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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Four: You’re going the wrong way!

3 Jan


Looking up:  Have you ever been driving along happily (or unhappily), in a zone of quiet (or frantic) windshield contemplation, and you look up, and realize that suddenly, nothing looks familiar?  In fact, you are lost, and it is slowly dawning on you that you are not only going the wrong way, but you have landed somewhere where you don’t recognize anything or anyone, nor yourself in this habitat.

How can this be, you ask?  You researched the trip; followed the map; read the signs, invested some money; but somehow, you are not in the place where you had anticipated being.  Instead, you are somewhere else and it does not feel right.  It even feels a bit dangerous.  It is late.  It is not easy to turn around.  Your fuel tank is running on close to empty, and there isn’t an open gas station to be found.  However, you decide that turning around is your best option.   This place is not what you had hoped, and you are disappointed that you had invested time and money in getting here.

When this epiphany has happened to me recently (as I feel a crossroads in my own life), lines from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles ring in my head with Steve Martin and John Candy providing some levity to what I know is a disappointing situation:

Neal: He says we’re going the wrong way…”

Del: Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?”

Or, from the Twilight Zone, “Where is everybody?”

All of these lines of confused travellers bear witness to the fact that I can’t possibly be the only one that has found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time even after taking a leap of faith with the best of intentions, and hoping that this dream would play out just as I had anticipated.

How does this happen?  The Dalai Lama in his book The Middle Way:  Faith Grounded in Reason (2014) points out that when we “grasp at self-hood and self existence” we have the potential of finding a very unenlightened existence at some point in the journey.  We realize that what we were hoping for in this harmonious, happily-ever-after dream, did not “penetrate our true mode of being” (p. 19).  He explains that the “direct antidote to the self-grasping mind as well as its associated mental factors is insight into selflessness.  Therefore, it is on the basis of realizing selflessness that we attain true liberation” (p. 16).

What this means for me is that I have to be very clear about who I am so that I can best understand what I have to offer the world, and what to expect from it in return.  Sometimes we fixate on wanting a certain picture of how things will end up.  We manifest them, but in doing so, it has the potential of missing a key ingredient of who we truly are in the picture.  For example, some of us slave everyday to afford our vision, or do things or continue breathing life into a dream that is not necessarily in our best interests.  The dream lacks the raison d’être of all dreams…finding our calling and the flow within that calling.  Finding our vocation is not always an easy journey, as most spiritual journeys are not easy, but it should not be perpetually difficult with obstacle after obstacle thrown in our way.

When everyday is an uphill battle, or swimming against the stream of people with different goals and value systems; or where you have to prove yourself over and over again, just to make a little bit of progress, you know you are in the wrong place with the wrong people.  Therefore, the dream needs to be revised.  And that is okay, because who leads a perfectly well-executed plan the first time around, or even the 500th time around?  Unfortunately, most people don’t try anything new for fear of making mistakes.  A new expression I learned on this trip is a nice one:  “Feeding fear is feeding the enemy.  Feeding faith is feeding your true self.”  Therefore, we have to live in faith, even where our faith may lead us to places that scare us (Chodran).

I come back to the quote from the movie The Lunchbox that says that “sometimes the wrong train takes us to the right station”, and we have to have faith that this is the case.  Sometimes life’s departures from the expected have less to do with our failings, and sometimes to do with external variables that the universe plays out randomly.  The universe knows.  Therefore, sometimes, the courage and the learning that goes with the effort is worth the experience.  It helps us to know more clearly where we want to go–need to go next.  Knowing when to turn around and find another route is part of growing up and figuring things out because we learn from life’s mishaps and periods of isolation and loss, just as we do from finding ourselves in the right places for those blessed fleeting moments in time.

Travelling Teaches Me Much:  There is something about the fluidity of travelling that shows me more about life than any other experience that I attempt.  Travelling relies so much on chance and a faith that whatever we plan (or don’t plan) will turn out to be a great experience.  If we go in to travelling with any higher expectations, we are bound to be disappointed.  How wonderful if I can learn to transfer this philosophy more to my everyday life and become less attached to it, and dependent on so much of what I do for a living to afford the things that I surround myself to call it a safe, secure and successful life (attachments).

On each trip, I get lost, lose something, meet someone, learn something, inquire about something that I didn’t know about before, risk a little, and find joy in small experiences.  I always grow from my experiences.   However, every so often, I look up, and say to myself, “I’d rather be anywhere but here.”   I don’t feel safe.  I don’t like the vibe, the people, the smell…all of it, and I move on.  This is not a waste of time to realize this after you have invested time getting to these locations.  It is, instead, insight, and wisdom to realize that it is time to move on.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.