Tell the Truth. Have Faith. Believe. Trust. Love. Give and Receive Grace. Know God. Share. Know the Earth. Feel. Leave a Legacy. Be Creative. Just Be. Bake, Cook, Knit. Know the Divinity Within Me. Listen. Write. Comfort. Laugh. Serve.
So I finished reading Wild – From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a memoir, by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl tells us about how, in her early 20s, she lost her mother to cancer and how, in her desperation and grief, Cheryl’s life goes completely sideways. Not only does she lose her mother, but her siblings and step-father, in their own grief, also retreat in disparate directions. She does some things that people do when their lives become unmoored, like having numerous affairs on her perfectly good and loving husband and doing drugs. As a result, Cheryl’s life comes apart, including her marriage.
She decides to walk the Pacific Crest Trail alone, from the Mojave Desert through California, Oregon and Washington State. Eleven hundred miles, through extreme cold and heat, hunger and thirst, covered in dried sweat, with bruises and welts from her heavy backpack and the exertion of walking for miles on end in boots that are too small.
What happens to her through it all is that she comes to find the strength that dwells within her. In her words, she decides to “labour on this journey until I know myself to be strong and whole and true.” It may sound cliche or predictable, but it’s what we’re meant to do in this life…find the authentic core of who we are and truly realize the strength and beauty we possess at that level of our being. In Cheryl’s case, she had so depended on her mother to make her life o.k. that, when she was no longer there, there was no anchor to keep her in the game of life. Until she discovered the anchor within herself.
Along the way on the PCT, she finally was able to face her greatest fear materialized. The journey became a form of alchemy, like being forged in the fire – a ritual where she was pulled and pushed to the limits and then re-woven together whole.
And I think that’s what we’re all here to work on, even if we’re not completely aware of it…to face our deepest fears and find the strength to re-work ourselves (not necessarily the situation which we usually have little or no control of) and to find the reservoir of strength that lies within and through the grace of God.
“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave……Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power.”
– from Wild by Cheryl Strayed
For a long time now, I have been on a path of inquiry – seeking knowledge and understanding of the nature of reality, why I’m here and what I’m here to do. This, I’ve come to understand, includes identifying what I’m passionate about and how to be of service to others. It’s making more sense to me as I get older that one of the reasons for being a soul clothed in humanity is to figure out just what defines me and develop my abilities or gifts to the best of my ability. It also means, I believe, to connect with the joy within. The joy that’s way down deep, that often eludes me as I go about my every day mundane existence.
Usually the path of inquiry leads me to books and words, whether written or spoken, or sung, for that matter. Words are like living beings and often, holding a book in my hands, just before I open it to delve in, is something akin to a spiritual experience. You see, I believe that every book I read lands in my hands for a reason. It happens to make itself known to me in a book store or from a library shelf. Or, I’m reading a blog and there’s mention of a title that resonates. It seems like destiny. So, often the prospect of opening it up and delving into what’s waiting there, is exciting. I know that there is at least one tidbit to be found in every one; a message to string together with all the others and move me forward along….my path of inquiry.
Right now I’m reading about a woman’s journey along The Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain and right after that waiting for me is Cheryl Strand’s Wild. From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Yes, the common theme here…books about journeying for the purpose of finding oneself. Whether it be in life or through books, part of my journey is to inquire.
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