About two weeks ago, I was taking part in a short, guided meditation. During it, the speaker asked participants to imagine the turning points in their life… and suggested visualizing these moments as the connecting dots of an upward trajectory—and the creation of “the map of your life so far.”
For many of us, one or two or more of these turning points involve challenges and experiences so painful that we are not sure we can face them again—and certainly not with our eyes wide open.
A movie in my mind’s eye
While I had much joy in my life, about a decade ago, this is how I felt. And yet, now, for me, the experience of visualizing the turning points in my life, joyful or painful, was like watching a fast-paced, yet smooth progression… a movie in my mind’s eye… one that indeed revealed an upward trajectory.
I am not so sure this upward progression would have been obvious to me had I tried this exercise years ago.
I will never know. The “movie” might play, but I think I might have become stuck within three or more of the turning points because, in real life, I truly was stuck.
What happens when you’re stuck?
When stuck, the links in my map of life became obscured; the connections became severed, interrupted by my unchecked chattering mind. Left unobserved, my thoughts sometimes made an abundance of painful memories become overwhelmed by sadness, resentment, confusion, fear, or anger.
Back then, to me, my map of life might have resembled a crumpled piece of paper that when unfolded revealed a scribbling of detached lines going in all directions.
Now, things are different, and pleasantly so.
I have done the arduous work. I poured the results into my novel: REASONS Three Lives One Soul.
I have looked inward and scraped the darkest shadows for substance and definition.
What “works” for each of us is as different as we are from each other
Some of you might be ready to stop reading. I get you. I understand. Once, a therapist, recommended to me by a good friend, pulled out a scarf from her desk. She held one end, passed the other end to me, and asked me to pull on it as hard as I could.
Not for me.
Fine for someone else, but not me.
My pain was deep, and I was so far from it, I did not know what it had in store for me then, and past then. Still now it holds mysteries.
Yet through all the flux, my map of life was growing and making connections, anyway. It did not need my permission.
The creation of your map is unique to you
This post, however, is not about my healing journey. I tell you a bit about my experience with pain because it is important to say that I know this journey well—and like many of you, the creation of my map formed from personal experience with both joy and pain—and not an assumption of what they might be like.
Besides, this healing journey of mine? I am still on it.
The remarkable change for me over the years is that I no longer fear my journey. Instead, I am grateful for it. Yes, that too might trigger eye-rolling. But, for me, my journey is a path to the truth; it is a path to my truth.
My journey has expanded my perspective, and for that, I am deeply grateful.
Okay, back to the map of life. Your map is unique to you. And, yes, my map is unique to me.
When the visualization suggested by the speaker unfolded in my mind, I saw myself in these fleeting yet obvious moments of my past. There I was as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, as a woman forging her career, as a sister, a daughter, middle-aged—all coming and going through triumphs and failures, through trauma, through deaths of this and that… and of friends and family…
A thread runs through it
There, whirling about these images, threaded throughout them, tying them all together into one long flowing line, was an underlying peacefulness, a rising joy… an opening up and unfolding of me.
And the thread? Well, that ‘essence’ was… is… who I am: the witness.
I discovered, no, I continue to discover that as the witness… I remain whole and true… as I have always been from the beginning of my existence.
During the meditation exercise, at the time to my surprise, in my mind’s eye, the visions of past to current turning points literally and effortlessly ran in an upward trajectory—like dots on an upward pointing arrow… with me the essence that breathed life into the whole of the movement.
The map of my life, so far, has led to authenticity, integrity, self-compassion, forgiveness, self-love, acceptance, letting go of what is not in my control… and so much more—while all the while clarifying that the unknown path ahead, even in the certainty of impermanence, has an infinite quality to it.
Now you have an idea of how to: Learn to read your map of life.