Last week, I commented on a few lovely photos of footpaths in the woods and started thinking about all the pictures I have taken of rural paths and roads through the years. There is something reverently hopeful about the sight of them; I suppose that’s why we have so many sayings like take the high road, the road less traveled, finding your own path, and the idea of being at a crossroads.
I am not one to push my philosophy of life on others; I appreciate the right of everyone to believe differently. But for the purpose of this post, I’d like to share mine: Each of our individual paths is leading us to the same destination with unlimited opportunities for detours of our choosing. Love toward ourselves, our family, and our friends often suffers when we are on detours for long periods. (For example, working at a soul-sucking job, being in an unhealthy relationship, feeding addictions, or other situations that we know in our hearts are not right.) Lucky for us, if we are paying attention, we are often nudged to return from these self-sabotaging detours.
Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask this crucial question: Does this path have heart? ~Carlos Castaneda
I arrived at this philosophy through study (during college and beyond), observing others, time in Nature, living & working at holistic centers, Sunday morning lessons, and other personal experience. Looking back, I can clearly see the nudges provided for me, and they turned out to be huge blessings.
In my early 20’s, I took a job at an investment banking firm. After 3 years of learning the ropes and getting registered, I began working with a seasoned financial advisor who would prove to be the most difficult person I’ve ever known. Regardless of how busy we were, if things went wrong, he often stormed out of the office, leaving me to figure out how to fix them while conducting business as usual. And some of our individual clients allowed the Dow Jones Industrial Average & the price of their stocks to dictate their moods, phoning several times a day. When the market was down sharply, they could be really vicious. I hated – and I do mean hated – every day of it, but did it for the money while self-medicating with alcohol, unhealthy food, and bad relationships. One day, 11 years in, we were on a conference call to the back office to learn about a new tax deferral possibility for a favorite client. I was familiar with some of the info, and due to the way I conducted my part of the conversation, I was accused of leading the back office person to an unfavorable outcome for our client. That was it. That was the nudge I needed. I handed in my notice a few minutes later. And it turned out to be the perfect decision, even though, at the time, I didn’t have a clear idea of what came next.
It is important to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed. ~Ram Dass
After a period of licking my wounds, I struck out on my own in a very different field – holistic healing. I had earned my Doctorate, and I was eager to use my knowledge to help others. I did one-on-one consulting, conducted group discussions, wrote articles for a local health magazine, lectured at various venues, developed & taught classes and workshops, and practiced reciprocal marketing. Although I worked long days, usually 12 – 14 hours each, I had to dip into savings every month to pay the bills. During this 2-year span, relationships with my romantic partner, my best friend, and my ministers fell apart. I began to feel like a failure in every way. I wallowed in depressed isolation for a while, until another much-needed nudge came in the form of a spiritual epiphany. It inspired me to sell my home and most everything else in exchange for long-term travel. (Read about that adventure in my post Escaping Normal.) Again, the outcome couldn’t have been more perfect. (And happily, I have reconnected with my minister friends!)
I sometimes hear people talk about the things they would go back and change on their life path if given the chance. I wouldn’t change anything. I’m happy with where I am and who I’ve become, and I know all of my ill-advised detours and redirecting nudges have been necessary components.
Have you had similar experiences? I’d love to hear about them if you’re willing to share!
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. ~Guatama Buddha
Blessings on the Path,
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.