On Being Lost


Away on retreat recently I got lost in the woods. Really lost. For hours I bushwhacked until I finally made my way to a trail system, which eventually took me out of the forest and into the car of a very nice man who got me back to where I was trying to go.

The next day I made my way back to the trails I had stumbled upon and spent the morning exploring the main branches and all of the little ancillaries that would eventually dead end somewhere. And even though I did not necessarily know where I was going, I had a familiarity that I did not have the day before. This gave me more confidence and a sense of groundedness to be back at least somewhat knowing where I was, where only the day before I had been utterly lost.

Along with a better sense of where I was, I also brought better supplies. This time I was more prepared, resilient, and therefore, at ease. This allowed me to settle into myself; no longer being in a kind of survival mode. No longer having to work down self-generated, along with realistically-based, fears. And it got me to thinking.

Even though the day before had not been what I had signed up for; having originally intended to do a little effortless exploration (which explained my lack of preparedness), and even though I had had moments of thinking I might be spending the night out in the woods unprepared and unwilling, somehow the experience had gifted me with something.

What that something was showed up as an opportunity to dig a little deeper inside of myself to separate fact from fiction. For instance, when lost, I would catch myself in a kind of made-up panic. Almost like given what was happening, I was supposed to be freaked out when in fact, in any particular moment, I was actually perfectly OK. Warm, dry, fed, able to move, able to think and reason.

Or I would start running some story about what this meant about me. How it wasn’t how I wanted to be spending my time. What others would think. When in all actuality, the truth was, I was just a woman wandering around in the woods, knowing that at some point I was going to come out somewhere. I mean really, who cares where I came out as long as I came out?

Through being lost, I see the beauty of the metaphor it affords us all. That being, that when we find ourselves not knowing where we are, we have a choice. We can go down the rabbit hole of fear, judgment and self-recrimination. Or we can be where we are until we know where we are.