Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.
– Antonio Machado, Spanish poet
Spiritual practice is often described as a path. In the Buddhist tradition we hear of the Eightfold Path, the way of the perfections, the path of liberation.
We can look back at the lives of past masters and see the path they traveled. We can see how their practice evolved and the impact it had in their life.
It seems like we can follow in their example, just follow the path that they laid out, but when we turn to look at our current situation we often find that there is no path in front of us. There is no path at all. We don't know where to start and how to proceed.
The path is made by practicing.
Through our own practice, we can travel the spiritual path. Travel comes from the word travail, which means to work or toil, to engage in laborious effort.
Traveling the path is hard. Our practice is hard. We are going to come up against obstacles and difficulties. We will be tested. We have no choice but to directly encounter suffering, sorrow, pain, and loss.
As the Tibetan physician Gampopa describes, it is the work of the practitioner, the traveler on the path, to transform obstacles into wisdom. We are to use our trials and tribulations as catalysts for insight and understanding.
Gradually, step by step, day by day, our practice deepens and takes root in our life. As we persist, we start to see it bear fruit and understand its impact in transforming our life from one of pain and sorrow, to one of gratitude and joy.