A fellow alchemist and mentor once told me that any path can get you halfway up the mountain, but the second half you have to do yourself. It felt like such terrible and wonderful news at the time.
Let’s just say we look at this particular journey of transformation as a mountain with many paths leading to the halfway point of profound spiritual and creative awakening, but no paths to take you farther. Then what?
Well, halfway up the mountain isn't such a bad place, really. I see it as a sort of base camp with the spiritually awakened people pitching their tents and making beautiful art and love. (Ever been to a Rainbow Gathering or a Burning Man?) It’s edifying to be among so much light, love, and freedom of creative expression after journeying out of the victimhood of negative thinking and the drudgery of believing the material world is all there is.
Awakening is a relief and a wonder when you get a glimpse of Universal Love and feel your pulse beating with the pulse of the entire Universe. It’s a really great place to be. (The corresponding alchemical stage for this is conjunction, which we’ll discuss further in Part Two of this book.) It can blow your mind with all the creative and spirit energy you feel, the heart and soul connections you make, and the synchronicity that confirms your deepest desires and existence.
I call this place Spiritual Margaritaville. It’s a welcomed celebration, a break after a long trek. Who wouldn't want to join camp, kick back, and have a few drinks on the house?
But if you’ve ever tried sitting in a lounge chair and drinking margaritas for more than a few days straight, you know it can get boring. Soon enough, you start looking for something else to do, maybe a book to read, someone to have a meaningful conversation with, or a place to take a long walk or jog.
You might find yourself thinking things like, I'm so glad I made it through all that drudgery to get to this place of peace. I'm not going back to the way things were before, to my old identifications with materialistic human life. But what am I going to do with the rest of my time here? I need something to sink my teeth into.
Because, yeah, life goes on after awakening, doesn't it?
And so, you might decide to give back. You set up shop or do whatever you can to offer your gifts in service to your fellow humans, to the people still making the trek up the first half of the mountain. You heed the burning desire to tell your story and make something beautiful of your life while there’s still time. If you're lucky, you’re able to live at this halfway-up-the-mountain-spiritual-margaritaville-base-camp doing meaningful life work. (There is nothing wrong with this.) Making money doing what you love. Being a spiritual rock star. Living out your days as a beloved guru with a New York Time's best-selling book and turning down requests left and right for interviews.
Or you may end up like me. Kicked out of camp for channeling too many messages from the dark side, conjuring ominous rain clouds over the tents of charlatans, forgetting to breathe through the nose during yoga, or worse—eating the occasional bit of meat. (I gravitate fiercely toward deviant behaviors.) How torturous to be banned to living life as a bright, gifted, talented genius in total obscurity because the who’s who of whatever scene you thought was your world didn’t get a chance to see how amazing you are before you started falling from all good graces. Totally and irrevocably screwed.
It can really feel like that, can't it? When you've journeyed so far and self-helped and therapied and workshopped yourself to death, and you're still not there? Something still seems to be missing and calling you on, but you can't see a way out or through.
Here is where, as Joseph Campbell says, “You must enter the forest of adventure at the place where it is darkest. If there is a light or a path, it is someone else’s.” The true journey of soul begins where all other roads end. And although it can be terrifying and disconcerting to say the least, it truly is the privilege of a lifetime to make a way that is yours and yours alone.
This is not a journey for the faint of heart. If you’ve been at it awhile, you know it gets better and worse at the same time. Awakening doesn't just continue up and up. It also goes down and down. There are intense paradoxes and tensions to hold. There is ferment and rot and aloneness. Dark nights of the soul and dark nights of the spirit. And everything that got you out of trouble on your way up the first half of the mountain doesn't seem to get you out of trouble now. The farther you get from base camp, the more alone and crazy you can feel. Money doesn't seem to flow as easily as you thought it would when all that synchronicity abounded and Universal Love poured out your eyeballs. Even your spirit guides may stop talking to you at some point, and you're not sure what your purpose is anymore. Not only that, but this guide book and I will also leave you high and dry at certain points if you are to truly catch the thread of your own truth.
Sounds hard, doesn't it? Why would anyone want to do it? I can tell you this: not everyone has to. You only have to do it if you have to.
And it really does lead somewhere. But you don't get to see where that somewhere is until you're right there. And the moment you see it, it’s likely to change. That’s how you know it’s real.