As Fall brings transition, I have been thinking about the nature of pathways: the choosing, the traversing, and sometimes foraging when the path disappears. And then arriving, finding where the path takes you. How did you get there? What did you bring with you? What did you find on the way? How difficult was the passage? Where are you now?
Choosing your path, trying to figure out what is the “right” path, for you, is not easy. And, things are not always as they appear. The soft and sunlit path in the woods, so gentle and inviting, may take you through rough terrain ahead that you don’t now see. And the less appealing looking path may wind up just where you want to be.
I am reminded of an encounter I had in the woods about this time last year. I walk in the woods quite often. It is a wonderful way to move into contemplation—and see where the inner pathway flows. I was well into my walking meditation when I came upon an elderly neighbor of mine, a man well into his eighties. I have met him on the path many times before. But on this occasion, I was immediately struck with awareness that something in his field seemed quite different. He was standing still, at the junction of two trails, one arm outstretched with his worn and weathered hands wrapped around a young tree for support. He made a broad sweep with his other arm towards the fork in the path, and then looked directly into my face, leaned forward and said: ”You need to understand which path to take.”
I thought this odd, as I knew these woods quite well, and I thought he knew I knew them. I asked, “What do you mean?”
“You must choose the right path. From here they look the same, but one of them goes nowhere. It ends in a place filled with debris. The other one, if you take it, gets narrow and rugged and dark in one place, but then it opens up, wide, into a big expanse.”
I was a little confused by this, as I knew where both paths went—and this description didn’t quite fit the physical reality. Then I looked at him again and realized he was not talking about the trails. There was radiance about him that I had not seen before, and I wondered, does he realize what is coming through him?
What a wonderful bit of advice from my friend in the woods. As I left him and moved on, I turned to look at him leaning against the tree, and I thought to myself: I will not see him again.
There was something beatific in his appearance and words that made me feel he was in-between worlds. And so he was.
Discernment and inner feeling sense and knowing are your best navigation tools when choosing which path to take as you make your way towards your own truth and self-expression. But even the best-chosen path often winds through difficult, sometimes dark terrain. This is not something to necessarily avoid; rather, it can present a rare opportunity for self discovery.
With all this talk of woods and paths diverging, I can’t resist leaving you with the last lines of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
You can read the complete poem, or listen to it, in Robert Frost’s own voice, at http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15717