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Growth Along The Path

I spent many years feeling I wasn’t yet on my path. In fact, I spent decades searching for it. Even self-identified as a seeker with some sense of pride in that fact! I looked everywhere- while attaining accolades at public institutions as I strived to achieve National Board Certification, while filling the plate with yet one more training, one more retreat, one more skill…Do you know of which path I speak? I would often think- this surely isn’t it, the path I am on now is full of adversity, challenge, loss, confusion, bouts of illness, and disappointment. I held it like the true path wouldn’t feel this way, would be free of those aspects, would mirror to me all my desires. Would make me feel at home, met, found and call me forward... The true path would reassure me. I would know it when I find it! Of this I was sure.

There is a parable I once heard that illustrates the story of two men wandering about in a dark forest late at night. One-a philosopher, was looking up into the dark and stormy sky, bedazzled by the brilliance cast in a streak of lightening. He became distracted and mesmerized, stunned, amazed. But he was off path and standing in a meadow facing the thickest part of the forest. The other, a simple farmer, was focused on the ground beneath his feet. And with every flash of lightening, he could take stock and see his next step. One step at a time he made his way. He was on the path and had a direction to pursue. Only one of these men found his way out.

It has occurred to me in recent years that my true path has been laid with each step I’ve taken. That my life IS my path. That every insight or confidence gained from all of it- all the adversity, challenge, discomfort, loss- all of it has merely been the terrain- and my choices have actually been the GPS system I have used for which to navigate it all. Like both a flash of lightening and a slow unfolding, a strange and unique meandering- this truth has found me!

The longer I practice Mindfulness- the more aligned I become with a compass bearing that is clear and free of the obstacles that veiled my knowing of this truth. The more I appreciate each step that is mine to take. The more clearly I feel the full spectrum of my emotional life and the less reactive or resistant I am to the uncomfortable bits of it. I have begun to see that there is opportunity in my confusion. Opportunity for me to tune-in deeply where internal clarity resides. In this step by step pace, the dust settles inside of me where I have begun to see the social conditions, the inherited beliefs, the mythologies that I had unwittingly adopted and identified with. When I spend time looking for reassurance outwardly, I am bound to become confused. There is honor in the pain of loss on my path because it shows me what I loved and valued and it reminds me how ephemeral the physical experience of life is. It helps me cherish what I have right in front of me. There is wisdom to be gained by developing a healthy relationship to trial and error and to my perceived failures which really have become tuning forks for my growth.

Yes! Oh glory, my life itself is my path! I’ve been on it all along! Who knew?

And though some of the steps haven’t been easy, they- each one- have brought me here now. I find myself at a new vantage point on the trail. I have learned to take in the view, observe the big picture, and attend to the details. I don’t have to spend time looking for something outside what’s already here anymore. I simply can become still, and tune-in on purpose through practices of meditation and Qi Gong. Through wholesome activities like hiking, rafting, biking, painting, building... being on the land… I enjoy the intersection of friendship with other identified seekers. Like a gardener or simple farmer, I tend to the path now and guess what? Gratitude and appreciation, beauty and love have become my traveling companions on this beautiful path of life as it is!

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