07 Feb It’s a Gift to Have No Clear Path Forward
MY FEET DANGLE from the tucked-away ledge which overlooks the dusky coast. I come here when I need to let my mind drift with the clouds, what the 16th-century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne called “pensée vagabonde,” roaming thought.
My dream of moving to Japan to teach English as a second language continues to elude me. Maybe I picked the wrong time to try and move to the other side of the world!
But I feel like this opportunity chose me, for it grabbed a hold of my soul years ago and only seems to tighten its grip with each passing day.
My mind roams while I consider the words of the modern mystic, humanitarian, motorcycle-rider Sadhguru. He says in his book Karma, A Yogi’s Guide to Crafting Your Destiny:
May your dreams not come true, so then something you never could have dreamed of can happen.
The Unknown Is a Gift
At the end of last year, it looked like progress was being made. Japan, which has some of the strictest border policies in place, was beginning to open up. However, the company I was interested in canceled the upcoming recruitment due to restrictions — alas, one step forward, and two steps back. I’m back at square one — the unknown.
I have faith this is all happening for a reason, I just don’t know what to do next. I’m okay with that. More than okay. I feel like I’ve been training for this over the past two years; we all have.
Our lives have been uprooted, our plans have changed, and we’re all juggling with this new paradigm in one way or another.
Yet, in whatever capacity, we can choose to see the unknown, the untrodden path with no clear direction, as a beautiful place to be.
I realize how unique my situation is. There are countless people who have families to feed, responsibilities to tend to. It’s damn frightening to be in the unknown when it’s not just you to worry about.
I’m not writing this for sympathy and I hope these words can be encouraging, because there’s always a way to see the mystery of the present, of change, of discomfort as a gift with limitless potential.
When Is it Time to Take Action?
You might be asking, and if you are that makes two of us: What’s out there that you can’t do at home? Can’t you make where you are exciting and purposeful?
But—like one of my greatest inspirations Michel de Montaigne, who after ten years sequestered in his ivory tower realized that to fully discover who he was, he had to leave his studies and the safety of his home—I feel it’s time to take part in the world. I’m being called to go.
It’s impossible to know for certain when to take action, isn’t it? The world will tell us to stay put, to stay comfortable if it’s working. There’s no need to make unnecessary change. And maybe the world is right.
But I think I can differentiate between going just because, and going because my inner compass is spinning off its handle and has morphed into The Magic 8-Ball which is shaking like my soul and says GET OUT THERE.
The legendary writer Robert Greene writes in one of my favorite books, Mastery:
Think of yourself as an explorer. You cannot find anything new if you are unwilling to leave the shore.
At a certain point you know, innately you know, when you’re being called to make a change in life. It will be difficult either way — but when you dream of what life might be and of how you can grow from taking a chance, then it’s part of your destiny to adhere to the call. Greene writes:
You must maintain a sense of destiny and feel continuously connected to it. You are unique, and there is a purpose to your uniqueness. You must see every setback, failure, or hardship as a trial along the way as seeds that are being planted for further cultivation, if you know how to grow them.
By constantly applying yourself to the subject that suits your inclination and attacking it from many different angles, you are simply enriching the ground for these seeds to take root. You may not see this process in the present, but it is happening. Never losing your connection to your Life's Task, you will unconsciously hit upon the right choices in your life.
The Dance of the Present and Future
Traveling feels an integral part of my life’s task. Learning about who we are as human beings is part of my life’s task. Sharing in this journey, the little things which excite me, which make me think and grow and wonder and cry — is part of my life’s task. I don’t know why, but this feeling is all-consuming.
There are two kinds of failure,
The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn.
I believe he’s saying that you can fail by never trying, or fail by trying and growing from that ostensible failure. Will I be just as dissatisfied wherever I end up in the next six months or year or whatever? Probably, because life, nearly every aspect of it, is dissatisfaction.
We put our faith into an idea, a change, an event, hoping that it will make us happy. The change doesn’t makes us happy for long, not on its own, anyway.
It’s liberating to realize that we’ll be somewhat dissatisfied no matter where we are in life. When you let go of the possibility that something out there will make things better, you become what determines your happiness, not your circumstances.
Of course it’s easier said than done; this is coming from someone who’s been banking on a life-change for some time.
But these two paradigms, the present and the potential future, should be able to dance in harmony — we are enough as we are, where we are, what we are. But change should excite us; it should challenge us and allow us to grow. We can learn to be happy where we are, with our gaze loosely fixed on what the future might bring.
When the next step of my plans were recently canceled, it stung. I was counting on this to be the moment when the dream would materialize.
But anomaly teaches us to protect our inner citadel, that which can’t be breached by the chaos of the exterior world. Our peace and joy is ours to give, nobody’s to take.
Engage With Life Without Being Entangled by It
So what do you do when you don’t know which direction to move in? Well, just keep going. These big decisions feel like they’re everything: Do I stay at this job or change careers? Do I change cities? do I stay in this relationship?
We’ll never know for certain what the right decision is, because there isn’t one. We’ll be somewhat dissatisfied with whatever we choose. So what can we do?
We decide. As Sadhguru says in Karma, engage with life passionately and fully. Act. Live, and if a decision is weighing on you, make a change. But I’m learning that it isn’t worth it to be entangled by these decisions. Sadhguru writes:
Karma means that you can change your destiny, not simply be ruled by it. But at the same time, there is something wonderful about this ability to create joy in all kinds of circumstances. If you are suffering mentally it means that you are the source of your own suffering. You are the manufacturer of your own anguish.
Yes, I’m ready to turn the page. But what’s the rush? I’m here, watching the sky soften as it transitions into night. The depth of color emanates from the falling sun and the clouds slowly dissipate.
In moments like this, I’m just happy to be alive. I wonder what it all means, the pain, be it physical or mental, the confusion we all face.
I wonder how life can be so good, how love surrounds us in the air we breathe, how we possess the capability to create matter where once there was nothing. Life is fucking miraculous.
The human condition fascinates me endlessly, especially when I feel entangled in it. But I choose to no longer be entangled. We choose to cherish where we are, here and now, while taking one step after the other on the path to where we’re going.
I’m engaging with life, with this meaningful world outside and within. And damn, that makes me happy. The train goes by into the empty night, and I’m reminded of the possibility, the life, that exists in every beating minute.
The unknown, what a beautiful place it is to be.