So what is it that you do?” I was asked recently, at the time of this being written.

I paused and smiled. I spent so many years telling people that I was a Youth Worker, managing youth clubs, running educational projects within schools and suchlike that it still feels a complete novelty to say otherwise.

“Well, I consider myself a Word Shaman”, I replied.

“This is merely a poetic and functional label I use to explain the role I have chosen for myself, not to be mistaken as an identity attachment. It is simply an umbrella title that covers the roles of teacher  / writer / spiritual alchemist / mystic / artist  / psychedelics ambassador.”

I thought for a moment, and then backtracked a little.

“Hmmm, actually, I’d rather not class myself as a teacher. When a person steps into the teaching arena of any spiritual or mystical subject, it’s quite common for students to subconsciously place you on a pedestal and I honestly do not want that. The height of that pedestal can be detrimental to the relationship with one’s ego and at the same time, people often project huge expectations onto you as person; condemning you when you don’t behave exactly how they think you should behave. The title of teacher comes with a lot of baggage, of which I try to sidestep as much as possible. Yes I teach but I also still want the freedom to be myself, to be able to drink a beer, make mistakes, take psychedelics, tell a rude joke, smoke a cheeky joint or dance naked should the mood take me and it not affect my professional reputation and subsequently affect the way that I earn my living. Keeping all of this in mind I’d rather class myself as a humble guide, than a teacher.”

I see my role to be a simple one: to be a herald of consciousness… a town-crier of the soul… a living sign-post pointing the way to the internal worlds and the higher dimensions, using whatever skills I have available at my disposal. I like to remind those who have forgotten that there are hidden realms within them patiently awaiting discovery, whilst sharing any useful experiences and effective techniques with the community that I’ve accumulated during my own adventures.

In the effort to heal myself of a suicidal depression in my late 20s (my first dark night of the soul), I changed my entire lifestyle, attended to the suppressed traumas of my childhood, taught myself how to meditate and explored Zen and Buddhism with the focus of an Olympic athlete. This journey led to a series of mystical and life-changing metaphysical experiences of universal oneness, transforming a militant atheist of 14 years into not only a believer of the soul, but also of the higher dimensions of consciousness. I spent the following decade integrating those experiences into my life and deepening my understanding of the transformative insights through the study of mysticism, meditation and psychonautica.

Many years and house moves later, I experienced a second dark night of the soul after a cascading sequence of heartbreaking events culminated with me having lost pretty much everything. Whilst healing and climbing out of that abyss I decided to rebuild myself anew, change my life’s direction and heed the call of my heart. It was a simple decision to want to make a living from teaching Zen and mysticism full-time; both are passions that have deepened with the passing of the years.

Looking back, I can see that both of my dark nights of the soul were hugely purgative processes that brought about great leaps of personal growth. The first inspired an internal revolution, the second an external revolution. In mysticism it is said that this is the reason for the dark night’s existence – to bring about significant and lasting change, reorientating an individual’s life onto a path that is more in harmony with their truest self.

Urban Zen was created to be a central hub and delivery platform for all of the effective methods that I have used throughout my own spiritual journey. There is so much insight and wisdom in both Zen and mysticism that are often overlooked due to them not being very accessible, especially for beginners. I wanted to offer a modern, fresh perspective on both subjects using a contemporary vocabulary whilst respecting and retaining their hearts and principles.

I cannot speak of anyone else’s purpose, only my own, and sharing my passion for Zen and mysticism is my chosen purpose. Every atom of my being chants YES whenever I teach and do my thing. I enjoy sharing information and knowledge, so teaching is a joyful role for me. Looking back over my professional career, I can see that the entire journey was preparing me for this role. I’m grateful for every single one of those moments (the pleasant and the painful), for they granted me the experience to be able to now make a living from sharing the song that lives within my heart.

In regards to your own journey, wherever you choose to go from here, may the love and grace of life be with you always… which of course, it always will.

Matthew James Sammut

(Urban Zen founder)