This might seem like a silly question, but there are moments when this simple three word query might be the most important question you could ask – and accurately answer! Imagine, for example, you are hiking in a vast forest and – several hours in – you somehow stray from the trail and end up lost, unable to retrace your steps. It is a particular challenge, since, while you slept (deciding to get your bearings after a good night’s rest and with the benefit of sunlight) the sky dumped a foot of snow that has left you surrounded by an endless landscape of sameness. If you prepared well before venturing out in the wilderness, then – though you feel a bit unsettled that you are lost – you can take comfort in having several tools at the ready to help determine your location and navigate your way back to the trail: smart phone with GPS, compass, map, flashlight (if you are still looking come nightfall), the orienteering skills you learned in Scouts, the celestial navigation skills you learned in the sailing course, looking for any tell-tale signs that might be visible in the white expanse… If you have the tools and resources, if they are working properly, and if you know how to use them, you will be likely able to find your way back (or forward) with relative ease. Oh, add the machete in case you need to cut through brush or fend off a large hungry animal. Hopefully, you won’t need the gun to hunt with, but just how lost are you, really?
If you are not prepared, or if the tools are not working properly, or if you don’t really know how to use them,… this is when those who are lost tend to panic. Not helpful. Sometimes fatal. Always scary.
Whether or not you’ve ever been lost in a forest, most of us have at one time or another (if not many times) been lost in the wilderness of our minds, disoriented by the chaos of life, or way off the track of our intended life path.
Some reading this might even be lost in this very moment. If you feel lost in any way, on any level, or even know what it feels like to be lost and realize you may well “find” yourself in that scary place again, I ask that you allow me to be your guide for the next several minutes (longer, if necessary, depending on how lost you are and how desperately you want to find your way).
First, the preparation…
What tools/resources do you need?
Assessment… are the tools working properly?
Do you know how to use the tools/resources?
Now that we have a sense of what we have to work with, make sure you are comfortably seated, please have pen and paper ready, (set your timer if you wish – for at least 5 minutes) and take several slow, deep breaths – yes, right now – deep, cleansing breaths…
…as you keep your attention here, letting whatever else is on your mind simply drift away, allowing your mind to free itself and become calm…
…making some mental space for this question to really sink in: Where am I? …
…Keep lovingly asking yourself the question (where am I?), and as the thoughts begin to arise, put pen to paper and write non-stop for as long as you can. If you stop writing, because of time or because you had to stop to think, then just let that be good enough, and put down the pen. And put away the paper… don’t read it now.
Now, take a few more deep, long, grateful breaths…
…and thank yourself for taking the time to get clearer on where you are.
And go about your day, maintaining this sense of gratitude as best you can, trusting you have grown in awareness, no matter how you may feel in the moment. Allow the day and the night to pass, and the following day revisit the question “Where am I?” and read what you wrote.
Ask yourself now – and tomorrow after reading your streamed response: Are you closer to understanding where you are now?
This is a great exercise to repeat frequently, especially during challenging times, times when you feel out of sorts, disoriented, lost, but even valuable when you feel confident that you know exactly where you are. Sometimes we are most lost when our ego is absolutely convinced of where we are!
Here’s to finding your place in the World. For only when we know where we are, can we hope to get to where we want to go.