If you are a seeker; if you are interested in spiritual growth; if you want to connect with the part of you that - while always present - is not always (at least at first glance) so easy to find, then you may have already spent years, or even decades in a quest for ultimate answers. You may have followed first this route, and then that one; you may have walked in the footsteps of one thinker or another; you may have grown disillusioned in what you found and then gone on to yet a new path, a new guide, and still you search. You believe you have simply not yet attained that which you seek.
From my perspective (despite the fact that I also followed a pattern similar to the one described until I was in my 30's), it is not so much that the above is a mistake (I believe nothing is ever a mistake as whatever it is will inexorably lead you to learn - if you so choose - and to move on to the next step), as that it will never lead you to what you truly seek, because it is always outer-focused. More importantly, it means you rarely, if ever, listen to your own inner knowing. And clearly, as long as you remain focused on finding your answers in a book, a guru, a leader, a mantra, a workshop, a sangha, or a retreat, while you may learn much, you will always be side-stepping that inner knowing, the inner voice.
If you are offered steak, salmon, lobster or foie gras, and you have never tried any of them, obviously you won't know which to choose - or you won't know what to expect from any of the choices. But if you try them, or some of them, you will have gained some perspective about what is available, how you react to it, and how it makes you feel. So now you have come a bit closer to knowing yourself.
In the world of spiritual growth, at the outset there is a similar process, because as long as you know nothing, you have little with which to gauge how this or that makes you feel. And unless you are an innately deep and philosophical thinker, you will need some initial guidance. However, as you gain knowledge, as you deepen your inner reactions and listen to them, a quickening takes place, and you begin to sense - if you pay close attention - when you are on the right path (the right path for you), because it will bring you joy. Rumi said: When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.
So this doesn't mean that when you've read things by one author, or attended the workshops of a given speaker and feel that inner quickening, that you have now found your final answer. It simply means that what you heard or read resonated with you on some level and therefore is meaningful to you - perhaps only at that point in your life, or perhaps for your entire life. It could very well be that at another point in your life you read something else, or listen to another speaker, and again find that something resonates with you. In the meantime, however, between having found the first thing that resonated, and the next one, you may have spent several decades reading books, thinking, talking, attending seminars, and attending satsangs, etc. If you were not moving in the direction of your own inner knowing, you may have felt pushed and pulled in many directions, or you may have blindly adhered to another's path, which - good or bad - is their path, and not necessarily yours.
So the question in the title of this month’s article refers to your recognition of the fact that the answer lies much less in the search, than in your inner connection to the quickening that takes place - that inner reaction of joy that Rumi refers to - and that therefore your deepening in the growth you seek will come much more quickly if you heed that inner voice and move in the direction in which it wants to take you. The Buddha said: No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. Your path.