How To Get Back On Track When You Lose Your Way

Years ago on my first back-country ski tour, my then-boyfriend and I got lost just as the sun was setting. We realized we were going around in circles and could not find the trail that led back to our car. We had no emergency supplies with us, and I was a newbie, so had zero back-country experience. It was snowing. We were cold, tired and hungry. I panicked. Let me tell you, when panic sets in like that, it is nearly impossible to calm your mind. And a calm mind is exactly what you need to get you out of that situation.

When you lose your way, go back to the last place you were not lost.

If you find yourself in a situation that has evolved to a point where you lose your way, calm yourself, think back to the last time you knew, and backtrack to see where you strayed.

The pace of life has accelerated so much that it's hard to know what to focus on these days. Thanks to technology, what I used to accomplish in a day now takes 15 minutes. But rather than enjoying the other 23 hours and 45 minutes, somehow those hours are now filled with other things, like fretting about what's not getting done. It’s so easy to get lost in all that activity! Often I wake up with a clear plan of what needs to get done during the day, only to find myself wondering where the day went that evening.

Observe the Signs

Sometimes the path gets unclear and you lose your way. At that point you practice awareness for a while before the path reveals itself again. Doors shut. Sometimes there are delays before the next one opens. On that infamous ski-trip, we back-tracked to the last turn we recognized, and luckily, we eventually ran into another skier who showed us the way out before nightfall. Rather than rushing blindly forward and going around the circle again, we had to stop and pay close attention to the terrain.

Trust the Process

The practice is to trust the process, be patient while things evolve and enjoy your surroundings. There is great joy and relaxation in this phase of evolution, if (and only if) you can trust.

That said, it can be helpful to have a road map for when you lose your way - something to provide structure to your time in the bardo, that phase between one incarnation and the next.

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Here are some tips to help you get back on track when you lose your way:

1. Breathe

Calm your nervous system and connect with your subtle body through a breath based practice: yoga, pranayama, or shamatha meditation are all excellent choices.

2. Practice Radical Awareness

Watch for signs in your environment.  Listen to words and phrases that come your way, especially things that repeat themselves. Sometimes messages come from people - pay attention to how things resonate. Sometimes the biggest messages are casual comments that suddenly unlock big meaning.

3. Check In With Guides

Schedule an appointment with your therapist or coach. Go see your teacher. Call old and trusted friends to check in.

4. Be Patient

Let the process unfold at its own pace. And, I am going to strongly suggest: GET OFF OF SOCIAL MEDIA for a period of time. It's amazing how distorted our view of reality can be when we are surfing Facebook all day. Please, do yourself a favor and take a break. The world will go on without you.

5. Be Gentle

It can feel hard to be a grown up and suddenly not know what comes next. It's tempting to look around us and see others succeeding, doing wonderful things and apparently doing them without effort. (This is another reason to get off of social media - to stop comparing yourself to others.) Recognize that you have your own set of gifts and challenges, and that your life's trajectory will not look like anyone else's. Love and appreciate your own unique journey.

6. Take Care of Yourself

Long walks in nature, hot baths, swimming, bike rides, massage, green smoothies, acupuncture, long periods of shavasana. Read good books. Take time off from ALL technology. Tend to your body by giving it good food, exercise, pampering and rest.

If you’ve lost your way…check out my book, Toward a Secret Sky: Creating Your Own Modern Pilgrimage. You’ll find tools and practices to help navigate the path back to familiar territory.