During our trip to India in October, we hired an auto rickshaw to take us up the hill to the Chamundeshwari Temple outside Mysore. The mid-day sun was beating down, and our driver advised us not to attempt the traditional pilgrimage climb of a thousand steps, but to walk down them instead. We passed pilgrims of all ages who carried small paper plates of turmeric and vermilion in which they’d dip a thumb, bending to mark each stone step. At the top, they had left their emptied plates next to the stone marker in this photo.
Climbing a thousand steps is a conscious, self-imposed act of devotion. The pilgrim vows to reach the top, despite pain, heat, or fatigue. In this case, both the vow itself and the strength to fulfill it flow from spiritual intuition, that inner sense of rightness you can access when you are fully present with yourself.
But there is a different kind of vow that comes not from a place of presence and spiritual intuition, but from fear and overwhelm. I call this kind of vow a “blood oath”. If you are built sensitive, it is crucial to be able discern the difference between a true vow and a blood oath—because a true vow is the most powerful positive inner force you can invoke, while a blood oath puts you in a strait jacket. [Read more…]