Anyone remember road maps? Those paper maps that we used to navigate from place to place?

Road maps provided an overview, and a preview, of my travels and how to get to my destination. They presented useful information, like what cities and landmarks I would reach along my journey. And as I traveled to my destination I had the satisfaction of recognizing them as I approached or passed them.

Now like just about everyone I use navigation in my car or on my phone. The disadvantage to this technology is that you don’t get an overall feel for the journey ahead, or a preview of landmarks you will reach. Instead, you just follow instructions. Turn here. Make a left at the traffic light. Not quite knowing where you’re going, but trusting that navigation will get you to your destination.

Trusting your spiritual journey using navigation means fewer concepts in your mind about the journey itself. Some might say this is preferable. It promotes a more receptive and innocent orientation to the spiritual journey. And for people who like to explore along the way, this can be the way to travel. You can usually trust the navigation app will “recalculate” and redirect you if you go off course to explore (or go off course by mistake).

On the other hand, navigation doesn’t provide much of an overview of the trip. Yes, it will get you from place to place, but the kind of context provided is how far to the next exit, gas, food, lodging, or how far you’ve traveled, or how long until you reach the next turn or your destination.

What about landmarks along the journey? My navigation app doesn’t provide that. (Maybe I have an outdated system and you can disregard what I’m about to say.)

Without landmarks mapped out in advance, there is a lot we might miss. And if we’re on a spiritual journey, we really don’t want to miss the landmarks of Awakening. Otherwise we get to our destination without the clarity of what transpired.

Without knowledge about a landmark and it’s significance, nor where a landmark is located along our journey, we might even fail to recognize a true landmark, or might mistake something to be a landmark that isn’t.

Relying on navigation alone can produce resistance to the journey. When you don’t know the overall route or what is coming next, the anticipation can turn from excitement to anxiety, or doubt, or a fear of getting lost. Even though the navigation app will (usually) keep us on course, what if it’s messed up or out of sync with the GPS satellite?

I have had numerous instances of navigation telling me I’ve reached my destination, when obviously I had not. It happened just today. Fortunately there was a visitor’s center where I was able to get a map of the area which made clear that my destination was actually another half a mile down the road.

So here I had to rely on a paper map to complete the journey. Navigation was not enough.

Road maps of spiritual unfoldment have a lot of value. Even if you just look at the road map now and then, and otherwise rely on navigation, it can be helpful on your journey.

Any road map of spiritual unfoldment is only a guide, though, not something to take literally of course. Not only because the maps are not reality, but also because spiritual unfoldment varies from one person to the next. Some stops along the way may be skipped by some people, and not by others. And some people may turn onto a side road for awhile, or pause at a rest stop. Some may be slow and cautious drivers, while others may drive at the speed limit, or ignore the limits altogether.

The point is, there are many awakenings you can go through on the spiritual journey. And it’s important to recognize that there is an overall trajectory to them. There are major landmarks that identify where you are on the journey — landmarks that reveal differences in your sense of self, your identity, and your perspective or view of reality. Being aware of these landmarks in advance provides important context and meaning to guide the journey.

– Joel

Roadmaps? Or Navigation?