I like to say in counselling that the most appropriateanalogy for life is a long journey by train. Think aboutit. We get on and the train leaves the station. We'reoff. It's exciting. We look forward to arriving, reachingour destination, but then it all starts to get a bitstale, mundane and dreary. I'm not saying life is likethat but for long tracts of time, it can be. We chugalong, getting bored and restless.
Sometimes, we stop altogether and that's even moretedious; we feel stuck. When we set off again, we cansometimes relax and enjoy the scenery. At other times,we go "off the rails", change tracks or evenbecome completely derailed. Then there are the tunnelswhen we can see no light, when we have to trust theprocess and suffer the darkness. This is a particularconstruct I often offer my clients when they're goingthrough difficult times. I suggest they imagine walkingthrough a tunnel, the only light a tiny speck in thedistance. The choices are to curl up in a ball and giveup, or keep putting one foot in front of the other andwalking towards the light.
After all these stops and starts on our train journey,we may very well arrive, but it's only a matter of timeuntil we start on another segment of our journey. Theonly way to stop travelling is to die, so, in a sense,the trip never ends. It stops and starts like all oflife. Nothing in life is permanent; it's transitory.Once we embrace that concept, it all becomes smoothsailing. Oops, I'm mixing my travelling metaphors soperhaps I've said enough on this point. In consideringthe idea of life being any type of journey, here aresome of the important factors:
Decisions are part of the everyday fabric of life. Wemake small and large ones constantly. The smaller ones,we don't think about or even notice, such as what icecreamflavour we feel like. Twenty flavours are laid out infront of us and we choose the one that looks most appealingin the moment.
Larger decisions can be tortuously difficult, mainlybecause we're afraid of making a mistake. This is causedby lack of faith in self judgement. In the end, allwe can do is act and trust the rest. It's almost betterto make the wrong decision than to keep sitting on thefence because indecision is one of the most stressfulthings we can put ourselves through. Some of the travellingdecisions are to do with how we choose to go - FirstClass? Riding on a donkey? Smooth terrain or rough road?Pressured and rushed or enjoying interesting experiencesalong the way? Let this be your guiding principle asyou go through your life's journey - what do I reallywant to do; what will give me the most fulfilment?
Then act accordingly. T
hat fictional character, Aunty Mame, says, "Lifeis a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."Make sure your life is a rich smorgasbord full of avariety of tastes, people, choices and activities youlove.
Notice the Signposts
There's no travel without direction and no directionwithout a guide. Whether you move through life beingled by your internal compass or you prefer to use yourintellect or outside influences, we can all benefitfrom the many invisible signs that surround us. They'reonly invisible because we neglect to see. In fact, thereare "messages" to guide us at every turn.You are worrying about your tax return and you passan accountant's sign; you want to select a study courseand run into someone at a party who works at a universityor college; you need help in baking a cake and youraunt sends you a recipe book. These events occur allthe time and I recommend you start noticing them. Whetheryou do or not, they'll help you anyway but I believethat consciousness is an asset in all areas. Paulo Coelhospeaks of "omens" in The Alchemist and thetheme of the book is that we can reach our dreams ifwe follow these. I prefer to call them "signposts"which can be read and followed, allowing us to walkour path with a little more clarity.
CROSSROADS AND TURNING POINTS Anexercise often used in self development courses is tochart your life as a story. One of the very first clientsI ever counselled said she couldn't write very welland asked if she might draw her history. She ended uptelling me her whole childhood in the form of a comicstrip although it was anything but humorous.
The most revealing part of any person's story, whetherwritten down, orally recorded or drawn, is the patternof choices, all the points at which we are brought toa crossroads and can go one way or another. In RobertFrost's poem, "The Road Not Taken", he saysthat the road we choose when we come to a turning pointin life "makes all the difference". Not anexact quote but it's true to the intent of his words.
Think back to all these points in your life and letyour imagination stray down a different path. For example,what if you'd taken that job in Sydney instead of gettingmarried in Perth? What would your life have looked likethen? Would it have been better or are you gratefulyou took the choice you did? There'll probably be atleast six of these major crossroads in any lifetime,and dozens of smaller ones. I believe we all are exactlywhere we're meant to be even when the going gets tough.Breathe in the landscape wherever you are.
Love as a Companion
Love is the most dangerous journey of all and yet it'sas natural as breathing. Along our way, love is themost perfect travelling companion. It can come frommany different sources and in many different forms.First and foremost, we carry love with us always inour personal luggage. Unfortunately, in those same suitcases,is a lot of other emotional baggage that is heavy andundesirable. It makes our travelling tougher and slowgoing. So, in order to travel lighter, we need to shedour negative beliefs and conditioning even as we mighttake off layers of clothing. Pure, spiritual love cannotoperate under the load of all that weight. Once it'sdiscarded though, infinite love is the treasure beneath.Then we can attract love from outside and enjoy theriches of our environment - the beauties of nature,the joy of positive relationships, work that is fulfilling,peace and harmony with all around us. It is naturalto go in the direction of what we love. Thus can travellingbe truly wonderful.
We take all kinds of journeys in a lifetime. Physical- trips, holidays, relocations from suburb to suburb,city to city or even country to country; Emotional -falling in love, the pain of loss, the adventures ofparenting, successes and failures; Psychological - selfdiscovery, remembering, forgetting, forgiveness, release,peace and acceptance; Mental - studying, experimenting,reading, writing, working, ideas, discussion, knowledge;Financial - spending, buying, debt, tax, mortgage, creditcards, materialism; Physical - birth, illnesses, exercise,weight loss, weight gain, ageing, death.
Yes, these are all individual trips we take within themain journey. For me, all of life is a journey.
When I watch a film, I totally immerse myself in theworld that has been created therein; when I read a book,I embark on a journey of however many pages it contains,meeting characters and new friends along my way; whenI fall in love, I journey out of the rational and intothe vulnerable where guidebooks and maps are of littleuse; each day is an entire journey unique and contained;working with a client is a journey we take together(in fact, I often describe myself as a tour guide);every new friend is a narrative waiting to be unfolded.Anything that begins and moves towards a conclusionis a journey. Some will be enjoyable and some will bepainful, but they're all good.
I used to believe that the most important thing inlife was to leave behind a legacy, something valuablethat you've achieved. In 2000, a beloved friend diedat the age of 73 and she changed my mind on this. Idecided that on my deathbed, I want to be able to sayI enjoyed my journey. She certainly did. In her lifetime,she sang and played the piano, married three times,had three children, cooked for about a million peopleand loved a drink. The very week she died, I read aquote on the internet that said, "Make sure youdon't die with your music still inside you". Myfriend didn't and I don't intend to either.
The secret is to be present in your own life, in yourrelationships, work and in all that you do. Travel withdelight, press your nose up against the glass, see withthe eyes of your inner child, follow your dreams, expectmiracles, fly without a net, enjoy everything, trust.Plunge into your life. Then you will travel on the wingsof all possibility.
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