Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way home. Though this plan doesn’t seem to work out so well for them, it offers an evocative metaphor for those of us who are spiritual seekers on a journey home to a soul-based life.
My spiritual journey began in earnest the day I realized there was something essential missing from my life, that was somehow related to my soul. I was in the midst of my MBA studies, lost in a material, career-driven life, with an aching hunger for something I neither understood nor knew where to find.
No matter that I was lost, I had woken up to my spiritual hunger and decided that I needed to change. And that was enough. The Mysteries, those powerful, invisible forces that underlie our waking reality, heard my yes to change, and began to leave a trail of crumbs, in the form of life-changing encounters and events, for me to follow.
A few months later, I completed my MBA and set off on a solo backpacking adventure in Europe. Shortly into the trip, I landed on the wrong train in France, only to hook up with a fellow adventurer, who was also on the wrong train. She was a beautiful young woman from Hawaii, with an edge of wildness and burgeoning, feminine-based spirituality.
We decided to travel together, joining our itineraries. She took me to the subterranean caves of Dordogne to see Paleolithic paintings, and here I encountered the Goddess for the first time. Though I had no words or concepts to explain this encounter, I felt Her pulsing omnipresence the moment I descended into the womb-like darkness of the cave.
My spiritual odyssey unfolded from there; crumb by crumb, clue by clue, sometimes little steps, sometimes huge ones, the Mysteries led me through the dark, scary woods of my lostness. And, like Hansel and Gretel, my travels were fraught with challenge and suffering, but still the Mysteries led me, challenge by challenge, crumb by crumb.
Somewhere along the way, I understood that I was on a Hansel and Gretel journey, and that the Mysteries and my soul were leading me home to the presence of being and soulful life that I longed for. My task was to follow the trail of crumbs, doing the soul work presented by each, knowing that the next crumb would naturally follow.
Your Hansel and Gretel Journey
As a spiritual seeker, perhaps you are also on a Hansel and Gretel journey. Whatever you have lost and whatever you are longing for, these things set you on your path of soul, leading you home to a richer, fuller expression of your Deep Self and the best of your nature and gifts.
When you say yes to your soul’s longings, you are also saying yes to the Mysteries. With these potent forces at your back, opportunities and challenges show up on your path, gifting you with their impetus for healing and personal growth.
Through a Hansel and Gretel frame, you can conceive and consciously engage the Mysteries and your everyday life as guides for your spiritual healing, growth and evolution.
Here is what this pathwork looks like.
1. Start with your soul hungers.
What longings underlie your spiritual life? What are you hungry for? What are your deepest desires? What are you seeking?
From this awareness, name your longings and say yes to the personal change these soul-based desires invoke. You don’t need to know what these changes are; what matters are your sense of the rightness of your longings, and your readiness to follow where they lead.
This yes aligns your soul-based desires with the Mysteries, or powers of life, or Goddess, or God, or however you name and understand the unseen forces and energies that direct and influence waking-world reality.
2. Look for the crumb: the gift/clue from the Mysteries to direct your pathwork.
I sometimes call this pathwork: what’s in my face now? This is not an elegant turn of phrase, but an accurate one. The crumbs that the Mysteries leave on your path reveal themselves in the opportunities, challenges and unusual incidents that are right in front of your nose, and very hard to ignore.
Turn your awareness to what is happening in your life at the moment. What are you dreaming about? What challenges or positive opportunities have come your way? What is bothering you? Exciting you? What do you find yourself drawn to or repelled by?
Now widen your awareness to catch anything unusual, unexpected or attention-grabbing that has crossed your path. These can include social exchanges, synchronistic occurrences and physical objects. I am especially fond of found magic: unexpected objects that you stumble upon or that appear out of nowhere.
License plates can deliver messages. Books can fall open to specific pages. Unusual behaviors by animals can alert you to their totemic qualities. You can feel inexplicably drawn to something. Or have your plans waylaid, only to find yourself in some other, perfect situation. The possibilities are endless.
In this pathwork, look for common, reoccurring themes or messages. The Mysteries like to repeat and reinforce their crumb clues.
3. Pick up and claim the crumb: do the healing and personal growth work that the crumb has revealed to you.This step takes commitment and courage, because soul work is rarely convenient or comfortable, and often takes you to the painful, shadowy places in your life story and experiences.
Yet there is great beauty and power in this work of soul. You are on the trail of your Deep Self and the best of your nature and gifts. As you heal and transform the old of your pain and suffering, you unleash greater love and goodness into your life. This is the hard, but wondrous work of healing and reclaiming your soul.
What this looks like will differ for each individual and at different times on your spiritual journey. And there is no perfect way to do the work, nor a predetermined destination or ideal state you are trying to reach.
There is only the imperative to do the soul work that has come to you, to the best of your ability, and with wisdom and self-care. You can go as deep and as far as is right for you, taking the time and gathering the resources (personal and professional) you need, with the knowledge that this is a journey of many steps, big and small, where one step/crumb naturally leads to the next.
4. Eat the crumb: let yourself be changed by your pathwork.
Though this may seem obvious: you do the work in order to be changed, this step can be the most difficult of all.
To truly change on a substantive, soulful level is to come face to face with fear and resistance, both inner and from your outer environment. These negative reactions are an expected part of the process. You know you are riding your edge and getting somewhere new when you come up against strong resistance and reluctance to change.
Listen to your fear and resistance, and let them inform your pathwork without derailing it.
Open and be changed, moving forward and deeper on your journey of soul. Again, give this your best, while acting with wisdom and ensuring self-care.
5. Begin again: look for the next crumb.
One crumb leads to the next, and the next.
Relax into and trust the journey. Play, keep your sense of humor, and stay with love, especially when the going gets tough.
Be curious and don’t over analyze, this journey will change you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. The more loose and open you are, the more profound and life-changing the adventure.
Follow your instincts and wisdom. Make sure you have the healing support and guidance you need, both personal and professional. Always put self-care first.
Know that your engagement with the Mysteries is like any new relationship, it takes time to figure out how best to connect and communicate. Paying attention is the key to building your relationship with the Mysteries, and demonstrating your commitment to their Hansel and Gretel magic.
After almost thirty years as a spiritual seeker, I am still following my path of crumbs. The pathwork changes as I change, taking me deeper into the roots of my life story and experiences. With each crumb, I shed the old and become something new, coming home ever more deeply to my Deep Self and best nature.
It is still a path that requires great courage and commitment, though the forest is no longer dark and scary, and the challenges and struggles are tempered by the well-spring of love and power that has become my natural state of being.
I never cease to marvel at the wide, wild journey I have been on, from the profoundly unhappy and disconnected young woman I was, lost in a material, soulless life, to the woman I am now, comfortable in my own skin and beholden to what is best and beautiful inside of me.
In all these things, and so many more, I know that Hansel and Gretel have indeed revealed a great truth: that we can only ever find our way home one crumb at a time.
The Path of She is published on alternate Saturdays; follow it via RSS or e-mail! If you like Karen’s work, like her page on Facebook or maybe buy her book, Tale of the Lost Daughter, a fictional spiritual adventure into the life-changing world of magic and the sacred feminine.