Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Rewards of the Path

There are days when you know that life has given you an unexpected and special gift.  I consider yesterday as one such day.

It is difficult to explain the sense of accomplishment and joy that comes from helping an eight year old boy overcome his sense of fear and trepidation, and to take his first breaths on a scuba unit under the water.  Those feelings are further heightened when you know that the poor boy was being coerced into trying it, just to please his extremely pushy and know-it-all father.  It was easy to tell that a lot of the anxiety the boy was feeling was being generated by his father's constant nagging, cajoling and telling him what to do all the time.  However, none of that can detract from seeing the pure joy and elation on this little boy's face after we surfaced and he realised that he had managed to breath under the water for the first time, and that he had enjoyed his first scuba experience.  When he gets back home to Florida, there might just be a little bit of bragging in the school yard.

During the time with the boy, we had a small audience from some of the other hotel guests who were lying around the pool on sunbeds,close to where we were.  One guest, who had been the closest to us and who had watched everything happen, spoke to me as I was packing the gear away.  She said I had showed tremendous patience and understanding, and that I had really engaged with the boy.  It is something special when you hear comments like this.  It became the icing on what was an already very sweet cake.

The experience yesterday, set me to thinking about the rewards that come from walking your path.  When I set out on my journey, I never expected anything other than I would visit some places I had never been to before, I would experience a few new things, meet some new people along the way, and then I would return home to England and pick up my old lifestyle.  In truth, when I began, I really had no clear vision of the end.  I could not bring it into focus in my mind, no matter how hard I tried.  I set off on my journey with a return ticket back to London, at the end of what would be backpacking through South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.  For some reason, I could not even think past the next town or destination.  Perhaps I could not see the end because I no longer had a home to return to, having sold more or less everything I owned, and I had terminated the lease on my rented apartment.  Perhaps it was that this journey on which I had embarked was just too big to comprehend, too different from anything else I had ever known.  But looking back, I think a lot of not being able to envision the end was because I had forced myself to live in the here and now.  To live in the moment of each day.  I just simply didn't know what was going to come after, so why waste time worrying about it?  I would deal with it, when I needed to deal with it.

The truth is that by walking my path, by daring to follow the calling of my heart, I have seen and experienced things that I had only dared dream of before.  Things that I thought only special people got to witness.  Things that you only ever watched from the comfort of your own living room, on the TV.  The rewards have been far greater and far more numerous than I could possibly have ever imagined.  From a personal point of view, I have evolved as a person.  I've grown spiritually.  I've increased my knowledge, and learned new skills.  I've needed to adapt to new environments and cultures.

The rewards for me have never been financial or material.  Even before I begun this journey, I knew that were true.  On my journey, the rewards are all intangible: new friends, new places, new cultures, new experiences.  I think it was always going to be that way.  My path was chosen in part because I wanted to see what it would be like to only think about food and shelter each day.  In Walden, Henry David Thoreau very eloquently expressed something similar:-

"...I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life."

The rewards that each of us finds on the path, are the rewards that each of us needs to find.  No two people will ever have the same path, nor enjoy the same rewards along the way.  The rewards come to those who dare to take a risk, for those who have the courage to step forth into the unknown, and for those who try something different.  We will never know them before we begin and if we think we do, then we will be surprised along the way.

At the end of it all, there is no reward greater than the reward of knowing that you tried.  Knowing that you cut your own furrow, where others only followed.  Dare to find your own personal truth. The rewards are greater than you can possibly know.


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