The spiritual path is all about getting to know yourself, making a personal exploration so that we discover for ourselves what states of mind cause us suffering and which produce happiness. The books we read and the teachings we receive can tell us these things, sure; but we don’t start moving until we see the truth of it in our own experience.
To go on a journey means to move from one place to another; an inner spiritual journey is one that moves us from sadness to joy, from dissatisfaction to contentment. Sounds good – where do I book my ticket? The ticket is our intention, our decision to leave the place where we presently spend our time – the space of anger, attachment, and ignorance – and migrate to a pure inner space free from delusions.
Once we have that intention, then our journey consists of recognising harmful thoughts as soon as they arise and choosing to let them go. Just the practice of recognising delusions is enormously beneficial. Don’t get discouraged when you spot a negative thought: that is the first step to overcoming it!
One of the main functions of Dharma teachings is to serve as a mirror in which we can see our own faults.
Eight Steps to Happiness, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
If we fail to see where the problem lies – for example, if we think that the problem is the situation, rather than our own response to it – then we don’t make an inner journey at all. We might make an outer journey, i.e. running away from that situation as fast as our little legs will carry us, but we don’t think to change our mind. And so, as far as we run, the problem follows us. We need to have the courage to look in the mirror of Buddha’s teachings and truthfully acknowledge when our way of thinking is at fault; then, we can begin to make progress.
To make our journey easy, we need to travel light. Leave behind all the excess baggage, our bad habits and fixed opinions, our assumptions about how we will respond in certain situations. Just imagine that piece of baggage got lost at the airport, and you have a fresh start, a chance to reinvent yourself again and again until you are exactly the person you want to be.