If You Don't Know Where You're Going
My grandfather, an anchor-tattooed navy veteran, has a saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you may never get there.” While I agree (…could I ever disagree with Walter!? No. My genes would rebel…) that this statement is true, I have personal qualms with it being one to live by. Much to my adored grandfather’s dismay, I live my life quite whimsically. I create structure in my own way, but it’s not based on anyone else.
My chosen way of life is the product of a few things. The first is that I moved from Atlanta to Ireland a few years ago. Moving from a hectic, capitalist society, to a place where meat and vegetables are bought on a name-to-name basis, was profound. Also, I’m a yoga teacher, so I have a healthy detachment to daily stresses. Undoubtedly, my chosen career path has given me a huge incentive to deal with stress in a positive way.
I began my teaching career with an interest in the British philosopher Alan Watts. I discovered him through Jason Silva’s video series, Shots of Awe. The first YouTube video that planted the Watts seed was, “What If Money Was No Object?” In this video, he discusses the pointlessness of being in the habit of doing things (which can be job-things or recreational-things) that you don’t want to, or feel compelled to do. He describes it as a wheel—“You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is, to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid.”
This, for me, was liberating. There are a few common statements I notice from people in daily life. The first is that Things Are Busy. And the second is that Once I Complete Section A Of My Life, Things Will Slow Down In Section B. I find this is a strange way to live as I think that time is more malleable than this. It’s not a condition that is put upon us. It is more like a chunk of clay for us to mold as we see fit.
I find that this malleability becomes more obvious when a major Halt happens. By a Halt I mean that someone has to go to the hospital. You get the flu. Your boss dies. Etcetera. Prior to the Halt, everything seems so important. But, when the Halt comes, it’s all out the window. The other things don’t matter anymore, and it makes you wonder if they even mattered in the first place.
Relating this to my line of business, I find that everything is about the journey. You can never reach a point where things will be completely balanced. And even if you do, they will remain so for a while until you blink and the balance is gone. I enjoy thinking of my yoga practice as a micro-journey. Putting life under the microscope for a temporary bit of time in order to see how things really are. Yes, you can find the pose, but, take one breath, and you must adjust again! A good teacher will urge you to practice at the pace your body delegates on a particular day at a particular time. There is no finality. The journey is significant because of who you are at various points along your path.
A fellow yoga teacher once told me about an ah-ha moment she had in Bali. She was training with a beautiful yogi who must have been in her late 50s. This yogi instructed the class on how to get into a full backbend, or Wheel Pose. The yogi did not do it herself though. When my friend asked why, the yogi simply said, “There’s no reason for me to do it anymore. In the past, I did it. But now it is not necessary.”
It’s a truly wonderful gift to give yourself, to accept that, even upon reaching a goal, you won’t remain in that state. It will change. You will change. It may seem a scary notion or like all of our activities are futile, but that is not the case. Why do we travel? Why do we make friends? Why do we love? It helps us to grow. And when we match the growing process with letting go of reaching that “end place”, the growth is so much more profound.
So, Walter, grandfather, my very first guru, I will add a twist to your proverb. Indeed, if you don’t know where you’re going, you may never get there. However, maybe the destination, or a final destination, does not exist.