RYAN ALTMAN

🕉️ From Starbucks Barista To Spiritual Aspirant: My Story

We all have an origin story.

A story the defines where we came from and who we are.

In an origin story there’s a culmination of events that lead to a point of conflict where the story takes a pivotal turn.

In the cycle of the hero’s journey, it’s the place where the hero enters the threshold of the unknown and transformation begins.

What drives the hero into the unknown is usually a source of great suffering, loss, or conflict.

Every great story has one.

For Spider-Man, it was the death of his Uncle Ben.

For Neo, it was taking the red pill and waking up from the matrix.

For Buddha, it was being exposed to old age, sickness and death.

In this email, I want to share my origin story with you.

The following story comes from an unfinished book I started last year before unexpectedly moving from Tasmania.

It captures the moment in my early twenties when I realized the futility of finding contentment in the world, and the path of spiritual transformation opened up to me.

For reference here’s the setting and character (my room and me at 22)

Without further ado here’s my origin story:

🕉️ My Origin Story

Posters of my favorite teenage bands and sports teams hung like distant memories on the walls of my room.

On the dresser trophies and medals I’d won playing sports as a kid sat covered with a layer of dust.

How I longed to go back there, to the simpler times of the past, but I knew I couldn’t.

I was stuck in the mess I was in now.

“What am I doing with my life?”

“I’m a complete failure.”

“How do I get myself out of this mess?”

Doubts swirled through my mind.

I was sitting in my childhood bedroom, face buried in my hands with a feeling of overwhelming despair filling my being.

My single bag of belongings lay half opened with clothes strewn across the floor.

I was unpacking when the anxiety and fear of the moment overwhelmed me.

It was 2008.

I was 22 years old and had recently graduated from university.

I wasn’t just going nowhere–I was going backwards–regressing back to the room where I’d grown up as a child, having little to show for the time that had passed: no partner, no money and no future.

I was working at Starbucks, the same unfulfilling job I’d worked throughout getting my degree.

My first girlfriend had just broken up with me a few weeks earlier.

We’d dated for 3 years and my heart ached at losing her.

The final chapter of our relationship had ended, and with nowhere else to go, I moved back into my parent’s house.

All this was happening during the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

My prospects for finding a better job were practically nonexistent.

Not that I knew what I wanted to do anyway.

I had gotten my degree in Philosophy, and had no idea what I wanted to do now that I’d graduated.

My degree was my one big gain, but it came at a cost.

Like many American students graduating from university, I was deep in debt.

I had focused on studying Philosophy of Cognitive Science and Philosophy of Mind in university, but knew those interests couldn’t take me anywhere professionally.

Consciousness had always fascinated me ever since I could remember.

Studying it academically was a dream, and even though I loved my studies, I saw their limitations as I pursued my degree.

What fascinated me most about consciousness was its subjective qualities–what it meant to be conscious–and an academic study of consciousness didn’t address those questions adequately for me.

After years of studying research papers, scientific theories and philosophical perspectives, I realized that academic study could only give objective explanations of consciousness, not answer the fundamental subjective mysteries about being conscious that had puzzled me since I was young.

I was born an intuitive kid and struggled with emotional issues from an early age.

I felt emotions intensely and could even feel the emotions of other people as if they were my own, an empathic sensitivity that I only became conscious of much later in life.

My sensitivity, mixed up emotions, and intense emotional highs and lows drove my parents to get me help.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and like many children nowadays, Attention Deficit Disorder as well.

I was put on medication and started seeing a counselor regularly.

None of which really helped.

As hard as that period was, I’m deeply grateful for it.

The intense emotional suffering gave me an inquiring mind from an early age.

One of the earliest questions I remember asking myself was, what it would be like if I was in another person’s body?

Would I have their memories?

Would I have their skills and abilities?

Would I remember who I was back in my body?

Basically, what makes me, ‘me’?

I didn’t know it at the time, but this sort of self-inquiry would be a fundamental part of my journey to spiritual wisdom, and an essential practice that I’d use to awaken on my spiritual path.

“I’m sick of my life,” I thought to myself.

“I’m sick of this world.”

“It’s not right. I’m not right. I don’t fit into it. I’ve always known it.”

“What do I do now?”

“How do I escape this horrible place I’m in?”

I threw myself backward into my bed and laid there staring blankly up at the ceiling.

Hot tears filled my eyes and rolled down my temples.

The emotions swirling within me were a blackhole of agitation and anxiety.

I felt a heaviness in my chest.

A void that was sucking me in.

I could barely breathe.

I wanted to break free from it.

I had to break free.

I was done with the crazy world–of endless wars, corruption and financial crises–of my life, and who I was becoming.

Sick of feeling powerless and without purpose.

I knew there must be a way to get out of this horrible prison of emotional turmoil and failure I felt like I was in.

In that moment of quiet desperation, I made a vow that would change the course of my life forever.

I vowed that–no matter what–I was going to change myself for the better, that I was going to equip myself with the knowledge and tools I needed to become free.

I didn’t even know what freedom was at the time, all I knew was that I wanted it desperately.

In that moment of hitting rock bottom, my spiritual journey to free myself from suffering began.

Conclusion

So there you go.

My origin story.

I hope it inspires you on your own journey of self-discovery and spiritual transformation, even when the path seems daunting.

From that low at 22 in my childhood bedroom indescribable transformation has happened.

The following year, after an intense period of seeking and research, I would find my first spiritual teacher, Edward Muzika, and become a sadhaka (spiritual aspirant).

Devoting myself to meditation, spiritual practice, and striving to live a life of virtue on the spiritual path.

It’s in those darkest moments that we are initiated into the spiritual dimension of life.

The light of spiritual-awareness ignites within us, guiding us from darkness towards the profound freedom we all ultimately seek, and once sought ignorantly to find in the world.

The first step is making that sacred vow to yourself, as I did that fateful day–a vow to relentlessly pursue your highest truth and potential, no matter what obstacles may arise.

You have the strength within you to break through every limitation, every conditioning, and every fear that holds you back from attaining your spiritual birthright of freedom, love, joy and peace.

Make the vow, take the initiation, and don’t let anything stop you from discovering the spiritual treasure within you.

Go fearlessly.

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Hey, I’m Ryan 👋

I’m a meditation teacher and spiritual mentor. I’ve been a disciplined sadhaka for over 15 years, devotedly studying authentic spiritual traditions with enlightened teachers all over the world. Through my work, I translate the teachings of the lineages and traditions that I’ve studied into the digital age, helping people overcome suffering, achieve their potential, and connect to their spiritual truth. If you’re new here, make sure to take my Spiritual Awareness Assessment, or contact me with any questions you may have on your journey!

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