Recently a great friend of mine gifted me with a journal. Now in my life you have to have a sense of humour. So the journal sets off from Melbourne all flush and new in all its Australia Post glory. My good mate tells me to expect a ‘gift’ for my long awaited Sabbatical time in Italy to arrive. I man the ramparts of my castle ever on the lookout for the postman; like my attempts at a sense of humour said parcel does not arrive – the hours to my departure are ticking by. On the Thursday, a voicemail arrives on my phone – sent on the Monday – to say that a parcel is at the local post office because of a wrong address and would I collect it. I mount my sturdy horse and gallop off to said post office only to discover that since I did not claim said parcel it has been returned to Melbourne the day before.
My friend who resembles a modern day Yoda was philosophical about it – no worries – we’ll get the right address next time (right street just wrong number – the number does not exist in this street). So I then give out with graphic and microscopic detail the address I will be at in Italy – down to the colour of the flowers at the entrance to the compound. Off I set on my winged chariot to said Sabbatical. Upon arrival I post sentries and lookouts throughout the district to be on the lookout for an Italian version of the postman bearing said ‘gift’. The hours become days and the days weeks and the weeks almost become months (because I was only there 5 weeks). In week 4, having despaired at every receiving the ‘gift’ the monk in charge of the Retreat Centre comes to me resplendent with a very formal Italian Postal Service form for me to sign saying that a parcel has arrived at a mail centre close by and would I sign for it – giving my ID to the monk and indicating that it was not contraband. I sign with a flourish and wait with glee.
My final week in Italy flashes by with no parcel arrival. Because of my hastily arranged, Covid inspired, return flight to Australia I ask the local staff at the Retreat Centre to give the gift to a friend of mine who was returning to Australia later in the year. No worries! Over the coming months I inquire several times, “Has the parcel arrived?” “No, no, no!” Finally I give up only to get a call from my friend in Melbourne to inform me that almost six months after he has posted said parcel to Italy it has arrived back at his home “Return to Sender”! To make this excruciating story shorter – my friend puts it into another Australia Post satchel correct with correct address and sends it off. This last week with trumpet blast and balloons and streamers the journal arrives!!! Yippie!!
Many years ago I was conducting a retreat for some young adults and in the first session one of the young men said, “This isn’t going to be all about journey is it? I’m sick of hearing about journey!” I blushed and quietly changed the title slide of the Power Point from ‘Journey’ to ‘Steps to becoming our best ME!’
Each of us is continually on a whole series of journeys within our life. Physically, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, relationally, spiritually ….! As I have quoted before it was Baz Luhrmann the Director of the movie Strictly Ballroom who once said, “You do not live for the opening nights but rather the richness of the journey!” Sure it is important to have a goal, an end point, and a destination in mind – otherwise our wandering can become aimless. Sure goals and sub-goals, short, medium and longer term goals are important. But ultimately it is what we learn and who we become on the journey to that destination that matters. Even the mindset of ‘being on a journey’ helps us. So what would a sifting through of the journals that I have filled over my life tell me?
- Life’s journey has its ups and downs – its good times and its bad, it’s difficult and its joyous times!
- Rarely is the path ahead straight and clear – and just when it is you know that there will be a corner and then a twist, a climb and then a valley.
- Regularly you will come to Cross Roads and these times and the choices therein are vital for who you become and where you ultimately arrive at.
Crossroads: To journey with awareness – with ever growing awareness is vital for these crossroad times. Sadly some avoid the crossroads, some are not even aware that they have encountered one, others walk on through and have not changed while others surface on the other side of the cross road wiser and stronger for having walked that adventure. We all have them – these crossroad times.
- Often the signposts on the journey are broken and difficult to read. At times like that you really need to go within and deeply trust the sense of purpose and sense of direction that is your truest you – it will guide you when all else fails.
- There are easy and attractive side paths that will take you and your adventure away from its true purpose. These side easy paths often lead to short term pleasure, compromised wisdom, a loss of integrity and confused identity. Go back, find YOUR path again – and step out with courage.
- And step out one step at a time. Never ask for the courage to run the marathon but rather the strength and courage to firstly step out and then to get to your first short term goal – repeat this step and the rest will take care of itself.
- Gift yourself with time to enjoy the vistas and the people who accompany you along the way. Sure there will be times of fog and times of rain – but these only make the clear air sun drenched mountain vistas even more glorious. These times are to be savoured and enjoyed. Make deliberate choices to claim these times.
- Regularly on the journey gather your fellow pilgrims around you for camp-fire times of story shared, sometimes tears or laughter shared – but always heart memories.
- Be prepared for the unexpected – Francis of Assisi on one of his many journeys encountered a leper! The unexpected can be embraced and learnt from or avoided and hardening of heart – always choose the first.
- Travel light and light-heartedly. As Gandhi reminded us – “Live simply so that others can simply live!” Hold things lightly – don’t read too much into things.
- It is as it is – accept, celebrate and find meaning in the now. Rain, hail, snow, flood, and drought, cobwebs …whatever – it is as it is but this does not give you an excuse to not venture forth again.
- Each stage of the journey – childhood, the adolescent years, young adulthood, mid-life, old age – has its joys and pain, its questions and adventures, its wisdom and its questions – enjoy the ride.
- Choose daily, constantly, again and again – to frame and re-frame things with love and a positive, open mindset and heart set.
- Grieve, dance, rest, struggle, love, let go, dream, risk, paint, create, allow, forgive, commit, birth, and embrace those little deaths that are a part of all journeys so that when the final journey arrives – and it will – you will walk it with freedom and no fear!
A Religious Sister – a Presentation Sister Raphael Considine put all of this far better than myself when she wrote;
The pilgrims paused on the ancient stones
in the mountain gap.
Behind them stretched the roadway they had travelled,
Ahead, mist hid the track.
Unspoken the question hovered:
Why go on? Is life not short enough?
Why seek to pierce its mystery?
Why venture further on strange paths, risking all?
Surely that is a gamble for fools … or lovers.
Why not return quietly by the known road?
Why be a pilgrim still?
A voice they knew called to them, saying:
This is Trasna, the crossing place.
Choose! Go back if you must,
You will find your way easily by yesterday’s road,
You can pitch your tent by yesterday’s fires,
There may be life in the embers yet.
If that is not your deep desire,
Stand still, lay down your load.
Take your life firmly in your two hands,
(Gently … you are trusted with something precious),
While you search your heart’s yearnings:
What am I seeking? What is my quest?
When your star rises deep within,
Trust yourself to its leading.
You will have light for your first steps.
This is Trasna, the crossing place.
This is Trasna, the crossing place.