I walk on the beach path almost every day.
It is essential to my well-being.
I learn something new about myself every time I walk. I watch people, I listen to inspiring podcasts, books, and music. I breathe consciously. I take in the sights and sounds of nature.
Sometimes I call someone I love.
I almost always take the same path.
It’s comforting and allows me to focus on the present, not on deciding where to go.
There are times when it's completely empty and other times when it's too crowded for my taste.
But I keep walking; moving toward where I am meant to be.
A number of months ago, they began a project to expand the path so that there would be sufficient space for runners, walkers, and cyclists alike.
We all need a path, right?
Our parents, teachers, counselors, friends, religious and spiritual mentors advise, suggest, or urge us to find our path and follow it. And we do the same with those we love, particularly our children.
Although overused and cliche-ish, it still proves valuable.
In a way, nothing is more powerful than finding the path that is made for us, the path that will lead us to deep satisfaction and joy.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Sometimes there seems to be an overabundance of paths leaving us overwhelmed and confused, unable to take action.
Other times, the perfect path alludes us and we convince ourselves that there is no path that is right for us.
Many times the path that `we are led to turns out to be a dead-end and we are forced to reevaluate whether it was the right path, to begin with.
We may want someone else (a parent, a friend, a teacher, a therapist, a psychic) to show us the path rather than doing the hard work of finding it ourselves.
Often we obsess about finding our path; reading book after book on the topic, often ending up more confused than ever.
Later in life, we may forge a new relationship with the concept, letting regrets go and exploring what might become a new path as we age.
But we are always in some sort of conversation about our path.
What better example is there than in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is told that the way to the Wizard, the only one who can help her home, can be found by following the yellow brick road?
I can still remember how relieved I was when Dorothy was led to the beautifully colorful yellow brick road. I felt safe when she took those first few steps as she repeated the instruction, follow the yellow brick road, follows the yellow brick road. We are lulled into believing that she will find her way to safety just by continuing down the path that magically appeared before her. However, the path is not smooth; there are obstacles in the form of lions and tigers and bears, talking apple trees, and very angry witches along the way. The path may not turn out to be the path we envisioned.
I am comforted by the words of Joseph Campbell who warns: “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”
The project to widen the beach path is an enormous one. Truly daunting.
I have watched the workers for months; drilling through rocks, moving mountains of sand, digging into concrete, and even traipsing through water areas and creating bridge-like structures. Every type of construction vehicle known to man has been used in the project. The effort has been monumental. Every day, the workers are there, wearing their safety hats and plugging away, determined to get the job done. Watching the creation of the path has been a life lesson for me and I hope will be for you as well.
Sometimes, the yellow brick road doesn’t appear magically; we often need to forge our own path. As Ralph Waldo Emerson advises; “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
But creating a path is not a simple task. We need to go over, under, and around all obstacles. We need to keep going when it feels too challenging. We need to smile while we are doing the work, remembering that this moment is all we have. We need to be proud of our progress along the way, taking time to acknowledge that we are closer each day to what we seek. We need to create a vision and keep moving in that direction, staying present each moment.
I am in awe of the work that is being done to expand the miles-long beach path.
It’s not as pristine a walk as it used nor is it as quiet as I would like. But I am fascinated each day at the progress being made, at the willingness of those creating it to keep at it. I love seeing the development, witnessing the new cement being poured, the lines drawn and the path appearing.
I am more committed to the path because of the work being done.
It’s inspirational and challenging as paths should be.
The root of the word path comes from patheia, meaning suffering or feeling, sharing an origin with the English word pathos.
The direction of our life is inextricably tied to how we feel.
Spend a moment and think about a path you are on; does it thrill you? Excite you? Make you feel connected with the deepest part of yourself?
Is it arduous? Confusing? Painful?
As you continue, breathe. Notice where you are; take in both the beauty as well as the challenging surroundings. Even when there is suffering, there’s an aliveness that informs us.
One of my favorite quotes about one’s path is from Rosalia deCastro, a 19th century Galician poet who wrote: “I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads, Not knowing where I am going is what inspires me to travel it.”
It’s not about the destination. It’s not even about the journey. It’s about what impels us to keep going; the feeling we get as we travel.
No matter how long it takes, how hard a road it is, no matter how much doubt you have, if it makes you feel alive, keep going.
Take a path, change paths, create a path but always remember the words of Henry David Thoreau and;
“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
With love and light,