Meeting Yourself on the Path of Life
We had a period of silence while at Phase One at Haven. I went for a very long walk. Walking is an activity I love to do and I was curious to see more of the island. I headed down the south road and chose to take a road across the middle of the island instead of doing the long route around or turning back. This choice happened to involve climbing a very big hill. By this time in my walk, I was feeling very present and alive.
As I climbed the hill, I was conscious of how much this activity was a metaphor for my life journey. There were many choices of which way to go. I could have gone around the island. I could have turned back. I chose to go up the big hill. All of these choices lead to the same destination and provided different experiences along the way. This destination is not an end point in the journey. It was only a stopping place until I chose to continue the journey in a different direction.
For many years, I have focused on the end destination and the trip as something to endure until the final destination has been reached. My learning at Haven demonstrated that it is in the experiences along the journey where the real learning takes place. In my connections with others along the way, I am able to learn about myself.
While I walked, I noticed that I kept my map tightly clenched in my hand and constantly checked my location. I wanted a clear picture of where I was going and I often scanned my surroundings to see if they matched the map I had in my hand. This is so true of the way I am in life. I always want a plan. I plan things carefully before heading off. I consider all my options and choose the one I think is best. I like a plan or a map so I know where I am going. I refer constantly to this plan and check whether it still makes sense for me. I am willing to change it for another plan. I would not want to head in any unfamiliar direction without a plan in hand.
Sometimes walking my chosen path was hard work. It was a very large hill in the middle of the island. I concentrated, step-by-step. I chose not to look at the top of the hill but set shorter reachable goals and placed my focus there. Sometimes the climb seemed so big, I could only focus on each step individually. My life has had times when I could not see my way through to the end of something. Breaking a larger task or difficulty down into manageable chunks and concentrating on one chunk at a time has allowed me to move through those times.
At times while I was climbing, I became tired and chose to sit and rest. At one point, I even lay down with my head on my knapsack and slept on the side of the road. Sometimes in my life, I need to take care of myself and take a break. I don’t need to keep busy all the time. Opting out of the roles I have created in my life and doing something for me helps create renewed energy to keep moving on. It can be a time when I can sort through the load I am carrying and choose to leave part of the load (which I so willingly chose to accept) behind.
Walking backwards provided another metaphor for life. When I chose to look at where I had come from, I could see how far I had come. I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment that I had come so far and done so much. This is a strategy that I have learned to use in the past few months of my life. As I wrote last week, my tendency is to “awfulize” a situation that is about to happen. When I become aware that I am doing this, I have learned to stop myself and focus on the things I have accomplished. This is like looking backwards down the hill to see how far I have already come, rather than looking at the top of the hills and “awfulizing” the size of the rest of the climb.
Looking backwards also gave me a glimpse of the bigger picture. At one point the view was spectacular. I could see the mountains. I could see the ocean. I could see the expansive forests. I could see the beautiful blue sky. I could see the factory pumping smoke into the air. This view gave me a whole new perspective of the island. This, too, is like my life. At times, I want to stop and look at the big picture of my life and reflect on what I see. Does this picture work for me at this point in my life? What part of it works? What parts might need other choices?
Like the beautiful scene in front of me, I like what I see in my life at the present time. AND, the whole picture is not ruined just because that factory is there pumping smoke into the air. I could have focused on the ugliness of it and totally missed the beauty of the rest of the picture – just like life. When I focus on the smoking factory in my life, I am obsessing on all the “shoulds” of what I could have done. How much better it is to notice the “smoking factory of shoulds” and focus mainly on the beautiful scene of accomplishments. I’d never give up the smoking factory in the picture of my life. There is much learning for me there. However, I will not allow it to take over my picture and ruin the spectacular scenery.
The road has twists and turns as I climbed the hill. At times I could see further ahead than I could at other times. When I could see more of the road I had chosen to climb. I had a clearer sense of where I was going and how the scenery was changing. When I reached the top of the hill, I coasted on a flat road for awhile and then the scenery really changed. I was in a whole new place. The road became gravel. My view was blocked when a car went by and the dust filled the air. The forest changed and I was in the middle of it for awhile. In this place, the sounds changed and nothing was familiar. I then reached the other side of this section and found more familiar island landscape, a paved road and less dust.
Again, I could easily relate this new experience of my walk to my life. I have experienced the changes of scenery, where everything seemed unfamiliar and new for awhile. I have experienced the dust filling the air and feeling lost and alone in that place. I have also noticed, as I keep moving through these experiences, the landscape becomes familiar again.
When I was walking through the forests on the dusty hill, the road was narrower and I had to watch for cars. There was also the danger of rocks being thrown by car tires as they passed. There was also the dust – it was not pleasant to breathe. I then noticed signs, as I was walking through this area, about a shooting range nearby. I reflected at this point of my walk about the dangers around us when we choose not to be present in our life. Noticing things like cars and shooting ranges help keep us safe in life and to notice these things, we must stay present. They are not dangers when I am aware of them around me. It was easy to avoid cars and to choose not to walk into the forest near a shooting range. Just like my life – where many of the pitfalls I have found myself caught in could be avoided – all I need do is pay attention and stay present.
The best part of this “lifewalk,” which I experienced in many different ways, was knowing that there were friends at the end to share this experience with. I walked this path alone, with a sense of knowing that there were people I carried with me in my heart, and while they were not with me physically in the moment, we would meet again in the future. At that time, I could share my experience and hear of theirs. I had a new sense of confidence of the presence of others in my life and less of a sense of the isolation that was so familiar to me from the past.
A favourite question of one of the leaders was – “Where did you meet yourself on the path of life today?” In my journey of silence, I met myself again and again and I liked who I found. In that place, I was aware on an infinite number of choices and beautiful memories of connections with people. In those connections, there have been many learnings about me. I now include many people in my treasures of my life.
Take a moment and reflect on your path in life at the present time. Does this picture work for you at this point in your life? What part of it works? What parts ask you to look for other choices? Where are your factories? How big have you chosen to let them be? Where have you met yourself walking on the path of life? Do you like what you see? You are in charge of the picture. It is all up to you.