Ruminations: Toll Road

I drove to Madison, Wisconsin, earlier this month to attend a Spiritual Directors International conference. On the way to the conference, my priority was get there by the fastest route. Using toll roads shaved off about 90 minutes compared to the non-toll route. It was an easy choice.

For the return drive, however, I was feeling more inclined to take the longer route and see if the experience was more pleasant despite taking a little more time. One problem: My GPS wasn’t interested in scenery or having a pleasant experience. It kept telling me that there was a faster route—using the toll roads. We had competing priorities for the trip.

Just ignoring its unwanted advice wasn’t an option. If I took no action, it would assume I wanted to change course! I had to actively indicate that I was fine with the longer route. Over and over again.

I needed to reconfigure my navigating system. I could select an option that would avoid toll roads, but it was my responsibility to declare that’s what I wanted. With that clarified, my GPS and I could be on the same page about our priorities.

There are a lot of times when I get overly attached to a destination or outcome. My impression is that I’m not alone in this. It can feel like a real challenge to focus on how I am journeying and not just be in a hurry to reach a destination.

Of course, I need to know where I’m headed—to orient myself toward some kind of goal. A general direction at least. Once I have that in mind, though, I might focus a little more mindfully on how I get there.

This reminds me of a UU source we so often misunderstand: Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life. That’s quite a mouthful! And it’s intended as a source of our spiritual tradition.

It isn’t just about having individual opinions or even unique experiences of life. It’s about the value of our spiritual experiences that transcend our everyday existence and invite us into a realm of mystery and wonder. Things we cannot easily box up and quantify.

In my experience, it’s a tall order to manufacture transcendence. But if I’m clear that a depth of experience matters to me, I can orient myself in that direction. Then I can choose the options in my internal guidance system that align with the priority of spiritual renewal and “openness to the forces which create and uphold life.”

I may not be able to control when and how deeply I experience “transcending mystery and wonder.” I may not even be able to control how renewed my spirit is by those experiences. But I can control my openness to that transcendence and that renewal.

Which is to say, I can assume an inner stance

that is least resistant to

experiencing transcending mystery and wonder.

How are you journeying? Are your priorities aligned with your inner stance? How might you consider recalibrating your Internal Navigating System?