Most people think that finding yourself lost is the worst possible outcome when wandering into a wild unknown.
Yet, it is really rather simple to gather a sense of direction, if you let your wildish instinct guide you around.
You pick a trail and you walk it, maybe observe pristine nature in its purest form, shed a pound or two, spot some sort of wildlife—though, not necessarily the kind when you find yourself hovering knee deep in sagebrush with your pants around your ankles asking the accidental passerby, “pardon me ma’am, but might you know of a bathroom around here?”
This I’ve learned from experience. And we’ll leave that little backstory up to the reader’s imagination.
And even though, I’m the furthest thing from the Clark half of the duo known as the infamous Lewis & Clark expedition, but I often wander deep into an unknown wild, mighty fine without knowing where I will end up.
Nothing has ever helped me as much as losing my way in an unknown stretch of woods.
Now, I’m not talking about the thousands of square miles that make up Central Idaho’s Frank Church wilderness here, where wild beasts might feast on you. I’m speaking of the sort of woods that some might consider their neighborhood church, and I—with them—wholeheartedly agree.
One is much better off seeking normal woods, a dozen miles or so across, which you’re bound to pop out on top of a mountain, or, at some point, wherever you’re meant to be, no matter how far off the beaten path you go.
Off The Beaten Path
This day and age, so much of our stress and anxiety about future, about where we might end up, most often stems from all the analysis and over thinking we do as adults.
We ask ourselves all sorts of questions constantly. Even now, as of recent, I recall countless nights lying awake, entertaining ideas, and wrestling with my heart and soul via my mind.
I was trying so hard to figure out where I would end up that my heart felt defeated before the following day even began.
But all the over-analysis got me nowhere; it just burned away more precious time, not to mention, precious sleep.
But the reality is that no matter how smart and organized we may think we are, we cannot predict the future. Things are moving so fast and we’re so interconnected today that it is impossible to predict where you’ll end up a year from now, and most likely, even tomorrow.
You just don’t know what tomorrow may bring. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because you will not be basing your sense of direction on a forecast that’s likely to be absolutely wrong.
You’ll be making your choice on what’s really important to you, right here and right now, not tomorrow. But by what’s right in front of you.
By recognizing and ultimately accepting the unpredictable nature of life, we can stop overthinking and overanalyzing, and start living more in the present moment.
This helps to open the mind up to the possibilities of today. But that’s hard when our moral compass is slowly being recalibrated by all the technology that control our lives nowadays.
Even though we do, we like to think that we have so much control over our lives, and yet, it’s ironic that we feel so frighteningly undisturbed, without really having any.
We have phones attached to our eyes, telling us what to believe no matter if it’s true or not, and in our cars, directing us when to exactly take that left turn. We have watches on our wrists chiming in on how many steps we’ve taken and how many more we need to take to hit the goal of our predetermined daily movement.
We wheel and deal in rhythmic analytics, mostly over-evaluating the quality of our own thoughts, creations, and strength by how many likes we rack up on whatever social media platform we choose to share our creative self or life on. Everything is a comparison to someone or something else.
Our self-absorbed problems today are more complex and threatening than at any time in history.
Sadly, it is not easy to solve those problems, because our orientation of reality is lower than a snowman’s blood pressure.
We squint at the reality of our existence through the thick veil of personal and societal ignorance, covered up by even more opaque screens of disinformation, most thoughtfully provided by our news of choice, social media, the state, the church, and big business. And more often than not, these are all one in the damn same.
Though, I’m not here to talk about all that jazz today, I’m just here to discuss what it takes to gather the right sense of direction, when there are so many wrong ones to choose from.
Back On Track
You see, the human soul can surprise even itself when lost and untethered from the “real” world.
It was Thoreau whom advised that we should walk in the woods as though “never to return”—which is to say, being perfectly fine with being lost forever—and that our heart may come back in a purer form than it was when we left.
When we get lost, we must necessarily forsake control out of necessity, all but saying to our wild inward nature, “Here I am, guide me in and funnel me out.”
In that moment there’s a pretty solid chance that you’ll meet up with a little friend of yours, who often only shows up when one has completely let their guard down.
He means no harm whatsoever, but most folks have a knack for walking the other way from him when they’re too damn focused on the end results, of daily tasks—even the little ones; like trying to find our way based on which way the damn map attached to our ass tells us to go.
Who is this friend, you might be asking?
Tickle The Truth
Well, to put it frankly, he’s the truth.
Sometimes it’s the truth of things you’ve done that catch up to you, the things you’re great at that you never give yourself enough credit for, or the painful changes you should make without chewing endlessly on the things that you royally screwed up.
It is damn near impossible to walk purely in that moment, without the bother of what turn to take, and not encounter the truth for at least a hot minute or two. But that’s when you must let instinct take the lead, and from there it’s a crapshoot.
But the truth of the matter at hand always comes unsought, sometimes even sans surly attitude. He’s nothing more than a high-stepping companion of thoughts, trampled underfoot to the sound of crunching leaves. And his name is reality.
Running hand in hand with reality is a lot less scary and stressful than trying to escape it. But at some point we have to meet up with the truth in spite of the reality of ourselves.
See, in my opinion, to find your way is to take the shortcut straight through all the difficult parts, to make that formal decision to face things like fear, self-doubt, and most importantly, the truth of yourself.
And I—like most everyone—am the type that doesn’t always end up back at the official starting point of the journey, where it all began, but I can and I will find my way back to where I am meant to be, from wherever it is I end up, and you will too, and that my friends, is the plain and simple truth.
So go. Hit the road.
Take a walk. A little hike. Get lost.
As much as possible.
Because if you find your way through an unknown stretch of woods enough times, and meet up with that little unseen friend of yours, you’re bound to become an ace navigator in all other arenas of life.
Perhaps even, a veritable version of your truest self.
And for now, if you’ll excuse me, I finally found the bathroom;)
Til the next time,