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Trusting the Path



How do we find what is meant for us? 


Does it come from discipline, practice, planning, execution? 

Not in my experience, no. Try as I might, solid planning and letting my head guide the way hasn’t really lead me to the things I cherish most in life. Not to say that leading with the head is all bad, just that there seems to be something deeper going on when we’re on paths we’re meant for, something that isn’t as explainable, something that can’t be found with just logic and good planning.


I am not, inherently, a go-with-the-flow person. I strive to be, and I’m working on it, but it’s hard to unwire the patterns and bids for control my brain is always trying to take. I tend to plan, re-plan, over-plan quite a bit in my life. I’m big on research, wanting to make sure I choose the “right” things to buy, the “right” places to go, the “right” things to do. I guess I fear that if I don’t research well enough, I could end up missing something that could have been great. But this way of moving through the world never really brings me to the places I feel meant to be. It typically just brings me to states of anxiety and burnout and scarcity.


If I stop though, and take the logic out of it, if I stop and ground myself and look around at my life and what I love, something else starts to arise. 

Will I really miss something that wasn’t meant for me in the first place? How could I possibly miss something if it is truly meant for me? Surely, if I was meant for it, and it for me, I wouldn’t, couldn’t, miss that experience, that thing, that person.


I couldn’t have planned for the ways things have unfolded in my life, not really. I have found along the way that when I loosen my grip and get out of my head, when I just let things happen, everything typically turns out better than I could have planned, and I am the better for it. In that state, I see and feel a deeper a sense of belonging and purpose within this world that transcends anything I could have planned and researched and anticipated. It is like the act of letting go of the control opens up the world around me, letting life and opportunities blossom and flourish in ways I couldn’t have imagined. This is how I tend to know what is meant for me, when I can feel myself step into this sense of deeper peace and opening and expansion, not the fear and anxiety and scarcity.


And yet, we humans are so silly. We can see paths and ways of being that we know are better for us, are maybe even meant for us, and yet we can’t seem to just embrace that way of being. We create and maintain these paradoxes, confusing ourselves and churning in our thoughts, trying to logic and plan and intellectualize our way through it all, spinning a bigger and bigger web that we get stuck in. I do it, constantly. I have this understanding of what I need to feel more at ease, to walk towards what is meant for me, and yet I hold myself back with over-thinking and what-ifs. I have experienced a deeper peace and I know how to access it and I know I could let it guide me, yet I still grasp for control and let fear be my guide instead. 


What would happen if we were to step into a state of trusting that we will find what is meant for us? What could that state of being look like?



 

I took one of my favorite photos a little over two years ago during a long weekend trip to Arches. I have been to the park many times, each time trying to find new trails, new things to see and explore. It is only about three hours from where I live, so I like to try and go out there at least once a year, taking it slow and unraveling more and more of the spectacular landscape and formations.


On the last morning of our trip I wanted to get up for the sunrise. I had an idea of wanting to get epic photos in the landscape and hike probably the most popular and well-photographed path to Delicate Arch. I researched the timing, I figured out the hike, we packed everything so we’d be ready to head out early the next morning. But we ended up waking up slower, we didn’t get out as quickly as we’d hoped and it was a bitterly cold winter morning. I quickly pivoted plans, finding a spot for sunrise that would hopefully be just as great, but less of a hike. We showed up a little later than I’d hoped, I rushed to get to the spot I’d envisioned, leaving behind important things like an extra camera battery and gloves. I got a few photos from the sunrise that were quite nice, but I felt rushed, I was freezing, and my camera battery of course ended up dying. 


I tend to love my photos most when they have a tie to some deeper feeling of stillness and peace that I’d found with the landscape. I knew none of these would hold that for me that morning. 


I love to go out for sunrise, it is my favorite time of day as it is the quiet, purest, most peaceful time to witness a place. There’s more chance of being alone with the land and the animals that call it home. Sunrise also offers the most extraordinary light and color of the day. My eyes tend to flick back and forth trying to catch the changes in light as it moves so quickly across the landscape. In a mere 10-15 minutes you see a whole spectrum of color envelop the land, constantly shifting and morphing into something new. At some point in that time, my mind starts to quiet and a deeper calm sets in – I get to a place of acceptance that I can’t see it all, and that all I can do is enjoy what bits of it I’m meant to witness that morning. I still, I find a place to rest my eyes and just take it in what is meant for me.


All of my planning and controlling that morning had not lead me to that sense of calm I hoped for, that sense of belonging in that place at that time. It had lead me to a frantic and tired mind.


Once the sun had risen, we went back to the car for more layers and that extra battery before setting off for a hike that we’d seen wind off of the main path. 


The sun seemed to rise slower that day, still playing on the horizon as we made our way out further from the main area of the park. Once out on the trail, we were all alone, just us and a few bunnies scurrying around. Snow scattered the ground where the rocks protected it from midday sun. It was so quiet, winter mornings always seem so quiet. I was able to start to actually breathe.


We came to a spot where you could see for miles and miles. As the sun illuminated the land and cut through the light fog, silhouettes of hundreds of outcroppings could be seen scattered in the distance. The earth seemed to stretch out to the nearest outcropping, drawing us to it. It was perfectly framed in its backdrop with the new sun was peaking from behind it, rays streaking through the soft air, illuminating everything in this warm ethereal glow. There was nowhere to be, but here, taking it in. 



I had let go of the control, I followed a simple trail with no expectations, and the world unfolded before me. I found that stillness and sense of connection with myself and with the earth that had evaded me before. I’d found that peace. 


This experience wasn’t big, it wasn’t momentous, the stakes weren’t high. But I had found a moment to practice that letting go. I don’t think I had even fully realized what I was doing as I walked down the path, I’d just loosened my grip a bit, surrendered into the moment, trusted the path, and the earth showed me the beauty that can come from that simple act.


What would happen if we were to step into a state of trusting that we will find what is meant for us? What could that state of being feel like? 


It could feel like peace, pure peace. Like belonging to this place and time, and that this time and place belongs to you.




 



I spent much of my fast-paced 2023 trying to understand how to ground myself, how to slow time and find a sense of presence, and how to get back to older, more deep-rooted, more natural ways of being. I’ve tried and failed and tried at this over and over again. For years, really, I’ve done this, but I finally feel like I’m getting closer and closer to some understanding of how I am supposed to be in this world. 


I’ve always been drawn to natural places, they fascinate me and call to me. As I get older, I want to spend all of my time out along a river bank, or in a grove of pines, or brushing my fingers through tall grasses. I’ve found in my time with the rocks and trees, there are a few things in the natural world that we can always count on. Those forces of wind and water have much to teach us about deep time and slow change. In some ways, the last 3 years of living in the West have been, in a way, a slow study of wonder at the beauty and complexity that wind and water create. 


Through the next year, I will explore my relationship with the landscapes around me, trying to discern what these natural places mean to me in this current world. I hope to weave my way through thoughts on the places I have been and seen, as well as the landscapes I am seeking out throughout this year, my current places of solace and grounding. Through this time of reflection, I will be exploring the relationships between landscape, wind and water, those great forces, artists really, of time and space. 


This is part three of a series of writings associated with my 2024 calendar. Whether or not you have a calendar for the year, please join me back here monthly as I unravel these feelings and wonderings about our deep need for connection with our natural world. 

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