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18 August 2022
An invitation to rethink and reset our direction
Words Jo-anne Brown
I caught sight of it once, just a glimpse, as we drove past on our way to somewhere else. Actually, it was the person I saw that made me notice the path he was on. It was just a track through the bush, and if I hadn’t seen someone hiking along it, I might never have noticed the path. Now I always look for it. Sometimes I see the narrow pedestrian bridge that crosses over a gully, and sometimes I see a break in the fence that marks an entrance point, but I’ve only once seen someone walking there.
There is something mysterious about this parallel path, hidden in the bush on the side of the main road. It invites me to slow down, stop the vehicle I’m in and pause for a while. This hidden pathway calls me to connect with nature, to let my hands brush against the trees, to smell the scent of eucalyptus, hear the crunch of leaves beneath my feet and maybe catch a glimpse of a kookaburra or kangaroo. My destination will still be there when I resume the journey – and sometimes, it really doesn’t matter if it takes half an hour longer.
I’m grateful for good roads and reliable vehicles that help us to get where we need to go. I’m also aware that life is more than simply arriving at a destination – whatever that destination might be. In the world we live in, we have certain commitments to work, family, sports or whatever else is needed to keep our lives and ourselves running smoothly. These are often important and worthwhile commitments and are frequently held within some time frame.
Yet most of us yearn for something more, to occasionally break free from obligations, hurrying, or simply getting from one point to another. I once read a quote comparing modern life to an automatic car wash. Once you get pulled into the system or process, you just have to keep going. You are locked into the track you have chosen, and there are no detours or deviations. You keep going until you are finished and pushed out the other side.
Sometimes it seems that the choices we once made are now making us! We may want, even need, to change how we do things, but feel committed to going a certain way and don’t know how to change paths. Perhaps we’re vaguely aware of a desire for things to be different but feel we don’t really have what it takes to make such a significant change. Or maybe we don’t even know how to stop the quickly moving vehicle we are in to even look at another path!
And that, I find, might well be the hardest thing – to simply slow down enough, to pause, so we can pay attention to where we are going and discern if that is still the right direction for us. We might need to ask ourselves: “Is this still where I want to go? Am I really content with this direction?”
When we pull over, just for a short time, we allow ourselves to take stock, breathe deep and notice things we simply don’t see when rushing past. It is in the pausing that we give ourselves the mental space to reflect on how we are living our lives and if there are other ways, other paths, we can choose. Simply because a pathway or a destination was right once doesn’t mean it will be right for us always. The parallel path, the less visible one, may be an invitation to rethink and reset our direction. It may be an opportunity to give some attention to our mental, physical or emotional wellbeing so we can continue our journey refreshed and renewed.
This is better than blindly continuing to drive when we no longer know where we are. I have often been lost when driving in unfamiliar places, yet I remain convinced that if I keep going, I’ll eventually find the right way. Very occasionally, this strategy does work. More often, however, I end up farther and farther away from where I want to be, in quite another place altogether, which takes a great deal of time (and patience) to correct!
Learning to pull over, take stock, and check where I am and where I’m going has often made life much easier than it otherwise might have been.
Learning to pull over, pause, notice what else is there and choose to take time to explore can lead to discoveries of delight and moments of refreshment. These experiences are so good for our souls!
And sometimes, the detours or unintentional pathways I have taken have turned out to be just the right way for me at that time!
I come back to the less visible path running beside the main road. It’s shady and cool, winding amongst the trees beside a stream. A bird sings. I think it’s time to stop the vehicle, get out, breathe deep and do something good for my soul.