In his acclaimed poem, Song of Myself, Walt Whitman writes, “I tramp a perpetual journey.” But Whitman is not alone. Every one of us is on our own unique journey, the exact shape of which we can never really know. All we do know is that the journey will eventually end. The only choice is to travel. But while we are traveling, we may as well make the most of the path we are on. Here are a few quotes to keep in mind while you walk.
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.” –John SteinbeckYou can control the pace you keep and some of the turns you make, but you cannot control what lies ahead. Sometimes when we try too hard to control our journey, we are really trying to ensure that we don’t get hurt or feel helpless. But trying to control only results in burnout and disappointment: we will inevitably get hurt and there will be obstacles. But pain and obstacles are not the end of a journey: they are simply unexpected detours that take us to new places.
“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” –Andre GideThe journey can be as rich and bountiful as you want. There are endless opportunities to meet new people, have new experiences, and learn new lessons. But all of us have to be willing to take risks. Nothing worth discovering simply arrives at our door: we have to seek it out. And this means we have to leave the safety of what we know. You don’t get anywhere by standing still.
“When you reach the top of the mountain, keep climbing.” –Zen proverbSometimes we travel forward so as to reach a very specific point: maybe we are searching for true love, working towards a certain income level, or grappling for fame. We may be convinced that once we reach these milestones we are finally “done” in our travels. But no matter where you are or what markers you have reached, there is always more to experience and see. The steps we take can only lead us to new routes we must walk. What you think is the end is only the beginning.
“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.” –Anatole FranceAs we travel through life, so many of us are determined to find out want happens. We want reassurance that we are doing what we are supposed to do and that we will find safety and happiness. But there are no guarantees for the future: we can only work with the trail we can see right now. That means enjoying what is around us. Relish the good and try not to worry about how everything will all work out: focusing too much on the future takes away from the pleasures of the present.
“If you do not get it from yourself, where will you go for it?” –Zen ProverbWe are all traveling, but the work of traveling comes from within. We are the ones who must take the steps, who must search, and most importantly, who must make sense of what we discover. There is nothing we can find along the way that will magically provide and solve all our problems for us. The paths we walk and the journeys we take provide us only with questions and clues: the answers we must find within ourselves.
Suggested Reading: 10 Quotes from Spiritual Traditions on Following the Path Within