While hiking the Appalachian Trail, I found great comfort in the simple things like the way the wind would pick up as you ascended a long stretch of trail up the side of a mountain at the exact point that you felt you may keel over from heat exhaustion, bringing just the amount of coolness needed to continue with the next step. Or the way a beautiful vantage point would open up as your mind grew weary of the monotonous section of trail you had walked for what seemed like hours. Or the unexpected trailside note or jug of water left for you by a fellow hiker or trail angel after spending an entire day being and feeling alone. And for someone who felt very lost in her own life, I felt great comfort in the sight of the white blaze.
It’s a bit hard to get lost of the AT. First of all, there is the well worn path that thousands of hikers trek every year in pursuit of Mt. Katahdin or Springer Mountain, depending on whether they were a northbounder or a southbounder. Usually a line of hard packed dirt in a sea of green. Other times a swath of well-trampled grass in a field of tall yellow stalks. But secondly, you could always count of the white blaze guiding you forward, helping you navigate your way. The blaze appeared mostly on trees but also on the occasional rock outcropping or telephone pole. There were times I would walk aimlessly, turning over the pages of my life in my mind, and I would stop, look around me and notice that there were other side trails or open areas that had converged on the AT and that perhaps I had lost my way, taken a different route than planned. And then I would shift my weight and gaze, peer around a tree and see the white blaze just up ahead.
If I’m being completely honest, I could use a few white blazes at the moment. There is something so beautiful, grounding and also freeing about knowing your purpose in life, finding your path, and getting on it, and yet there are also times where following your path can be terrifying as there are no white blazes. Following one’s path, or purpose, or Dharma for us yogis, is a journey to the heart, to authenticity and truth, and you must trust every step along the way. This means even trusting the side trips, the unexpected game trails that we sometimes wander down. For me, I don’t have a fear in getting lost or stepping into the unknown. I understand that side trips are necessary. What haunts me is not having found my path soon enough and feeling that I don’t have the time to journey as far down this path as I would like, or better yet, that I know I am meant to have journeyed. Once you know what you are meant to do, you want to be doing it, fully, completely, not taking one step forward, tripping over a rock, needing to take two steps back to find your footing, moving three steps forward again only to get lost on a side trail. This has been my journey thus far on my path of purpose.
And the over analyzing, control freak planner that resides in the left side of my brain can’t help but think that maybe my path is meant to be this long, windy and arduous. That maybe my path is one of patience to be completely with my purpose. Maybe I haven’t completely accepted that living my life authentically in line with my purpose as opposed to planning every step to that purpose is exactly how that purpose comes about. How many times can I quote Ghandi’s “be the change you want to see in the world” and yet not actually be that change, that purpose? I guess I assumed that when you found your purpose in life, there you were. Done. That’s it. Now just live in it. But the purpose is a path and a path is a journey, a constant transition between points. It’s not a destination.
Whew! I feel like I just engaged in quite the philosophical conversation with myself but it does help when I’m feeling a little stuck, shook up, sad, and often tired when I hit side trips in this transition, this journey of the purpose, to actually mull it over a bit. I guess the moral behind this reflection is that I have to be OK with transitions being hard and that my biggest transition is not one that is meant to end. It is my path and although I can’t see the white blazes, they are there if I just trust.