I’m sitting on a lichen-covered hassock of blue-gray granite, listening to a chorus of crickets and jays, songbirds and frogs, squirrels and random thoughts.
A pond at my left reflects oaks, firs, birches and cloud puffs, as I reflect on my personal walk in the wilderness. Thousands of miles, variably strenuous and serene, through forests and jungles, across deserts and oceans, up mountains and down valleys, both following trails and blazing them… A lifetime of testing the mettle of my body and will in nature’s proving grounds, like an alchemist tempering metal to transmute lead into gold in the laboratory. I contemplate all of it as amounting to an ongoing metaphor of my inner journey.
Sometimes I have walked to find myself, and sometimes to lose myself. Each has its uses and neither is to be judged, but it is good to know which is which. What is the treasure I seek? Is it to find passion, power, purpose? Is it to embrace courage, compassion, commitment, creativity? Is it a matter of feeling, healing or dealing with a broken heart, or a broken spirit? Is it to lead a great movement, or to follow a dream? Is it an escape? I have learned there is no wrong reason to make the journey, but I must own whatever reason is mine – like I own my name, my body, my truth. “I walk this walk because…” And yes, “…because I can,” and “…because I’m lost,” are perfectly good reasons.
A leg of my walk took me into the wilderness of addiction. Alcohol and drugs sometimes send stunningly inviting postcards depicting exotic, exciting experiences. But when I arrived, it was like a Hollywood movie lot, with backdrops of illusion and false fronts of fantasy. In reality it became more like a bleak Gotham of dank, dark alleys and clogged, stagnant gutters. Inside my soul, it was a land of the lifeless undead. I was fortunate to journey out of it a long time ago.
But just as with everywhere I have ever been and everything I have ever done, some of it soaked in and became a part of me. That is is inevitable and universal.
Read any hero’s journey: what would destroy you stays with you even after you have vanquished it – because it was always a part of you in the first place (that is the lesson!).
And so even in the realms of deep love and true calling, my dragon of addiction may spit its fire. In my journey, I have given and received deep love; and I have deeply hurt nearly everyone I have loved who was courageous enough to love me. I have found great success in my callings and helped many others find success; and I have survived failures, losses, and even bankruptcy.
A hero’s journey, a spiritual Quest – a Wilderness Walk – inevitably entails facing one’s demons again and again.
None are truly slain for good. But what I have discovered, the amazing treasure that has surfaced in the sand, is that the alchemy of change is not in the defeat of the demon, but in the embracing of it.
What I thought was my enemy is really a shaman of transformation if I let myself learn from it. It is a Sherpa, guiding me over every crevice and across every crevasse of my addiction’s treachery. It is a sage, showing me the truth that hides in the stories of my doubt and confusion. I have learned – continue to learn – to stop fearing my darkness because the only stuff that is in it is the stuff I put there myself. I did not know what to do with it, or how to handle it – old wounds, unresolved resentments, disowned fears, disembodied grief.
Now I can sit in the woods on a rock by a pond and courageously, vulnerably share my truth with you. Yes… I have also learned that a part of the walk is to take a break, to take in the surroundings and the distance traveled, to feel the experiences, and to integrate the journey. So sit for a moment on the rock beside me if you like. Tell me some part of your walk if you wish.
Then we will each move on to seek our treasure, one step at a time.
Co- Creator – The Wilderness Walk