Perhaps the most stressful part of our entire trip to Ireland in June was the driving and navigating. It wasn't so much driving on the opposite side of the road, as the fact that almost all of their roads are extremely narrow. Every time a truck or bus came the other way I cringed, sure that there was not enough room to get by. And every time we drove through a town we would lose track of the road signs telling us which way to continue on to our destination. My husband did all of the driving, mostly because we had to rent a stick shift car, and I was the navigator. In my everyday life, directions are not my strong suit. I seem to have a poor sense of geographical intelligence. Even when I was growing up in New York City, I would get off the subway near where I lived and depending which exit I left from it would take me a moment to get oriented. I can help navigate as long as I have a good map in front of me, but it is something I really have to work at to keep straight in my mind.
After just a couple of days of driving in Ireland, however, I began to have this sense of what direction we should go in if we got a little lost. And I was right every single time. Back at home, I can almost count on the right direction being opposite to the one I think it is, but in Ireland I connected to this intuitive knowing in a way that startled me with its accuracy. There was something wonderful about suddenly knowing which direction to take without much thought. I began to trust myself in ways I had never done before.
I would like to say that returning to the States, that I kept this magical inner knowing. Alas, having taken two more trips since then, I find myself back in my usual state of geographical challenge. I am so puzzled by this. What was it about the landscape of Ireland that shifted me into a whole other way of being? I tend to be someone who generally has a good sense of my own direction when considering things other than physical geography. And yet, there was such a beautiful sense of confidence I developed for a time there that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. One thing it signals me to honor are the insights I had while in that ancient place about myself and the spiritual journey. It feels like an invitation to trust deeply the knowing I had there in all of its forms. Ironically some of my most moments of deepest clarity while in Ireland were about the way my spiritual path continues to unfold organically–as I continue to let go of the map I'd like to create for myself, I discover myself in even more wondrous landscapes than I ever could have planned. I continue to be invited to live into this very moment and all of its revelations about the shape my life wants (needs) to take.
How is your sense of direction these days? What is the path you are following? Where are you being invited to go?
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts
(street sign in Cong, Ireland)