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  • Jessica Brake

The Path of Self-Exploration



The path of self-exploration and healing is much like climbing a trail that winds around and around a very large mountain. When you start out on the trail you are out of shape and have no idea what to expect. You are not prepared and the going is very slow so you will have to rest often, you will stumble and fall, and you will have to take the time to learn new skills in order to keep going. In the beginning, this can be very frustrating. It’s often so hard to make the choice to begin the climb in the first place that the idea of the climb being so difficult may have not occurred to us. There are many times when we consider stopping or going back that we will likely miss the beauty of the climb, the wonder of being on a new path, and the accomplishment of beginning the climb.


Beginning the Journey

There is so much to learn when we are first starting out. One of the first lessons is probably to realize how little we actually know and how much we have to learn. Once we are more open to the learning process, accept help along the way, and realize that other people we come across may know something that we don’t, then the going will be a little easier.


That first leg of the journey is difficult because we are so out of shape. We have never taken this path before and may have been in the habit of taking the path of least resistance or no resistance. Traveling uphill over rocky terrain is a big change from that. We will become sore, tired, and feel defeated. There may be sections of trail that have been washed out or have a tree blocking the path. This makes it even more difficult.


It will be awhile before we see these obstacles as opportunities. It takes time to realize that these are the lessons, the things that prepare us to keep climbing. The obstacles test us, teach us, help us build muscle and hone our skill so that we are prepared for what lies further up the path. In the beginning, however, we will likely curse the obstacles, throw tantrums, pout, and refuse to continue for a time. Eventually, these reactions fade and we begin to accept that obstacles are part of the nature of the path we are on and to expect anything different is setting ourselves up to be angry and disappointed. Then we can appreciate these obstacles and celebrate ourselves as we overcome them.




We learn to take care of ourselves on the path to rest when we need to, especially before we try to tackle a big obstacle. We learn to stay hydrated and take care of our sore muscles. We learn how to accept our emotions and honor our feelings of defeat and frustration. In time, we even learn to enjoy the journey, to laugh, to have fun, to look forward to learning new things. We learn to not rush the process and take time to relax.


Hitting your Stride

About the time that we are starting to really hit a stride on our walk and feel really good about where we are at, we start to wonder when we will reach our destination. We feel it must be getting close after all we have been on this walk for quite a while. We may even feel that we have arrived at the end and have found a beautiful spot with an amazing view. So we set up camp and take a break, enjoying the end of the journey.


After stopping there for a while we may feel that it has been anticlimactic. There is no resolution that we thought we would feel when we ended the journey. Also, there are still questions and still issues and why aren’t there other people who have completed the journey at this spot waiting for us. We may once again feel frustrated and defeated and then upset because we had overcome these emotions quite a ways back. At this point we start to explore further around the space we have set up camp.


After further exploration, we find a trail. A trail that seems to continue up a ways. It is likely overgrown and it takes a lot of effort to get through, especially at first. It is all the more difficult because we have grown complacent, becoming comfortable in the idea that the way was going to be easier, that we had learned so much, and that we had reached the top.




Discovering the Truth

After traveling this new path for a while the truth finally begins to sink in. At first we don’t want to believe it and deny that it is real, but the farther you go, the harder it becomes to ignore the reality that is right in front of you. The truth is, you have not reached the top, and there is still more exploration to do. It would be ok if you wanted to stop, many people probably do, or you can rest for as long as you like. However, there is more to explore, more to learn, and so eventually you will continue on because it becomes too hard to know that it’s out there, too hard to not know.


It may take several times of reaching what seems to be the top, seems to be the end, and then finding that there is still a way to go before you begin to suspect that there is no top to the mountain. It’s true that from the bottom you did not see the top but you thought it was just hidden in the clouds. However, after many turns in the path, many false ends, it becomes indisputable. It may be a very hard truth to learn and accept, but this path that you are on does not end.


The path of self-exploration is continuous, the journey of life is continuous. There is no finish line to rush to, no time when you will have arrived and be done with nothing left to learn or uncover. At first this idea might be horrible and repugnant, what have you been doing climbing too fast and telling with so much if you aren’t ever going to reach a destination or stopping point. However, eventually this truth becomes comforting. There is no rush, no need to push yourself or push yourself through obstacles. You can set a steady but leisurely pace for yourself, rest when you need to, laugh whenever you can, take care of yourself to the best of your ability. There is no rush because there is no end. It is the journey itself that is revealing everything to you and the more you enjoy it, appreciate it, and stay present in it the more enjoyable it is.


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