There is an often quoted saying, perhaps from China, that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step: even something that seems impossible can be conquered if we only begin. Often, it is our perception of the unattainability that keeps the goal at a distance. The thought that there are millions of steps between us and our destination can be so discouraging that we neglect to seize the moment and go forward while we can.
When we talk about spiritual matters, it is very easy to fall into the language of travel – the ‘spiritual path,’ the ‘caravan of fellow travellers’, the ‘journey to the goal,’ and so on. In the Conference of the Birds, Fariduddin Attar describes the change from one state to another as a long and arduous journey through seven valleys, and of course there are physical journeys that are related in one way or another to spirituality, the pilgrimage to Mecca and the Camino to Santiago de Compostela being notable examples. (See also this earlier post, About the Journey, for a discussion about spiritual change as a journey.) And even our Invocation, by which we focus ourselves at the beginning of various ceremonies and meetings, seems to talk about a journey.
Or does it?
“Toward the One…” can certainly suggest that we are travelling, and indeed that thought provides needed encouragement – for we must never suppose that we will reach a point where we may lean back and say, ‘There, my work is done. I am spiritual enough now.’ But on the other hand, how far can it be to reach the One?
If the One includes us all, and we are never out of that Oneness, then the journey cannot be a long way – to some remote heaven on the other side of the galaxy, for example. The One is here, now. And knowing that, ‘toward’ means simply a change in attitude: turn toward the One, and you are in the Presence. You are home.
But perhaps we need that journey of a thousand miles in order to take the single step of turning.