In this world, it seems we are often buried under so many expectations imposed by others and by ourselves that it’s easy to lose sight of who we really are and what really makes us tick in the effort to be responsible bill-paying law-abiding adults. I breathed a deep sigh of relief recently – a sigh I had been holding in for many years – when I finally openly accepted my reality, which is that I am passionate about international development and dance, that I am both an aid worker and an artist, and that these realities do not have to compete inside of me, but can actually exist in harmony and reinforce each other. One big hurdle crossed, phew!
Well…as it turns out, finding your path is a very good start, but it doesn’t end there. Apparently, that’s when the real work begins. For starters, the twin demons of fear and doubt must be slayed. And the path must be groomed in order to maintain it’s luster and shine. I’d like to share with you a wonderful how-to guide for landscaping your path, from Paulo Coelho, that has been extremely useful to me:
1] The path begins with a crossroads. There you can stop and think what direction to follow. But don’t spend too much time thinking or you’ll never leave the spot. Reflect a lot on the choices that lie ahead, but once you have taken the first step, forget the crossroads for ever or else you will always torture yourself with the useless question: “did I take the right path?”
2] The path doesn’t last for ever. It is a blessing to travel the path for some time, but one day it will come to an end, so always be prepared to take leave of it at any moment. However enraptured you may be at certain landscapes, or scared whenever you have to make a great effort to go ahead, don’t get too used to anything. Neither to the hours of euphoria, nor to the endless days when everything seems so difficult and progress is so slow. Don’t forget that sooner or later an angel will appear and your journey will reach an end.
3] Honor your path. It was your choice, your decision, and just as you respect the ground you step on, that ground will respect your feet. Always do what is best to conserve and keep your path and it will do the same for you.
4] Be well equipped. Carry a small rake, a spade, a penknife. Understand that penknives are no use for dry leaves, and rakes are useless for herbs that are deep-rooted. Know also what tool to use at each moment. And take care of them, because they are your best allies.
5] The path goes forward and backward. At times you have to go back because something was lost, or else a message to be delivered was forgotten in your pocket. A well tended path enables you to go back without any great problems.
6] Take care of the path before you take care of what is around you. Attention and concentration are fundamental. Don’t be distracted by the dry leaves at the edges or by the way that others are looking after their paths. Use your energy to tend and conserve the ground that accepts your steps.
7] Be patient. Sometimes the same tasks have to be repeated, like tearing up weeds or closing holes that appear after unexpected rain. Don’t let that annoy you – that is part of the journey. Even though you are tired, even though certain tasks are repeated so often, be patient.
8] Paths cross. People can tell what the weather is like. Listen to advice, and make your own decisions. You alone are responsible for the path that was entrusted to you.
9] Nature follows its own rules. In this way, you have to be prepared for sudden changes in the fall, slippery ice in winter, the temptations of flowers in spring, thirst and showers in the summer. Make the most of each of these seasons, and don’t complain about their characteristics.
10] Make your path a mirror of yourself. By no means let yourself be influenced by the way that others care for their paths. You have your soul to listen to, and the birds to tell what your soul is saying. Let your stories be beautiful and pleasant to everything around you. Above all, let the stories that your soul tells during the journey be echoed at each and every second of the path.
11] Love your path. Without this, nothing makes any sense.