I’ve had so many spiritual growing pains throughout the years in trying to find my own way in this world. I’ve been on a search to find something palpable, something I can use, something to take the edge off the harshness of life… something with which I can heal myself.
Throughout my path I’ve made several stops, picking up the puzzle pieces that help me come closer to my bigger picture of inner peace and purpose. Back in 2007, in order to save myself from plummeting into the unreturnable levels of depression and anxiety, I dropped the capitalist rat race to pursue what I was meant to do — to become a healer. So within months of making that decision to leave my old career (real estate / income tax consulting) I found myself back in school to study Traditional Chinese Medicine. While in TCM school, I was introduced to amazing energy healing systems (Clinical Qigong and Reiki) that have helped me understand healing myself and others at the deepest levels. Over the years, I’ve dabbled in Zen, Native American shamanism, and even crystal healing and mediumship. I’ve even taken classes to learn some weird-ass (but awesome) New Age healing techniques.
Healing others seemed to help me tremendously as I finally found a sense of purpose, but I also felt the need to concentrate on cultivating my own spirit. To heal my wounded heart. That’s when I started learning Daoism.
Since 1995 I’ve picked up a few different books on Daoism, but I always felt like whatever I was reading fell short of what I was looking for, and if I read more “advanced” books, I couldn’t understand a word. They were either too cryptic or too scholastic and dry. I found a few teachers here and there, but they had that guru-complex that was a huge turn off.
It was frustrating until 2016 when I met a few people who pointed me in the right direction. It took 21 years since I first took interest in Daoist philosophy, but now with my newfound friends’ help, I’m finally going to be privy to the true practices of Daoism.
After several years of research, patience, and finding the right teachers, life has led me to the moment on November 7th of last year (2018) of becoming officially initiated as a 23rd Generation Quanzhen Longmen Daoist at Jianfu Palace in Mount Qingcheng, China (the birthplace of Daoism) under Master Zhang Shiye. For two weeks all eleven of my colleagues spent time with four Daoist masters learning several different practices of Daoist healing and cultivation methods such as qigong, talismanic work, meditation, and the chanting of invocations. And when the time came, four of us became ordained Daoists in a beautiful and life-changing ceremony. With my ordination as a Daoist priest, I took a vow to memorize the practices taught to me, to study and learn the precepts of my lineage (Quanzhen Longmen), and to become the master of my own healing through the understanding of Daoism. Some people expect me to teach, but I have absolutely no desire to teach, especially when I myself am still learning. Daoist priesthood to me truly means that I have a larger responsibility to myself and my community, and that I have no longer have any excuse to indulge in anger, fear, hatred, and any other emotion that results in the separation of myself and others. I took a vow to dedicate my life to cultivate my heart, mind, and spirit for the good and betterment of myself and others.
As of now, it’s been three months since my ordination. The reason why I haven’t written about it till now is because for the longest time, I struggled with trying to find where Daoism fits in the whole scheme of things. I vowed to practice Daoism, but I also don’t want to give up non-Daoist practices too, like some healing methodologies and even hobbies. Where Daoism fits in the bigger picture of my life has been my koan until I realized that it was actually quite simple: Daoism is base from which I operate. It’s my approach to all things in life. It’s where all my intentions come from. So whether or not I’m doing something actually “Daoist” (such as the altar work) or something non-Daoist (such as playing baseball), the Daoist spirituality that I cultivated and the Daoist precepts that I honor are the center from which I express every word and action from now on.
I’m definitely onto something groundbreaking for my own self-healing with my newfound path of Daoist priesthood (more like student-hood), but the major part of me still doesn’t believe my journey is done, as if there’s one more leg on this trip.
The Return to My Roots
I’ve questioned my own sanity about this, whether or not I’m just being a “spiritual materialist” by acquiring more practices and credentials just to show people I’m some sort of “legit” spiritual guru. But this feeling is very deep and very personal, so it can’t be spiritual materialism.
Even though Daoism provides me with enough wisdom to help me realize inner peace for a lifetime, it still feels like an “external” pursuit because there is so much daunting scholastic and intellectual research that I sometimes feel like I’m fighting just to understand it since it’s a completely different world of language and culture. That explains why there’s a visceral scream coming from inside of me, telling me that there’s one more teaching left to learn — to find completeness coming from my own ancestors, from my own culture. I’ve spent so much time cultivating spirit without cultivating the part of me that is the aggregate of my ancestors. It’s time to take that final voyage home. This final journey is in Filipino shamanism. After so many years of denying my own culture as a sort of self-hating “revenge” for all the times that fellow Filipinos hurt me in the past, there’s a burning desire within me to forgive, and to heal, and to find kinship with that side of me again, as if my ancestors are welcoming me home.
The thought of combining the spirituality of Daoism with the spirituality of honoring my ancestors through Filipino shamanism makes me feel whole. Ancestor veneration is also a practice of Daoism, so it’s all in line. In addition, my Daoist master Zhang Shiye told us that we must study Daoism with all our heart, but to also remain true to our own culture.
It’s fascinating how this is all progressing: finding purpose in healing others, healing myself, and then returning home to my roots. It all feels like an intelligently natural progression all designed to find peace on all levels — peace with the universe… peace with the world… with human society… with myself… with my culture… and with my ancestors.
This is where I am right now. These are exciting times for me, although everything still seems quite hazy. I have miles to go till it’s all clear.