18 March 2014

The practice of getting lost

For my Lent book this year I am re-reading and reflecting on Barbara Brown Taylor's luminous book An Altar in the World. The other day, I was reading the chapter 'The Practice of Getting Lost: wilderness', where she thinks about how being lost, following a star, crossing the Red Sea, making a wrong turn, can lead us into something unexpected.

I had an experience of that today. I was at Kinleith today, and was joyously driving home reflecting on the day and thinking about the training I need to deliver tomorrow, when I suddenly saw a car parked across State Highway 30. I slowed down so as not to T-bone it, and the driver got out and stood by the car in a hi-viz and said, "There's been an accident. Rotorua's that way" - pointing down a road I had only ever passed before and had never driven down.

I obediently turned off and found myself "lost": off the road I had always travelled to and from work, following a tiny rural road around twists and turns, over one-way bridges, around farm entrances and piles of dirt and manure on the side of the road, trusting only in the instruction given me by a total stranger, my own feeble sense of direction, and two major landmarks (the Horohoro Bluff and a large hill I recognised but don't know the name of) to get me home. I found myself wide awake, totally in the present moment as I negotiated the narrow way, intensely aware of light, shadow, the Bluff to my left, and the totally different perspective on the world I had from this route. I had to make decisions about intersections: to follow, or not to follow? Which way?

You might ask, "You had your phone there? Why didn't you use GPS?" Not a dumb question, but a dumb answer: the phone was in the boot and there weren't many places where I could safely stop to retrieve it, and I also wanted to experience being lost this close to home and see what would happen.

What happened was an experience of light, shadow, life, journey, where I felt intensely alive and completely present: I trusted myself to the Way and the Way brought me home.

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