I think people awaken originally to a spiritual dimension in their life in an incredibly wide variety of ways. Some people seem to open up to it through traumatic experiences, when people describe a near death experience or at a moment when they touch something much deeper than the traditional way that they thought about things. Other people arrived at that awakening through meditation or through religious experiences. Others arrive at it through sex or through drugs. There is a wide variety of ways.
I remember once lecturing in a hall back in the early 70’s. At that time most of my audiences were very young and they tended to wear white and they tended to smile a lot and wear flowers. At that time I wore beads and had a long beard. I recall that in the front row of my audience there was one woman who was about 70 and she had on a hat with little cherries and strawberries and things like that on it, false ones. And she was wearing black oxfords and a print dress and she had a black patent leather bag and I looked at her and I couldn’t figure out what she was doing in the audience cause she was so dissimilar from all the rest of the audience.
Our audiences were like a gathering of explorers clubs where we would come together and we would just share our experiences. So I started to describe some of my experiences, some of which were pretty far out and I looked at her and she was nodding with understanding, and I couldn’t believe that she could understand what I was talking about. I was describing experiences that I had had after using psychedelic chemicals, experiences that were very precious and far out. So I would try a little further out experience. I’d look over at her and there she was nodding away. I began to think maybe she had a problem with her neck that lead her to nod and maybe it had nothing to do whatsoever with what I was saying. And I kept watching and getting more and more fascinated and getting more and more outrageous in what I was saying and she kept nodding and nodding.
At the end of the lecture I couldn’t resist, I just kind of smiled to her so intensely that she just had to come up and speak to me. And she came up and she said “Thank you so much. That makes perfect sense. That’s just the way I understand the universe to be.” And I said, “How do you know? I mean, what have you done in your life that has brought you into those kinds of experiences?” She leaned forward very conspiratorially and she said, “I crochet”. And at that moment I realized that the ways in which people arrive at spiritual understanding was certainly a much wider variety of paths than what I had anticipated. I had begun to think that my way was the only way, which seems to be a common illness of people who get into spiritual work.
~Ram Dass, “A Spiritual Journey”