This is one of my favorite poems called “Get Lost,” written almost 20 years ago. That is hard to believe. Anyway, here it is:
It may be that when we no longer know what to do~Wendell Berry
we have come to our real work.
And that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
If you don’t know Wendell Berry, now might be the time to get to know him. He is an activist, an author, a poet, a farmer, and one of the true elders of our time. In this poem, Wendell Berry speaks beautifully to the spiritual practice of getting lost – the value of being disoriented. Comfort is the norm for many of us, and I have no problem with comfort. It is when we set up camp around it and stop growing that we can become complacent, spaced out, and even depressed. Growth is the nature of life. When we choose to stop, we choose to disconnect ourselves from that natural flow of life and of growth.
Almost a decade ago now, I began studying with a woman who led me back to myself through dance and breath. I was a new mom, and I was preparing to begin my first week of study with her. My daughter had just stopped nursing, and I felt awfully vulnerable as I headed up to the very hip town of Boulder with my sweatpants on. As I picked up my bag, breathing that shallow nervous breath that we breathe when we try something new, my 3-year-old son came up from behind me and handed me a folded up piece of paper. I put my bag down and asked him what it was. He said, “Mommy, it is your map. Keep it with you all the time.” I told him that I would as I began to unfold the paper. On the paper was a drawing of a spiral, and there was an X marked right in the middle of it.
The spiral is a circular symbol, a symbol that draws us into the mystery of who we are. It never ends. It has no destination. In a world of lines, outcomes, and goals, it is very difficult for many of us to get lost. It is even more difficult to acknowledge the never-ending mystery that we are. As I stomped my feet, cried my tears, and danced my joy that week in Boulder, I kept that map in my pocket, and every now and then I would pull it out. The X reminded me that I was on that map, even though I felt completely and totally lost as I danced into a new definition of myself. I remained right dead center in the middle of this great mystery we call life.
The magic is in the unknown of our lives. With all of the ways that we can “find things out,” there is not much mystery left anymore unless we seek it out. It is up to us to try it. Drive to work a new way, eat something different for breakfast, call that person you never thought you would and see what happens, maybe let go of something you have been meaning to for a while now. Disorientation is not a bad thing. No matter what the world tells us about being lost, maybe – like Wendell Berry says – this is when we have come to our real work, our real journey.