TO FIND MY WAY. . .

Greenleaf writes: I did not begin to find my way to a knowledge of my own uniqueness until by chance I became aware of seekers who were on the path ahead of me, not necessarily going in my direction but men and women whom I came to accept as guides, guides who only had at heart my getting lost.

I continue to experience that becoming aware of my uniqueness is a mixed blessing.  A tension emerges between affirming my uniqueness and fearing that because of it I will not ‘fit in’ or I will not be ‘accepted’ or I will not be ‘understood’ or I will be ‘uninvited’ or worse I will be ‘dehumanized.’  Adolescents in our culture demonstrate this daily.  They tell their parents that they are unique and then they work hard to ‘fit in’ with their peers – they seek to be ‘like the others’ so they are liked/accepted by the others. 

I had a similar experience to Greenleaf’s.  I was 19 years old when my being ‘different’ was affirmed by an ‘elder’ who was also a searcher and a seeker.  Because of him, I began to consciously seek out other searchers and seekers (almost all of them were older than I).  I followed the ‘elder’s’ advice: ‘Seek and you will find!’ 

I sought out those who were on the path ahead of me.  Some were walking parallel paths and some were walking paths that appeared to be going away from me (our paths literally crossed).  At times I left my path to follow another for a time and was rudely reminded that I had my own path to follow.  Some of my ‘guides’ left their path and walked with me for a time.  When they returned to their own path I experienced deep grief along with deep thanksgiving for the gifts they gave me.

I cannot remember a guide who had at his/her heart ‘my getting lost.’  There were times when I was lost.  I was lost in the dark woods, or in the desert or in the wilderness or in the wasteland and as I was wondering around I would encounter a guide.  Now these guides were not the typical guides for they did not guide me out of my being lost.  They guided me to continue my search for ‘my way’ out.  They did help sustain me – generally via questions and affirmations. 

At times I would become angry because I believed they knew the way out and they were refusing to tell me about it or worse they were refusing to show me the way out.  I came to believe that they knew that I either knew the way out or that I could with effort find my way out.  Here I sit today so I guess they were correct. 

By definition a ‘guide’ is one who knows the way.  For me, there are two types of guides.  There is my ‘inner guide’ (or teacher or mentor or advisor).  There is also the ‘external guide’ that shows up when needed (a thousand years ago the Chinese sage reminded us that ‘when the student is ready the teacher will appear’).  For me, the most effective external guides have been those who did not show me the way; they called forth my inner guide and helped me learn to trust him/her.  They also helped me think more deeply and broadly; they affirmed my ability to develop my thinking capacity. 

Gentle reader, who are – who have been – your guides?  How did they – how do they – help you find your way?  ‘Seek and ye shall find!’ 

PAUSE… 

There is a paradox here – or is it irony.  The path that is revealed might not be the path you want it to be AND (remember, Gentle Reader, there is always an ‘AND’) yet this path, as Frost reminds us, will make all the difference. 

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