I have a bumper sticker on my car that says “not all who wander are lost” with a picture of a stick figure hiker above it. I have this sticker because I love to hike and explore new places. But, as I was reading “Everything that Remains” by the Minimalists, I got to rethinking this platitude. In talking about his experiment with eliminating goals, the co-author, Joshua Fields Millburn, states “I discovered that it’s OK to wander. And if you get lost, so what? I mean, really, would that be so bad?” I’ll take it one step further– maybe the whole point of wandering is to get lost. Anyone who knows me, or has read any of my other posts, knows I’m all about the journey. Life is about the journey, not the destination. I’m also a firm believer in living outside of your comfort zone (stay tuned for a future post!). And, when the journey brings you outside of your comfort zone, i.e, getting lost, watch out! Big things can happen!
The summer after my husband-to-be and I graduated from college, we embarked on a 6-week road trip across the country starting in the Northeast. We had no plans. All we knew is that we wanted to camp our way across the US (and part of Canada) hitting both coasts and as many National Parks as possible. Each morning we would sit at our campsite, pull out a map (remember those), and chart our journey for the day. It was easily one of the best times of my life. We drove through miles upon miles of cornfields in Nebraska. We hiked through a snow squall in Montana, in August. We saw a breathtaking sunset over the canyons of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. We got eaten alive by swarms of mosquitoes in the Badlands. We saw countless national landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, the St. Louis Arch, Mount Rushmore, Alcatraz, The Hoover Dam, etc. And, so, so much more. And, while we weren’t exactly lost (most of the time), we never really knew where we were going. It was this wandering aimlessly that allowed us to discover some amazing places (hello corn palace!) and learn a whole lot about ourselves and each other at the same time.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line This is true But, this is not how the organism works Lives are not linear, but circuitous, meandering, haphazard and gloriously indirect Truth lies on exposed mountain tops In the murky depths of caves and pitch black oceans Not on open highways where we shift into autopilot and coast Potholes, boulders and grandiose vistas Untrodden trails, back alleys and narrow canyons These grow the spirit Sweat, tears, laughter and heartache These build the foundation of our astral ascent The work of living is a labor of love Born of it Given to it When we surrender to the sacred geometry of our humanity The path always leads hOM
Now, I am not advocating putting yourself in a high risk/dangerous situation in which you are unprepared for all contingencies (i.e., lost in the wilderness with no food and water). I guess what I am really advocating is letting go of the carefully constructed plan, allowing yourself to be completely open to new experiences as they arise. Taking the road less traveled. Being flexible. Going with the flow. Getting lost means losing control over what happens next. And, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am not just talking about the physical journey.
As a yoga teacher, I am well versed in metaphor, because everything you do/experience/feel/ struggle with on the mat directly translates to life off the mat. In other words, how you react and respond to losing your way during a car trip is probably a good indication of how you would respond to losing your way on life’s path. So here is my metaphorical interpretation relating the physical act of getting “lost” to Holy Cow! life lesson as borrowed from one of my favorite authors, Tosha Silver, “If you align in any moment with the flow of life as it presents itself, all will unfold in the right way at the right time with a certain spontaneity and ease” (Outrageous Openness 2014). Letting go of control and carefully constructed planning can be really scary and unnerving, because we don’t know what is going to happen next. And often, we assume the worst because we fear the unknown. But, isn’t it just as likely that something amazing and awesome could be just around the bend? How would we ever know if we always traveled in a straight line? Or, worse, stayed in one place too paralyzed with fear to move.
So, let’s recap. Getting lost means losing control of what happens next, and that “what happens next” could quite possibly be totally fabulous and life-altering, which you would not have discovered had you not made that wrong turn, had you not let go of the reigns. To be more concise: wander; be outrageously open; get lost!