In America, we mark our public doors with an illuminated red sign that reads, “EXIT.” In England, the doors are labeled “Way In” from the outside and “Way Out” from within.
Once we’re started down the spiritual path, I’m not sure there is a way out. Whether we are seeking heaven or nirvana or enlightenment, even if we stop off for a while, or feel like we might have slipped backwards, as Rob Bell likes to say, “Once you see, you can’t unsee. And once you taste, you can’t untaste.”
The good news is there are plenty of “ways in.” Any act of service, for example, can connect you with something bigger than yourself—whether you sense that as being community, Love, or Spirit. Every time you manage to focus on the breath or the sensation in your hands or feet, bringing your awareness to the present moment, you contact pure Being. You have at least the possibility, in that moment, of connection with the source of all things.
Eckhardt Tolle teaches, “Even a stone, and more easily a flower or a bird, could show you the way back to God, to the Source, to yourself. When you look at it or hold it and let it be without imposing a word of mental label on it, a sense of awe, of wonder, arises within you. Its essence silently communicates itself to you and reflects your own essence back to you.”
Every religious and spiritual tradition, in every culture, has common points of entry—spiritual practices like meditation, prayer (even in nontheistic traditions), retreat, fasting, service, worship, pilgrimage, spiritual direction or relationship with a teacher, reading of texts, connection with the natural world. As Pema Chödrön writes, “This very moment is the perfect teacher.” The title of one of her books is Start Where You Are.
We can always begin. We can always begin again. We always have a way in, right before us. The gate to the spiritual path is always open.