We are on a journey. If you have any doubts about this, simply look back on where you have been and take notice of where you are now. We may not have noticed each step, we may not have counted each beat of our hearts, and we may not have enjoyed each breath, but we are in different places now. Where we were a week, a year, or a decade ago, is different than where we find ourselves now. With little effort, it is easy to see, our bodies have changed, our families have changed, our willingness to be open to wonder, has changed. We may feel we were carried to where we are now, or we may believe we got here on our own. No matter how we feel we arrived, we are here now.
Some people confuse a journey with a destination. Some people judge every change by its direct relationship to where they would like to be at the end of life. This practice makes the journey burdensome. Always judging an action or a circumstance by how it plays into a well-defined plan for where we want to be, makes even the simplest of decisions and outcomes weigh heavy our minds and hearts. Having a vision or a goal is admirable. Having to judge every action by how it achieves a vision or a goal, is disrupting. Both to the one judging and to the present moment in which a person lives. The journey is found in this present moment always. Destinations belong to the future.
Are goals wrong? Should I not have a plan for what I hope to achieve in life?
Goals are not wrong. Planning for what you want to achieve in life is advised in making every day decisions. With regard to being on a journey, it is recommended that goals and plans have a mysterious element factored in when creating such ideas. In fact, if I think making more money or getting a promotion in the future, is a worthy goal, then I would be well served by living and as if I had already received that increase in wage or work like I already had that promotion. Our mindset when we do menial tasks often makes it possible to achieve greater things. What is important, however, is to know that the Universe may offer possibilities of achieving goals and carrying out plans in a way that may, at the time, make little sense to us.
When I was 14 years old. My father and I spent every Saturday and Sunday in the summer, digging a hole. We would wake early to beat the heat, take a break when the sun was at its peak, and finish up the late afternoon and evening below the earth. What is harder to believe than a teenager wanting to dig a hole is a father taking part in such an endeavor. There was talk about us striking water and feeding a pond, but in truth, my father knew the likelihood of that happening was small. Even still, he helped me research water tables, bought and borrowed pumps and tools, and every weekend, spent time with me, digging a hole. This is an example of “Journey Living”. Placing importance on the way in which we live, rather than what we accomplish by living.
Thinking back on that summer, I realize I learned life lessons. I got a workout without joining a gym. I learned more than I will ever need to know about how far a well would have to be dug in order to hit an underground stream. Most of all, I spent time with my father, who took time from his all week worries about work, to share in my project, my dreams, and my life. In order for this to happen, my father had to suspend all doubt that this was not a worthwhile venture, and place intent, effort, and focus, on what was important to me at the time. None of it made sense to any of our neighbors, but somehow it made complete sense to us. It was about more than a hole. It was about more than a goal.
Spending time with my father in that way that summer means more to me now than any career planning that followed. Those conversations still resonate with me today in nearly everything I decide to do. The goal for me was hitting a water source. It was a real goal. My father, most likely, just wanted to see how far I would go to make it happen and was surprised with my enthusiasm each time he proposed some way for us to make it happen. Though the goal was not achieved, the experience of the journey became the important thing in the coming years. It was by no means a failure, and it serves me well to this day.
After we decided to give up the quest for water, we did not hang our heads. We moved on to other projects I am sure. Our family conversations include jokes and stories about “the well”, and it has made a fine dumping ground for the leaves collected over the years from my parents’ back yard. Our destination changed, our goals changed, our plans changed, but our purpose was the same. Our purpose was the same because the purpose was clear to my father all along. He was instructing me in the ways to love, living, and how to be concerned with others, more than I was concerned with myself. What he was doing was more important than what I was doing, and that is the secret to finding the difference between a journey and a destination.
Only over time, can a journey be completely enjoyed. Destinations, because we are, as humans, restless, will typically only be enjoyed for a time. We are creatures that want to achieve goals and achievements, and these are not bad, in and of themselves. We have all wanted to ask the person who rattles off what they have achieved in life every moment they speak, what they are doing now. Most of us have gone to “vacation destinations”. Journeys are what leave impressions on a life. Destinations, once they are reached, are no longer destinations, they are starting points for yet another journey. We are well served if we learn to enjoy the journey of life. We are even more well served if we realize that getting there, not being there, is the good stuff. And whether we think we have arrived or whether we think we have a bit further to go, what we do “to get there” is as, or more important, as what where we will eventually be.
Plant seeds of compassion, kindness, and love on the path of your journey. Not for your enjoyment should you pass that way again, but for for those that might follow that path in the future. We are both blazing trails and following paths traveled before we came. We are learning both from what is here now and how those before us made it through. We may never know who made this journey possible and we may never know those we have helped by traveling in the way we have chosen to travel. Be at peace with each step and help others along the way with an encouraging word, a small kindness, or a smile when a smile is not expected. In this way, you will be Journey Living.