Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Maps of Our Lives

We recently discovered that we have lost our GPS.

We're not certain if it was removed from our vehicle by someone or if we relocated it from its usual indoor residence while decorating the house for Christmas.

Either way, we have been forced to return to tapping into our memories in order to find our way out of the driveway.

Just the other day, I drove a friend home from our shift serving at our local food pantry and became lost leaving her community. I didn't mind being lost as I saw it to be an opportunity to explore, and I knew that I would find my way eventually. So I just enjoyed my ride.

I did consider what my partner Frank had said about how we will have to return to paper directions until we either find our GPS or purchase a new one. I could have referred to the directions I keep in my BlackBerry, however, I tend to prefer to rely upon instinct.

Typically, most of us have an internal sense of direction and this brought me to my decision to explore. However, this also brought to mind a good friend of mine who is entering seminary.

David is infatuated with paper maps of any sort. Upon seeing one, his eyes light up as those of a child and his attention is often lost to the map.

Thinking of his journey in life causes me to reflect a bit upon my own insistence to travel without specific direction, but rather to allow myself to wander and trust my instinct.

When we learn to attune ourselves to our inner compass we follow a map that only we can see ... our own path.

All the major spiritual traditions serve the purpose of offering us a road map to guide us on our individual journeys to enlightenment. These road maps are made up of moral codes, parables, and, in some cases, detailed descriptions of mystical states.

We often study the fine points of a particular narrative in order to better understand ourselves and to seek inspiration and guidance as we travel along our journey.

In the same way, when we plan a road trip, we carry maps and guidebooks in an effort to understand where we are going.

However, in either situation, the path we choose has a life of its own.

While maps are helpful, they can only take us so far. There is just no comparison between looking at a line on a piece of paper and driving our own car down the road that line represents.

Some of us prefer following maps, while others among us are always looking for new ways to find our destination.

In relation to our spirituality, the only reliable compass lies within us.

The maps and travelogues left behind by others are great blessings, full of useful information and inspiration, but they cannot take the journey for us. When it is time to merge onto the highway or pull up anchor, we are ostensibly on our own.

Strange weather patterns, closed roads, and traffic jams arise in the moment, out of nowhere, and our maps cannot tell us what to do.

We can take refuge in the comfort of a local Inn by the side of the road, persevere and continue forward, or turn back altogether. The decision is entirely up to us.

Maps are based on observations from the past and we are living in the present, so we are the only true experts on our journey to enlightenment.

We may find that the road traveled by our predecessors is now closed.

We may feel called to change direction entirely so that the maps we have relied upon no longer apply.

It is at such times that we learn to attune ourselves to our inner compass, following a map that only we can see, as we make our way into the unknown territory of our own enlightenment and journey through life.

With love & a map-light,