Life's path often looks more like a maze than a straight line. In review, we see we have taken wrong turns, hit dead ends, lost time, meandered in wrong directions and twisted and turned at unexpected places. We thought we were going one way and had to head another. We are born into this maze and begin to move around, driven by need and want, sent out by parents, pressed upon by society, or sometimes, simply carried along with time.
What is the purpose? Some believe the journey is the purpose. Exploring all the nooks and crannies, hidden alcoves, and long runs is the reason for existing, moving, and living. If so, then it doesn't matter where you start or where you end up. Simply be. Enjoy. Breathe. Some believe there is a purpose, meaning, or call to where we are growing. If so, are we headed to the center? Perhaps the center is the Godhead, the universal core, or ultimate self-discovery and awareness. From the center perspective we can see as well as experience the self and the maze. Or are we more like the mazes in puzzle books that have one entrance and one exit, a destination outside the maze?
A heightened awareness of the journey brings enlightenment, appreciation, and wisdom- tools for the forward motion time will force upon you. Awareness immediately gives rise to the question of self. Who am I? Without awareness of a self, distinct from other people and things, there is no self to try to define. Thus the enlightened quest begins to discover self -- to seek and create an identity. Information about this identity comes from within and without. Still, the authentic self finds itself in context with impulses, desires and hopes. What one does with the self in context, in the maze, defines life's path.
Search for self is not always enlightened. Before we are even capable of awareness, the context is upon us, guiding, and shaping. We are given no choice regarding where, when, and to whom we are born. We are given an identity: a gender and a name. First, our parents, then our friends, and then the roles we choose or are forced into have their influence. Almost immediately, the self begins cry out. The self begins to move in the maze by making demands, seeking relief, or simply exploring. First, as babies, we call for attention, food and water, then we develop an ability to say "No!" and soon enough, we are able to rebel.
The maze continues to thwart, force, and sometimes support progress. When we start out, few of us know exactly what we want to be or where we want to end up. We spend time floating along, fulfilling others' expectations or exploring career and relationship paths that are unexpected, unproductive, or disappointing cul-de-sacs. Sometimes we are pulled "off the track" to raise children, to care for an aging parent, to serve in the military, or to spend time in what seems like a long detour to our goal, but is actually part of our divine path. Even if we know what we want to be and how to get there, we are not always given the resources and access. Our progress is cut short by paths blocked by racism, classicism, chauvinism, prejudice, low self-esteem, lack of knowledge, discouragement and sometimes just not knowing. Some of these barriers are worked around, some have been knocked down by others and some yet remain. The concept of the maze is important in understanding that expecting a clear trajectory in your life is unrealistic -- in review and in going forward.
What is the end goal? Certainly we are oriented to seek comfort and belonging, but what if being rich and famous were simply geographic locations in the maze, like a mountain top -- a great place to live or visit? The self can easily be distracted and numbed from its true impulses and desires with comfort and ego stroking. In the end, however, you cannot remain on the mountain top. No location within the maze can be the end goal because time will forcibly move you and death will take you out. Though being secure is undoubtedly a very good and desirable route to take in this maze, it can literally be a dead end and is not the purpose of our movement.
The purpose of our movement is to find our true self and its place in context. The existential question of who am I and what does it matter begs an answer. The movement drives us to create our space and value in this world. Some people simply drift letting themselves be defined, asking few questions and taking what is forced upon or left to them. We can do better by engaging in the self-defining process through awareness, exploration, and choice. Sometimes defining self is an outwardly active process, building a family, pursuing a career, attempting a physical feat or giving in relationship to others. Other times defining self is an inward process, listening and learning what is authentically you and what is projected onto you from others and society. Are you stupid, kind, adventurous, wise, funny, peaceful or is that what other people told you that you were?
The path is rarely straight, but movement is driven by impulses and desires, the purest of which are often named your calling. Knowing your calling can help you arrive at your destination and not be thwarted by society's dead ends, whimsy's detours, and comfort's tar pits. Knowing your calling can give deeper, richer meaning to the awareness of your experiences, but does not necessarily prevent obstacles, detours or the occasional dead end. Knowing your calling stops the wandering, deepens the experience, gives purpose to your life and provides authentic guidance to your next move. Hopefully, you never stop moving, but toward the end of life, a slowing is natural. A tapering can be expected (though is not necessarily going to happen) as physically our body cannot keep up with what our mind, spirit and desires may drive us toward. If you have found your calling and been lucky enough to live it authentically, you may expect peace.
Considering the life path as a maze appropriately frames and reflects the reality of most people's experience. A vector is a tempting metaphor because magnitude and movement are part of life's journey, but straight lined paths are rare. Being born and growing big, fast and directly hitting the end goal is an unrealistic expectation in this world. Such a vector-like standard can be a platform for regret and despair. A maze, full of choices, challenges and questioning at every turn, is an adventure. Good luck!
For more by Amanda Deverich, click here.
For more on happiness, click here.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more