finally, there were foreign agents and political spies.  The composition of these early pilgrimages readily lends itself to  comparison with modern life. In the midst of those who are seeking the holy are always those who  desire the profane; as a matter of fact, we are often personally caught in  the battle between what we desire (our mortal dreams) and what we seek  (our immortal souls). We are constantly being seduced and distracted by  worldly desires, wealth, and comfort. We are trained to believe that  happiness comes with pleasure, that security and safety come with money  and possessions, and that there should be an easy, painless fix for all  our problems and difficulties. We quickly become afraid of taking what we  perceive as a painful path; we do not want our lives ever to be hard or  unknown or unsure. Thus, we learn to view happiness as our right, status  as our reward, and comfort as our due. Then, when we do achieve these  desires, we are surprised that we still wonder what is missing. Where have  we failed? Why do we want more, and what exactly is it that we are  yearning for? This is precisely the place to begin the pilgrimage. It is only when we  find what we seek, when we achieve what we think we desire, that we become  free to discover that there is more to us, more to life than what we have  been taught. For it is when we have supposedly achieved "success" that we  discover that what we have is not what we want and we must look farther  afield. In short, we must journey to new territory. It is as if we have  always traveled to our destination via a certain road and now this road is  torn up and impassable. We don't know where to go, and we're no longer  sure that we even want to go anymore. And this revelation is both  frightening and frustrating, for it is not what we have been led to  expect. And it is now, in this state of confusion, that the soul has a chance to  assert itself over the controlling ego and the noisy mind. The soul needs  a quiet space in order to be heard; nothing stops the incessant chatter of  the mind and the constant demands of the ego as surely as not knowing and  being uncertain. Think of the ego as a hot-air balloon and of confusion as  the pin that bursts the balloon. However, because we are familiar with the  world of the ego and not at all comfortable with the soul's reality, we  can easily become afraid and depressed in this new place, unless we  understand the process. For we have spent years making sense of the  physical world, we have listened to our minds, we have developed our egos  to define us, we have fed, clothed, and exercised our bodies, and all the  while we have ignored our souls. It seems to have taken all our time just  to attend to the business of living in the world that we know, see, smell,  and hear; how, then, can we have been expected to deal with something as  mysterious and ambiguous as the soul? What do we know of the soul? We have heard that it is our immortal  essence, our spiritual force and moral nature, our vital and essential  beingness, our connection to God. We know that it cannot be seen because  it has no physical or material presence. It cannot be counted, weighed,  measured, or replicated, so from a scientific point of view, it is easy to  dismiss or ignore. If we have been curious about it, we may have read  recent books that describe it as the part of ourselves that knows  everything but desires a physical existence in order to experience that  which is known but not yet felt. And that it contains the best of us and  also our shadow or dark sides. We may have heard that the soul is the true  driving force behind who we are, what we do, think, say, and feel and that  it organizes all our experiences into our meanings. Yet we may be left  wondering exactly how to tap into it, communicate with it, and allow it to  guide us actively. Discovering the soul is like learning to play bridge. The only way to  learn is to play, even though in the beginning you have no earthly idea  what you are doing or why you are doing it. The rules of the game simply  do not make sense until you have played for a while. Therefore, you must  begin without understanding, but with the faith that one day it will all  make sense. If you keep at it, one day everything falls into place and  forms a cohesive and connected pattern of meaning. Thus, you have taken  the risk to do something that makes no sense and to keep at it until it  does. Your reward is that you become a bridge player; what was once so  unclear and unfamiliar now seems natural, easy, and great fun. Discovering the soul can also be compared with falling in love. You  simply cannot imagine the experience until it has happened to you. You can  hear about it and see it in others, but it is not a rational event that  can be communicated or taught by normal teaching methods. The only way to  understand the phenomenon is to experience it for yourself. This involves  the element of risk, for falling in love means giving up your control,  your illusions of safety, and your need for rational behavior. It means  that your emotions override your usually dominant and powerful mind. You  simply cannot think yourself into love; the only way to get there is to  feel. So it is with the soul. In order to discover your soul, you must allow it  to override your rational mind and your insecure ego. Both are working  hard to allow you some illusion of security, to order the world, to  organize the chaos, and to give you definite boundaries by which you  define yourself. They help you know exactly where you begin and end so  that you can differentiate yourself as a unique and important individual  in this confusing world. In doing so, they separate you from everything  that is not you. And it is in this separation that your difficulties  occur. Separation is not the domain of the soul, for the soul is the connection  to the Life Force, the Higher Power, God. It is also your connection to  all living things. For in order to recognize your soul, you must  simultaneously recognize the soul in others. Becoming aware of your  goodness (soulfulness) is intimately connected to the awareness of the  innate goodness in all being. Therefore, the pilgrimage to your own soul  is the journey toward virtue, the awareness that goodness--God--exists in  all things. It is the understanding that there is both mystery and  revelation in every moment. It involves beginning without comprehension  (similar to playing bridge) and experiencing without understanding (like  falling in love). Ultimately this is indeed a spiritual trip even if you have difficulty  with the religious concepts of God, spirit, and soul. You do not have to  believe in God to be a pilgrim, but you do need to believe in goodness. I  have never met anyone who does not understand the latter, even when he  finds it difficult to apply to himself. This book is about finding your  virtue and living your goodness; I hope it will help you discover your  soul and find the true meaning of your life. The only requirement is your  ability to perceive your life as a pilgrimage and your willingness to take  the risk and become a pilgrim. This book is based on my own pilgrimage toward the soul. The path I  present is the path of virtue, defined through seven modern and familiar  characteristics inherent in all of us. There are many other paths equally  as good as the one I have chosen. What I have selected is, first, a simple  path, one that is both describable and livable. This does not mean it is  easy, for simple and easy are not the same. But it does mean that it is  available to anyone desiring the experience. My second criterion is that  this is a practical path, one that can be understood and achieved by  following the steps. Finally, it must be a valid path; therefore, I could  not rely only upon my own interpretations and experiences. I have looked  for validation from many sources, including religion, philosophy,  psychology and psychiatry, artists, authors, and teachers. The ideas  presented are not original, but I take full responsibility for the  presentation. The soul is generally considered to be within the domain of religion, and  each religion offers instruction on what the soul is and how it is found.  There seems to be consensus that the soul is or represents a connection to  the Creator. Therefore, each religion can be considered as another path to  the soul and ultimately to whatever we call our Creator: God, Allah,  Yahweh, Jehovah, Buddha, Brahman, Atman, Ram, the Almighty or Higher  Power. The religious path that I am most familiar with is Christianity;  because of my education and culture, it is natural for me to call the  Creator God. However, in doing so, I do not mean to imply that my concept  of God is preferable to any other one. Instinctively I believe that we are  all referring to the same force--the same great Being, our highest  source--no matter what name we use. In each of the seven chapters of this book, I have emphasized one of the  seven major world religions over the others. Each religion seems to lend  itself particularly well to explaining or clarifying a specific virtue,  although I recognize that every religion contains all the virtues. In  writing this book, I intended not to be a proponent of any one religion  but to be a presenter of something relevant about each of them. Perhaps my  intent is best captured by the Hindu idea of the Supreme Being existing at  the top of a mountain and each religion representing a different path to  the top. If we spend our time running around the bottom of the mountain  trying to convert others to our particular path, we do not get any closer  to the top. In the end it is not nearly as important what path we choose  as it is that we get on one and begin our personal journey upward. I have taken some liberties with the concept of virtue and have chosen  seven characteristics to describe a virtuous person in today's world. I  deliberately chose not to rely upon the traditional cardinal virtues. This  is because we seem over time to have lost a sense of connection to these  qualities. In fact, when I began this book, I could not remember all of  them, and in my limited investigation I could find no one else who could  name all seven. (It is interesting that all of us found it much easier to  list and resonate with the seven deadly sins!) With the help of my  friendly librarian, the cardinal virtues are: justice, prudence,  temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, and charity. Do you relate to these? I  have chosen instead to deal with the following characteristics:  objectivity, integrity, morality, creativity, spontaneity, generosity, and  spirituality. I hope you can better identify with them. However, I  discovered that there is a clear relationship between these modern virtues  and the historical ones, and I have incorporated the two. As a clinical psychologist I try to help clients accept and live the  reality of their lives to the best of their abilities. The search for  spirituality, the discovery of the soul, is a natural and inevitable  progression of this work. For in discovering how best to cope with the  reality of the external world, we must concern ourselves and become  involved with the internal world. Thus, we discover another more  meaningful reality: that we are indeed connected and related to a Higher  Power, a Universal Consciousness. As soon as we begin to confront the  ego-self and begin to constrain its power over us, we learn that we are  not alone, that we are not separate, and that there is infinite power  within the true Self. For once we subdue the ego, we come face-to-face  with the soul, our connection to God. Excerpted from The Portable Pilgrim: Seven Paths to Spiritual Enlightenment by Alex Witchel, Susanna McMahon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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