By Shari Sachs
“Bring awareness to walking, wherever you find yourself. Slow it down a bit. Center yourself in your body and in the present moment. Appreciate the fact that you are able to walk which many people cannot. … Know that you are ambulating upright on the face of Mother Earth. Walk with dignity and confidence and as the Navajo saying goes, walk in beauty wherever you are.”
~Jon Kabat –Zinn
I was walking on a path a couple of days ago and tripped, then fell.
You know that feeling when you know you’re past the point of no return in your fall? You know when there is a split moment when you think you will be able to catch yourself or you pray frantically that you can, and then another split moment between knowing the inevitable is about to happen, but still suspended somewhere between upright and fallen?
Then, it happens. That slow motion descent that takes about half a second but feels like 10 minutes finally culminating with you on the ground with a thud unsure what the outcome is or will be.
“Oh please, oh please, oh pleeeez…let me be okay,” I begged to powers unseen once I landed hand, then hip, then scraped leg and then finally twisted ankle on the dirt ground.
“Please let me be able to walk. I have plans. That require walking. Like tonight and tomorrow and next week. I just can’t afford to not walk right now,” I further pleaded, as if there is ever a good time to not be able to walk.
Plus I’m about a mile and a half from where I started. And it’s rocky and a bit isolated and there are hills and I can’t be stranded here right now. It really is just way too inconvenient.
Have you ever had a moment like this? Don’t you hate it??
Paths. We walk on them all the time—literally. We also sojourn on them metaphorically. Sometimes we do both at the same time.
I’ve taken up walking on paths lately. In just the last couple of years, I’ve been lucky to have been led to live part of the time right along the Southern California Pacific coastline—a boulevard of cliffs overlooking the majestic ocean waters. Trails abound, and well, it’s pretty much always nice outside so walking is too accessible not to do it.
I’ve also been walking on another path too; a singular but meandering, complicated one. The path. Some might call it the “spiritual” path, or the “Way” or maybe when paths turn into pilgrimages some might say it’s the Hero’s Journey. This is the path where ego meets soul. Where you get opportunities often in the guise of illness, crisis, trauma or drama to reassess who you really are, what you want your life to be.
In any case, when you are on this path, it’s very easy to fall off, or fall down. To take a tumble just like I did on the walking path.
I seem to keep finding myself on paths that are off the proverbial beaten path— leading into parts unknown. I bore easily and am not afraid to venture, so that maybe part of the reason why I keep finding myself a bit lost.
These are the paths that are riskier and the footing is not as predictable so focusing and staying present becomes more important. Yet just because I know that doesn’t mean I do it.
It’s so easy to lack mindfulness when it comes to mindfulness.
Right before my fall, my friend and I had veered off into one of these narrower, more obscure paths far from the well-worn one. I found myself following her lead not really knowing where we were going.
My focus was not in being present to the new terrain, however. Instead, I felt myself fending off some cautionary thoughts, thinking them silly but attentive to them nevertheless. It wasn’t like this was a major backpacking expedition in the wilderness or anything like that after all. Just a little brush. Why the nervousness?
My friend and I were also chit chatting and gossiping about our lives, family troubles and illness, when the stick jumped out of the ground to trip me.
I never saw it even after I looked for the culprit post fall. The only thing I saw when I regained my composure was a snake slithering back into the brush. A serpent, a stick and a “fall?”
Was I reliving some Bible story right here in the bluffs, just down the road from the Trump golf course? Was this to tell me that I am the next messiah or something?
There had to be more to this than just a mere trip and fall.
It turned out to be only a sprain, thankfully. A silly, minor injury but one just enough to render me non-ambulatory for however time it will take, not very long I suppose. In the scheme of “Bad Things That Can Happen To You,” this one was pretty low on the list, I realize. Perhaps it is not even worth a story. But, since this was the third foot injury I have had in a year that has sidelined me from walking for a bit, it got my attention big time.
I always like to ask “Why?”
Why doesn’t the Universe want me to keep walking, at least not without some interference and stops and starts? Why do I keep getting thrown off the path? What was happening in that exact moment that the moon and sky aligned just right to make me fall—to make the path back harder? And what about the snake? What does it all mean?
Or…was this just a metaphor for what it’s like to walk on The path. Was the escalating of my accident-proneness just symbolic of my accelerating willingness to explore the spiritual path and all that comes with it?
After all, when you allow yourself to explore beyond the safety zone, there is a risk, even a probability you could falter. Oh come on, let’s face it. You probably will f-up. So brace yourself.
But—if we never let yourselves go there, we will also never see what is there to be offered. In this case it was a hilltop view of the exquisite aquamarine tinted coves below. A gentle sea breeze. And a friendship being formed.
But perhaps, more importantly, what was being offered was the knowing that I could get up, walk a mile or more when it was hurting, heal, move on and do it again—maybe even this time without the fall.
And not get bit by the snake. Or the stick.
Shari Sachs began her journey as a wanderer, dreamer, and an idealist who wanted to write stories, poetry, and save the world. Meandering sets of circumstances led her away from that calling and toward a long career as a business executive which she loved until she didn’t. Lurking underneath the thick skin of corporate identity that camouflaged her true essence was a soul waiting to be reborn. In the last several years, Shari has been on a renewed journey of shedding this skin and reinventing herself as a storyteller, stirrer of souls and overall humanity embracer. Shari’s mission in her writing is to show us what it means to be both human and divine. Through humor, candor, real experiences and heartfelt stories Shari provokes us to think about ordinary life in different ways. Born and raised as a somewhat neurotic but lovable New York Jew, Shari has lived and worked in Northern Virginia for the last twenty years and now splits her time between there and the sun soaked Pacific coast of Southern California where she loves to take long walks, pretend to do yoga, and play house (or condo) with her husband of three years. Shari’s passions are dreaming, seeking, searching, learning, having deep, existential conversations, devouring anything spiritual, and traveling.
Editor: Dana Gornall