The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by anthropology student Carlos Castaneda, came into my life in the 1970’s although it was published in 1968. Autobiographical? Allegorical? Both? It didn’t really matter to this youthful spiritual seeker who gobbled up these writings like the mystical meal that they were. My favorite portion is offered here:
“Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary.
This question is one that only a very old man asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”
Each day, as I set my bare feet on the ground, taking a step out into the world, there is before me, always a choice as to the direction I maneuver my life. I can dig in my heels and refuse to move forward. I can walk the path alone or in the company of dear ones. I can welcome people along some of the trail and then veer off solo. I can invite in new journeyers. I can plot a course and follow it definitively or I can willingly or reluctantly take detours, enjoying the scenery along the way. Believe me, I have done all of those and have found reward in each, including digging in my heels, since it showed me clearly, the areas in which I had set roadblocks and needed to clear away space in which I could move forward with greater ease and grace. The thing is, there is no ‘there’ to get to. The joy is in the journey.
Just got back from the wedding of the daughter of a dear friend, named Gary. It was the wedding ‘that almost wasn’t’ (for today at least), since the venue was smack dab in the middle of hurricane-land. All of us kept holding a vision that the weather would clear and that the ceremony and festivities would go on as planned. Long about noon, I met up with my friend Ken and together we drove the remaining 40 minutes or so, with the residual wind whipping around the Jeep en route. The gray clouds would occasionally step aside while the sun-glow attempted to push its way through. By the time we arrived, the venue was packed, as the other guests had weathered the storm as well and were smiling in anticipation of the joyous occasion. As a minister, over the past 12 years, I have officiated at a few hundred weddings. It is rare that I am simply a guest, so being a ‘civilian’ was a different kind of experience. I could relax and just enjoy it; basking in the beautiful energy of it all. As I often do, I mused at the winding path that led me to be dancing with, talking with, laughing with, enjoying food with friends, including Ken, Phil and Janet whom I have known for years, as well as folks I just met today. When my husband died 13 years ago, Gary showed up from our interfaith community to sit shiva with us. We became friends after that and now here I was celebrating his daughter’s marriage. Clearly a path with heart we both stepped on. Wishing Julie and T.J. showers of love and blessings that rival the waters that fell from the heavens in anticipation.
Walking out of the restaurant to the parking lot, Ken and I noticed the brilliant sunshine and light winds and were finding it remarkable how the remnants of the storm were gone…hard to imagine that 24 hours earlier, the view was quite different. I shared my favorite line from the movie The Neverending Story…”It’s like the nothing never was.”
When all is said and done, I can use the heart as a map and compass to guide each step along the way.
ww.reverbnation.com/artist/song_details/2428086 A Path With A Heart by Michael London