To love you life, you have to be on a path. It can be any path, the form doesn’t matter.
Take Gerry. This past summer I took a group to Ireland to explore the sacred sites and we stayed at a B&B near Dublin for convenience. The owner, Gerry, was hysterically funny—especially when he was True Irish Drunk (which is to say far more lucid than I would be with that much beer, but still swaying on his feet). He would repeat this mantra sober or drunk: “Every day’s a school day.” And, wow, the way he said it… total enthusiasm.
Gerry was open to learning. Learning was his path. He didn’t seem at first blush to be the kind of guy who really thought that way, so it was all the more charming. Those of us who met him came to love him just for this simple expression. He’s right; every day is a school day. But the path of simple daily learning was what kept him happy.
I often say that there’s no right path, there’s only your path. Any path out there, any organized path, any organized religion, any organized … anything, can be a path. But the unorganized, unofficial path works too. Graduate school is a path, for example. Starting your own business is a path.
Here’s the thing about paths, though:
Any path will take you halfway up the mountain of your life’s adventure. But NO path can guide you up the second half. To love your life, you have to forge that second half yourself. This is where it gets really interesting and sometimes we get lost and stuck and want to pull our hair out, because there isn’t anyone to tell us exactly what’s next. And we became so sweetly accustomed to that on the first half of the path!
Darn it all, this is going to require some original thought!
By and large, our lives work in forward motion. There are certainly periods of retrogrades, seasons of rest and the famous one step forward two-step back syndromes. But forward motion is the primary nature of life. We grow towards the future as the flower grows towards the sun. We move forward in our thinking and hopefully grow internally after the physical growth spurts have finished.
I completely believe in this present moment and living in this present moment; but even learning to do that requires a path, because like most things it is easy to talk about and harder to do.
Finding the path…
I bet you are with me on having a path. But if you are like many, it’s more troublesome than that. Finding, choosing, and then sticking with the path you chose? That’s a little stickier. So here is what I’ve found working with so many: It’s a big life, with a million choices, and we are now all serial pathists (sounds almost like a disease, and yes, I made it up). Like serial monogamists, who by choice or not, are in a series of relationships over the years; we may be a monogamous serial pathist or, we may be wild swingers who blend a bunch of paths at once. I tend toward the latter (not in relationship, that was just an example…sheesh, I could get myself in trouble here).
So I’m a contemporary shaman for my task, a mystic as my core identity, a student of the Tao, a social change artist in the world, a novelist when there is time, and somehow that work/spirit/passion blends all sort of melds together into one path—MY path. It doesn’t have a name, and it doesn’t need to. But I need to be on this path to love my life.
A word about pace…
You don’t want to outrace the path, because you won’t really love your life (unless you truly love the chase, and in that case, you’ll be happy as a country road dog when the rare car comes by). You don’t want to drag your feet on the path either though, because that leads to feeling stuck, behind the eight ball, and out of pace with those you admire. Of course, YOUR pace is YOUR pace. So while you do want to keep it moving, only you can discover it, set it and choose to keep at it.
A word for the overly spiritual…
Like a true Taoist, you may say you are on the path of no path. I’m on that in my own way, so I get it. In that case, the path could be to divest of anything that’s not true of you. But while it could seem like you don’t need a path, but is still a path. True, someday you and I will outgrow it, but don’t outgrow it before you are ready. If you do, you won’t love your life. I can pretty much promise you that.
A word for the overly material…
Your path could be a path to glory and fame, a big house on a hill or driving a jaguar hummer convertible RV. However, step wisely on these paths, because it is for sure true you’ve been fed these dreams as a cultural mandate, and it might not really be YOUR true calling and path. The wrong path for you, even if it looks good from the outside, won’t make you love your life. On the other hand, if it IS your path, and it is also a cultural mandate, you won’t love your life unless you reach for that brass ring.
Fame, for example. I don’t recommend that one unless it’s really your path. It’s a hard one, as paths go; we tend to vilify our famous people, making their lives pretty but also pretty miserable. But if you are meant for that path, then those deterrents don’t really matter. No other path will make you happy. And if someone tries to tell you that you are too big for your britches, oh well …
I recall a word from “my guides”…
Worried about my path early on, I recall once tuning into my higher-level spirit guides (which may well really be my inner guidance projected onto outer spiritual forms—but that’s another book). In specific, I was worried about my ego and this whole “path” thing taking over what seemed to be an otherwise perfectly average everyday life.
This is what I heard: “We’re not nearly so worried about you falling into your ego as we are you not stepping on to your path.”
That was all I needed to hear. I took it to heart and I decided if I was going to err on the side of ego, it was better than not actually doing what I came here to do. I offer you the same suggestion.
A little bonus tip…
As a writer, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing a good story. And what are our lives but stories?
So the conventional wisdom in book writing is to write what you know. But I do not agree with that, at least not when writing your life story. To be engaged in the story as the writer, I like to write something I don’t know. Sure, you want to generally choose a topic—i.e. take a path— that you know something about. But I think you should write what you don’t know because that makes it an adventure. As a novelist, I know there’s nothing more tedious than writing what you already know. If you don’t have an adventure in there… I mean for yourself… and if you’re not learning something, it’s not going to be exciting for you. And if it is not even exciting to you, it’s surely not going to be exciting to your readers (aka whomever you share your life with) and you’re not going to have a love your life.
Getting stuck is normal, but staying stuck is not. So get on (or back on) a path.
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