Sometimes, when we walk the uneven surfaces of life, we are grandly rewarded.
Training for an upcoming pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, I’ve noticed that I tend to head for uneven surfaces at every opportunity. I’ll walk on the grass beside the road, for example; and seek out gravel, rocky or dirt paths, trails or roads. I figure, why not work on developing my knee and ankle muscles in addition to my legs and stamina.
It occurred to me as I was walking today that uneven surfaces is a wonderful metaphor for other aspects of life. A decision to walk a Camino pilgrimage, by itself, is an uneven surface that has been made by millions of people over thousands of years. Wouldn’t it be easier to stay in comfortable and familiar territory? What could possibly be gained by solo walking 15 miles a day for 30+ days straight?
Each past and future pilgrim would respond differently, from their own unique context of life. But there’s a certain characteristic in common among Camino pilgrims. A determination to push up against and through their edges, thereby expanding their container of life. Walking the uneven surfaces rather than the smooth paved road chosen by the many.
As I sought out the uneven surfaces today, I walked up a steep grade alongside a road. I was nearing the halfway point in my mileage goal, yet I wanted to walk to the end of the road. Bing! went my halfway indicator on my exercise app; yet I could see on the map that the road ended not much farther uphill. I pushed on. When the road ended, a dirt path led down into a beautiful ravine. “I’ll just go down a short bit, and come back and walk that entire trail when I’m fresh”, I thought. An hour later I was at the top of a small mountain; having thought little of my exhaustion once I had entered the lush bosom of the Great Mother. I was presented with a gorgeous panorama of the town below, and beyond that
the endless expanse of the beautiful blue ocean, punctuated by two islands. I had pushed well beyond my self-imposed mileage goals (read: limitations), and was rewarded with a precious view.
Other uneven surface metaphors
What other uneven surfaces might there be in the mental, emotional, spiritual domains of life?
Most (all?) of us have walked the uneven surfaces of life – either with intention, or in response to some unexpected trauma life hands us all – death, divorce, loss of a job being the three biggest examples among many others.
Emotional uneven surfaces
For those of us who regularly choose the uneven surfaces of emotional exploration, we cultivate resilience in the process. Resilience is the ability to manage our emotions in the face of even the most difficult uneven surface life throws at us; and recover from it always enriched by the process. The emotional uneven surfaces lead us to authentic, vulnerable expression and empathy; and away from drama and sympathy.
Consciously walking the uneven surface of a life trauma rewards us in the form of expanded self-knowledge and self-esteem; and greater life wisdom. I like the expression “Your comebacks have always been stronger than your setbacks“.
Spiritual uneven surfaces
Most peoples’ spiritual domain – their experience of God – is preordained for them by thousand-year-old sacred texts and the dogma of their religion. Dogma usually personifies a loving yet judgmental and angry God to us miserable sinners. Those who choose the uneven surfaces of spirituality are rewarded with a more intimate, personal experience of God – one whose love is all there is; and any form of judgment or anger remains in the human realm. Far more rewarding than the one-size-fits-all of religion.
“My karma ran over your dogma“.
Mental uneven surfaces
Many people identify with political parties that mandate how they must feel about social, political and economic issues. Those who choose the uneven surface of the mental domain learn to think critically and reflect on such issues before establishing their position. They then push back against their political leaders instead of falling into line like lemmings. The reward is social change.
As Margaret Mead said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has“.
Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa come immediately to mind.
I could, no doubt, dream up other situations for the uneven surface metaphor. And it’s likely I will – probably during tomorrow’s walk. But more importantly, how have you embraced the uneven surfaces of life? How have uneven surfaces been handed you by life, and how were you rewarded?
These are questions for your reflection, but if you choose, feel free to comment below or share these philosophical questions with friends using the social media buttons below.
Carpe diem! – Bob
p.s. This is my second article about insights that have occurred to me as I’m training for my Camino pilgrimage in April 2019. HERE is the first. I fully expect more to come.