There’s a joy that’s hard to communicate to others, which appears when a part of you stands up and speaks its piece and becomes independent. That part may be internal, as when I was faced with a problem to resolve the other day and a voice spoke inside me, saying: “You must stop forcing yourself when you don’t understand why you resist doing this.” It freed me from the devil knows what compulsion to coordinate my behavior, or my choices, with some “right way” out there, in a world beyond my comprehension.
It may take a lot of living to realize there’s no ‘right way’ out there that I must bend my being to obey. There is only ‘my’ way, which grows out of one’s life experience and whatever influences we’ve been under from life, parents and society. Each of us must depend on that unique combination of presence of mind and emotional intuition that have grown within to guide us.
And what joy when our young ones stand up and speak for themselves, as when one of my children gives me to understand, directly or indirectly: “I have found a path through the chaos and confusion of conflicting demands and promises that is my life.” I wonder if as parents we feel the happiness or sadness of our children somehow depends on us until they announce firmly that they’ll do things their own way as they alert Mom or Dad not to worry and, above all, not to interfere.
Do they understand how much their independence helps us? They may feel they’re pressing against a wall of resistance as they make their declaration, but do children have any idea how relieved parents feel? Or do they have to wait for their own child’s growing up to recognize how a parent exults when the young adult finds his or her way to freedom? What do we all want to be free from? Isn’t it the old habit, or trust of the old, no longer viable solution? So we rejoice in a child’s freedom because we recognize our own need, our own deep longing to live life our way.
So we can turn away from helping them and ask ourselves for the first or thousandth time, “what do I seek?” The question my Mother asked me many a time when she saw me off balance was: “But what do you really want?” And from time to time the answer would erupt from another part of the forest of my being: “An unbroken receptivity to truth.”
“But wait,” says I, “I don’t know how to open to that.” So my inner guide explains further, saying: “It is time to return to yourself, to live in yourself. No one can tell you what to do, what you ought to do. Stay open, stay vulnerable (that’s the hard part!). Dare to respond to every new demand, every new occasion, by not knowing what to do. Then the best in you will come forward to meet the challenge, to find again and again your own path.”
We always want to be safe, so it’s hard to risk not knowing what to do in order to find a fresh direction in life. Indeed, as Krishnamurti said, “Truth is a pathless land.” And as Antonio Machado affirmed:
“Wayfarer, there is no path,
only your footsteps, nothing else.
Wayfarer, there is no path,
your path appears as you go forward.
The going forward creates the path
And when one turns to look back
One sees the track one will never
Be expected to follow again.
Wayfarer, there is no path,
Only a wake of starlight, glistening on the sea.
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.