Finding the On-Ramp to Your Spiritual Path: A Road Map to Joy and Rejuvenation

Finding the On-Ramp to Your Spiritual Path: A Road Map to Joy and Rejuvenation

Jan Phillips 
Wheaton: Quest, 2013. 146 pages, hardcover, $14.95.

Jan Phillips, who has spent time in a Catholic religious community, now devotes her energies to writing and leading workshops on spiritual and evolutionary topics. In her sixth book, Finding the On-Ramp to Your Spiritual Path: A Road Map to Joy and Rejuvenation, she invites readers on a spiritual journey and offers tips on how to progress. Through the analogy of a road trip, Phillips describes an entry point, mentions likely pit stops, and warns readers of roadblocks they may encounter along the way to spiritual wholeness.

Titled with highway terminology, complete with authentic traffic signs, each chapter describes one such phase in the pilgrimage. Readers should not be put off by the "STOP"sign that graces the first chapter. It is a much needed warning that a spiritual stance requires us to stop, look, and listen before proceeding ahead.

Similarly, chapter 2, "Lane Ends," may not sound like a good beginning for a journey to joy, but in fact most of us don't recognize the need for this type of trip until something in the conventional world has failed to work for us.

The following chapters, "Yield," "Curves Ahead," "Divided Highway," "End Divided Highway," etc., each describe an important spiritual concept. Each includes at least one simple but poignant story to illustrate the main point.

My favorite was chapter 9, "Merge." It expresses the importance of being attentive to and engaged with others— present to their experiences, whether they are feeling pain or joy. It also emphasizes the value of expressing ourselves authentically and truthfully to others. "We are mirrors to one another's mission and meaning, for ultimately we have all come here to light up the world," Phillips writes.

While the entire book is filled with spiritual gems, what struck me as the most immediately useful to someone needing a spiritual GPS appeared in chapter 10, "One Way": "Joy is the compass point for this discernment [of our own ultimate concerns, and where we should place our commitments]. If you could solve any global problem in the world, which one would bring you the most joy to solve? Your answer to that is a clue to your next step on the spiritual path."

The final chapters promote a bigger story than that offered by the typical traditional religion. Spiritual maturity is increasingly becoming understood as something broader than a particular belief system invested in some faraway transcendent deity and unduly concerned with personal salvation in the next life. Phillips would have us focus our efforts on things that are more immediate on "this world, these crises, these choices," which are in "our hands." At her recommended destination, we derive our strength from a strong and rich power that comes from within when we follow our own true path.

Certainly Phillips speaks from a frontier not too many have reached, and she is in a position to advise readers from her advanced perspective. I hope telling readers about these steps is an effective way to help them get from point A to point B. Lest the book leave anyone in doubt about Phillips' own spiritual point B, appendix 1, "An Apostle's Creed" elucidates ten of her core beliefs.

Finding the On-Ramp provides yet another way to inspire readers to travel beyond the rules and structure of conventionality and organized religion that keep us powerless and dependent on external forces. Her prescribed route alerts us to our individual callings, and promises a destination where our true bliss can be found in following them— for the sake of our own fulfillment, and for a healthy society as well.

Phillips forecasts a quietly spreading, societywide grassroots revolution wherein many are leaving their churches behind to find the Divine within. If enough of us keep finding inventive ways of presenting this concept, perhaps one day conventional society will recognize the futility of its current divisive "small story" tactics and will come to support individuals in their journey to spiritual maturity.

Margaret Placentra Johnston

The reviewer is author of Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind (Quest Books).