“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

– Mary Oliver

Traveling Down Deep

It’s the ultimate road trip … soul travel. For that is what’s happening when we choose to travel even a little bit of the spiritual path. We’re traveling down into our own selves, our soul selves.

And as with any road trip, there are different ways to travel. One is to get out the map, locate your current place, then find your intended destination. See what’s between here and there. Make a plan. Calculate distances. Figure it all out ahead of time.

road trip wonders ... san francisco mural is astonishing!

road trip wonders … san francisco mural is astonishing! photo: jeff curtis

The pre-suppositions in this sort of planning are: 1) you’re in full control of every step of the journey, 2) you’re the only one on the road, 3) you’re the only one who knows where you need to be going and how to get there.


The Good News and the Bad

Guess what? It doesn’t work that way in soul travel. It’s the good news and the bad news. Bad, in that you have to give up control. Completely.

Good, in that you get to surrender any notions about knowing anything at all. Which ultimately results in complete liberation.

Another way to take a road trip is to pack up the car with what you think you might need. And then, just get in the car, and start driving. Feel your way through each choice, each day. That’s easy for some of us, more difficult for others.

Let’s say you find yourself on the shore of a gorgeous lake, gentle breeze whispering through the leaves of the grasses and tree tops. If this is your way, your path, the caveat is that without very conscious attention and focus, you will simply paddle around on the surface of that pretty little lake, never diving down into its depths, which is where your soul lives.

It feels great, it’s really beautiful. But … ever heard of bliss bunnies? Bliss bunnies want to feel good, pretend that everything is always cool and groovy, no matter what. Bliss bunnies block out anything that gets in the way of this fantasy.

It can lead to all sorts of not-great stuff: substance abuse/dependence, drifting through life doing absolutely nothing that actually matters … like that.

Yet a third option lives somewhere in the middle. You feel the need for a trip, know it’s time, take a look-see at some maps and ponder where you might want to go, what you might you to experience along the way, organize things in such a way that you can responsibly take off for a while, and then, open up.

Open to the unexpected magic.

The mysterious whisperings of the wind. Creek gurglings. Raven’s croaking. Hummingbird’s message.

Use your intuition to feel your way, by listening to the voices that are all around you, and inside of you, as guides.

Regardless of which way chooses you, understand that nothing magical at all may happen. It may just be a lot of driving over a lot of asphalt across a lot of places you’ll never re-visit.

And so it goes in soul travel road-tripping. You do, and you do not, have much of a voice.

You’re sort-of along for the ride while, at the same time, driving the car and allowing yourself to be chosen by a direction. Listening to the one of you who is the wise one, and who, legitimately, will keep you safe. Hearing the similar-sounding, and probably louder internal voices that will work so hard to keep you safe. At home. And very very small.

It’s definitely a funky way of traveling. Decidedly not the predominant cultural paradigm. It can be argued, however, that the predominant cultural paradigm hasn’t gotten us into such a beautiful landscape, no?


6 Hot Tips For The Ultimate Road Tripper

detail, outdoor mural, Railyard district, Santa Fe, NM photo: Dr. Melanie Harth

detail, gorgeous outdoor mural, Railyard district, Santa Fe, NM photo: DrMelanieHarth

1. Begin exploring. Creative exploration has always been a powerful portalAny arts-based creative practice will get you much closer, much faster. Try writing, or delve more deeply into what you’ve already started.

Dance, theater, the spoken word. Music. Earth-based art, and/or permaculture design. Design of any kind. Creativity in our relationships, and at work. Creative relationships. All are areas for arts-based creativity.

2. Let ’em know you mean business! The next step on the road always appears after we’ve begun the journey. We have to take action, in the world.

Any action at all.

The universe is kind to us that way — it only takes the tiniest bit of movement on our parts to establish our intent and begin receiving support.

3. Get connected with the Earth. Lean against a tree. Rest bare feet in sweet spring grass or a gurgling mountain stream or warm desert sand. Go camping, if you can manage it.

4. Take a class, any class that calls you, to get you out there. I’ve had powerful experiences while taking a weekend trip to look at petroglyphs with the local community college, for instance.

5. Go big. Apprentice on an organic farm.

6. Go deep. Do a vision quest, with a reputable organization.

It’s all about you being in your life. You get the idea.

After all, who wants to breathe just a little, and call it a life?

*from the poem “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?,” in West Wind, by Mary Oliver