The gods name the top three travel mistakes

trainWhere we left off was that I was heading to Paris for a few days of self-imposed R&R. I had told myself no soul contract work; this was to be a bit of a break from all the stretching, growing and learning I have been doing. Or so I thought.

Mistake #1: Assume you know what the gods want.

There is an expression that goes something like, “If you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans.” I had forgotten that bit of wisdom.

Clearly, the gods have their own agenda. I was strongly reminded of this fact when I arrived in Paris and discovered that everything that had been pushing my buttons, realigning my belief systems and making me dig deep in the UK had accompanied me to Paris.

There I was on the Eurostar train and, lo and behold, seated next to me is my baggage, all nattily dressed and turned out for this piece of the journey. “What are you doing here?” I wail. My luggage simply beams knowingly at me. I hate that.

Now, let me be clear: I am not talking baggage as in clothes. I am talking baggage as in all that damnable stuff that weighs me down, has me stalled, old worry tapes, dueling thoughts, gnarly expectations and the ever-audible critical voice.

This baggage is more like a bag of Halloween tricks; it is a) not fun, b) unwieldy to carry, c) full of nasty surprises and d) would be the last thing I would choose to tote and cart around on a mini vacation.

OK, so let me try to think somewhat like the gods, would their philosophy be this? If I must lug my inner luggage, it would suggest that I would presumably become aware, i.e., conscious, of this weighty mass, and this consciousness could lead to insight and, possibly, even, dare I say it, enlightenment? That certainly sounds overwhelming to me and mightily ambitious on the part of the gods.

Nonetheless, I might guess that the gods thought this was an excellent opportunity, being in the City of Light and all, for me to really unpack my stuff and perhaps, just perhaps, lighten the load.

Not quite your standard vacation fare, but I will grudgingly admit that those determined gods had a point.

Mistake #2: Always choose to travel.

Sometimes the idea of getting out of Dodge seems like the sanest, most reasonable and rational thing to do. And, it is.

And sometimes that thought of charging pell-mell towards another direction is fueled by a need to be in movement, dreamy expectations, history and the like. We, humans, are a complicated lot.

There is an expression that comes from the 12 Step Tradition that is called “doing a geographic,” and that means deciding to physically move and relocate to a new area in an effort to create anew, but, in actuality, is about avoiding the issues at hand, the issues at home, and, essentially, the issues within yourself.

There are times when the hardest part of the spiritual path is sitting at home and simply being present with you – no distractions, no pouring over new maps. This at-home still point creates an opening; there is a place for some bit of unknown mystery to bubble up and make itself known.  

Sometimes staying at home and, more importantly, being at home with yourself, can make Dodge the place where, ironically, all the action, albeit internal action, is. 

Mistake #3: Getting lost is a problem.

Hand-in-hand with travel is a learning curve. And by definition, a learning curve suggests a few blunders and miscalculations along the way. After all, travel usually involves a new frontier of some make or model that requires a bit of basic mastery or competency to allow you to get from point A to point B.

This brings me to the topic of getting lost, a fairly common phenomenon among travelers of every ilk and persuasion.

When traveling, I often get turned around and head in the opposite direction intended, and Paris was no exception. In retrospect, I should have simply walked the reverse route.

What makes me smile is that every time I asked directions to my hotel I was told one of two things: “Two lefts and a right,” or “Straight ahead.” Neither set of directions turned out to be accurate, but, hey, there was a lesson to be had.

I concluded that we are lost until we ask for directions. It’s that easy, ask and you shall find. Now, of course, these directions can be faulty, but once you have them, you feel like you are back on track. Your destination is looming nearby; you are no longer lost, you are simply in transit. You feel less befuddled and more in command. And you still really don’t know where you are going; you are simply more settled and reassured that you are headed in the right direction.

Spiritual paths are a lot like this; you stop, you ask for assistance and you choose to follow one transitional roadway after another.

It’s as if the gods have ignored the charted cartography and deliberately chosen the paths of the blue highways, those ancillary and off-the-main-drag kinds of roads that require us to slow down, take in the scenery and experience the actual journey. No 100mph motorways here, it is mile by mile with every rotation of the wheel making a reassuring thunk-thunk sound, like the lub-dub of a heartbeat, to remind us of the preciousness of the journey itself.

And, undoubtedly, we, human types, will keep asking directions — prayer by prayer. The truth be told, we are constantly in transition, always traveling in one form or another. And this, ultimately, presses us to surrender to the unfamiliar. And in that surrendering, does not the unfamiliar become familiar?

Whether we are lost in a fuzzy cloud of unknowing or are marching purposefully in transition to our supposed destination, we are frequently in that in-between place called limbo, where the once-familiar and the unknown intersect.

Limbo is a place of disorientation. Like the fool card in the tarot deck, limbo is a place where we start on the journey, yet again, as a beginner. This is the sweet spot where all things are possible.

From my perspective, getting lost may just be the answer.

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6 Responses to The gods name the top three travel mistakes

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell May 20, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    Dorothy, my short answer is to forgive. Everyone has their own path, whether we concur or not. We have to allow people to walk their walk. And vis-a-vis your sister-in-law, sometimes people are doing the best they can on a given day, even if we receive it as not much of anything. Sometimes saying no is the best answer for that person on that day. We might need to give people a little wiggle room. Be gentle with yourself and others.

  2. Dorothy Norman May 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    I feel I carry around a ot of baggage about certain people that have died (2 sons). I don’t regret their death so much as I feel it could have been avoided if they had only listened to me. Who am I to judge? I have a sister-in -law whom I thought we were best friends and I got sick and couldn’t drive. I ask here to go to the store for me and get me some soup but she refused. Said I could go myself. I don’t understand and now I don’t even want to have a thing to do with her. I lost a friend and I feel bad but I didn’t do anything to have her refuse me. What should I do?

  3. Adele Ryan McDowell May 13, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Thanks, Kathy. This is an earlier post that wanted to come out and play again, so, alas, I am not in Paris. I have, however, returned from London, Boston, and will visit DC this weekend for my goddaughter’s graduation. That said, I will meet you in the dream state and we can envision walking the Tuileries Garden, eating croissants, and enjoying the splendidness that is, indeed, Paris. Thanks for the connect. Much love

  4. Adele Ryan McDowell May 13, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    You are so fun, Na’ama. And I agree, that pesky luggae needs a new seat assignment. Thanks, dearheart. Much love

  5. Na'ama Yehuda May 13, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Love this!
    May we all–lost and baggage-laden–be directed, heed answers, and feel found …

    PS Note to self: get luggage a ticket in Business class, no chance it will come sit next to me in Economy… 😉

  6. Kathleen DiGiovanna May 13, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    Very thoughtful and open ended. You describe all of our journeys. I will think about Paris and you today. Thank you. Kathy