On a hike this morning with a close friend, I pondered this concept of “many paths, one truth” in a whole new way.
It’s a concept that I have reminded myself of frequently over the years, as I have observed the good in others; people from all walks of life, with different skin colours and from different religious and spiritual backgrounds. Recognizing fundamental similarities between my beloved Taoist philosophy and the roots of other faiths, traditions and philosophies has given me comfort. To know that around the world, the importance of love, the quest for good in ourselves, and reverence for nature are at the roots of wisdom traditions is deeply heartening. It reminds me of the oneness of life and that deep down, we are all beautifully, magically, the same.
I got a new sense of that this morning. As we walked and talked, 3 of my dearest friends came to mind and I realized that we are all experiencing profound life shifts, right now. We are all facing and moving through adversity, caused by very different circumstances. We have recently been brought to our knees time and time again with the force of our own ego resistance to what’s happening in our lives. We have all faced the dark power of the ego’s insistent “I want, I need, I must have’s”, knowing that what we truly need is actually acceptance, and not to cater to the ego’s childish demands. We have all suffered from knowing this simple truth in our minds, but not yet having the wisdom to fully embody it in our consistent way of being.
Each of us 4 friends, from different backgrounds and facing different challenges, has gone inward to search for the answers. How to get back to ourselves, and to contentment with our lives and our choices. How to get back in the flow. We have all faced the torments and seductions of the ego – the denial, anger, frustration, impatience, hardness, desire, self-pity, blame, doubt, distrust, ambition, wanting, worrying, wondering; all the ways in which the ego perpetually tries to take charge and we allow it. In the darkest times, facing our darkest selves, we have all known deep down that there is great learning for us in the difficulties, but that didn’t help to soothe our desperate desire to get through it quickly. (Yes, more ego).
In the depths of all this darkness, though, lay the seeds of our own redemption. For each of us, despite our impatience, knew that the adversity was happening for a reason. That we had to dig in and learn from what was happening. We knew that there were important lessons in our difficulties that would (hopefully) make us stronger. Unbeknownst to each other, our individual goals morphed from making it quickly through the challenges, to learning everything we possibly could from them, to make us better people in the end.
We might all be facing different challenges, but what strikes me in pondering “many paths, one truth” are the similarities in our humanity. It is not merely that there are many paths to the truth of how to live happily, but also that there are many paths to the most important truth of all. Inner truth. Inner truth lies beyond the arguments, judgments, schemes, and self-importance of the ego and other peoples’ opinions. We recognize inner truth when we FEEL it. We can safely trust it. And this truth inside my friends and I is slowly, step-by-step, leading us away from our egos, and into the deepest, best, brightest parts of ourselves.
None of us are out of the woods yet. Our circuitous paths through adversity continue. But as we’re connecting more and more to our own inner truths, things are shifting. As I consider my friends and I, I see the new softness that is emerging. We are getting stronger. Greater modesty and kindness flows through our words and our smiles. A deeper acceptance and reverence for life, its processes and our paths has appeared. Deep humility prevails, and in the end, we are allowing the most important inner truth – the most important force of all – to guide us. Love. We feel its simple truth. We are on different paths – many paths – but we have each found the inner truth that unites us all. Love.