The image of “journey” to describe our life is a familiar one, but there are many ways to make a journey. Some journeys are linear, from here to there, with a single destination in mind. Others are circular, where we go and return, sometimes to accomplish some task and come back. Still others, in the style of Thoreau or Basho, are random, we head out as we wish, travel where and for however long suits us. They may be a day-trip, a week’s holiday, a mission or a pilgrimage.
It can be interesting to ask ourselves what the image of this journey may be, how we see ourselves on it. Each type of walk has its own requirements and expectations for us. Consider for yourself what is the form of the journey you see yourself to be on. What is its shape (linear, circular, random)? Consider who may be on your journey, or is it totally a solitary one? Consider whether you are walking a path never walked by you or others before, or is this repeating a trip you have made, or re-traveling one taken by others.
Once you have formed a picture of the journey you see for yourself, consider whether this is the one you want to be on. Can you re-imagine it in a more positive way? Is you or purpose what you imagined, or can you re-write that in some more positive way for your life? Is the route or map the only one you can follow? Perhaps there are shortcuts or alternative routes which will fulfill the purpose of this journey without such demands on you.
The most important and under appreciated insight is to consider who is accompanying you on this journey. Are there others actually walking with you, making it easier or more companionable, in ways you didn’t appreciate before? Our teaching and practice assumes we are never alone on our journey. In Japan there is a wonderful expression, “dogyo ninin”. This means that no matter when or where we travel on our route to fulfillment we are always in the joyful and supportive company of others, at least the loving presence of Amitabha or one of his many manifestations, like Kwan Yin or Jizo. Who is walking with you?
( from our last Contemplative walking session)
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu
Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here