Moisture dripped from soaked branches and thick mist hung like a veil over the face of the forest. It had an eerie feel, even for a nature-lover that had hiked this mountain over 100 times. I walked the familiar path until something strange caught my eye - a new trail of some sort. Intrigued, I followed it and within minutes stood underneath a deer hunting tree-blind. With that question answered, I decided to continue walking through the forest without a path rather than retracing my footsteps. I am good with directions and knew the general bearing in which to head. The further I walked, the stronger the feelings grew - unrest, discomfort, anxiety, fear. What a curious thing to notice. I stopped and did a quick assessment. I know where I am and where I need to go, I don't know exactly where I will come out but I am not lost, I know I won't become lost, I am just as safe here as on the trail, yet I am uncharacteristically afraid. Knowing that I was perfectly fine, I did not panic and kept going. I also kept noticing, the environment, myself, and my feelings. I saw this as a powerful awareness exercise and used this occasion as an opportunity to learn.
The further I walked into the unknown the more clear it became that this was a metaphor for life and the human experience. We know where we are and where we need to go, we don't know exactly where we will come out but we know we won't become lost when we trust ourselves, we are safe, yet we are afraid. We are so afraid that we will cling to any path, especially the well-worn path, just for the sense of security it brings us, albeit a false sense of security. Sometimes the path that we stick to is not even a path that is headed in the right direction. Paths like addiction, dependency, and shallow spirituality are not fulfilling or healthy paths, yet we desperately cling to them because their familiarity gives us a sense of safety.
This is a trap that we must recognize and free ourselves from. To do so we need only stop, look at our lives, and notice where we habitually act. If we are entrenched in a deeply grooved trail we do not need to remain there. We will not get lost if we wander the forests of our heart and soul. We are just as safe, or unsafe, bushwhacking through new territory as we are on the well-known trail.
It's different to go off-trail. Different is scary, different is also freeing and expanding. When was the last time you took a different way home, or went off-road down the two-track that you've always wondered where it goes? Didn't it feel exciting and just a bit scary to do so? Why don't we do this more often? We are busy, sure, but we are also programmed to follow the trail. We have herd mentality. We are like cattle following the leader to the barn, or to the slaughter house as the case may be. This is the trap of our society - conformity without awareness. Through things such as wanderings, ponderings, and questionings we can free our souls and expand our minds.
This mountain shamanic power journey revealed many treasures. A beautiful stream and meandering deer trails, areas that looked ripe for spring dryad saddle and morel mushrooms and autumn hens-in-the-woods. I found inner power to travel on through fear, trust in myself and my senses, adventure, and I didn't get lost. Eventually, I wandered onto a trail that led to a hidden intersection with the main trail. I marveled at what I had missed, and what I had found. I realized that things are not always as they seem and that we are quick to label, categorize, and dismiss things. We place it in a mental box with our past experiences and then move on without really experiencing this new thing. I thought I knew that mountain, but in fact, I knew very little of that mountain. Amazing things await our discovery when we go wondering and pondering through new territories. Cool stuff is missed when we merely plod along the path. It's the "missing of this cool stuff" that steals the life force energy out of our soul and our life, leaving us feeling unfulfilled, searching, empty, tired, and bored.
Now you know, and you can choose. Keep doing things the same way hoping for a different outcome, or get off the path and look around. Free yourself, free your mind, and free your soul! Just think what might be out there, and "in" there, just beyond the edges of the known path.
Colleen Deatsman is the author of Seeing in the Dark: Claim Your Own Shamanic Power Now and in the Coming Age (Red Wheel Weiser 2009), Energy for Life: Connect with the Source (Llewellyn 2006) and Inner Power: Six Techniques for Increased Energy and Self-Healing (Llewellyn 2005), is a Masters Degreed Licensed Professional Counselor and she is also a Licensed Social Worker, Shamanic Practitioner, Reiki Master, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Certified Alternative Healing Consultant at Circle of Life Counseling and Healing Services and is located in Mason, Michigan. ColleenDeatsman.com