Many years ago I was feeling disoriented in my life. I told my friend Rob that I was lost in the woods and looking for my way out. He replied, “Sometimes when you are lost in the woods the best thing to do is nothing. Just sit down.” His message was clear: no one gets oriented or reoriented by spinning. Running in circles, although it might feel useful, will only make you dizzy. Sit down. Get quiet. Listen. It was great advice and at the time nearly impossible.
Orientation to life comes from getting quiet. In one of his books, Deepak Chopra wrote that an important practice on the path to success is a half hour of meditation in the morning and another half hour at the end of the day. Make a practice of getting quiet. Exercise the muscle of stillness. Listen. Clarity will ensue. That way, when the inner compass goes awry, the right tool for the job will be more readily available.
Sitting down can be hard. Stillness and disorientation are not natural bedfellows. The impulse is to action, any action. I was once in a car on a remote mountain dirt road. The road collapsed and the car slowly rolled into a gully. My friend and I spent two days trying unsuccessfully to build a road out. It was only after we gave up and sat down that we were capable of thinking things through. Disorientation generally inspires panic. Panic-driven actions, like running in circles or hauling stones to build a road, are generally comical and make for great stories after orientation is restored. We’ve all turned the wrong way down a one-way street when lost and panicked. Pulling over would have been better but much harder to do when dedicated to forcing an outcome.
Beneath Rob’s message to me was a more important lesson: let go. Let go of the need to do. Let go of the need to solve, fix, or find. The path to orientation always leads through a necessary disorientation and the disorientation comes from hanging on to old ideas, old roles, old baggage, old heroics. The cycle is perfect as hanging on necessitates letting go and letting go often means to sit down, surrender, and breathe. To sit down always affords the opportunity to see where you are as distinct from where you think you should be. To surrender is to open. To breathe is to invite in the new. No one is lost when they stop trying to be some other place.