Last weekend I was walking through the December woods, having an experience of getting lost and then found, when the word faith popped into my mind.
How I hated that word growing up! I smiled just remembering it. When I was a child, the adults in my life would talk about faith. Faith seemed to have something to do with believing there was a guiding presence or good. Many of them called it God. I wanted so much to understand this. How did they know it was real?
They would respond: that’s exactly what faith is. Believing in something greater than you without being able to prove it. They seemed so smug to me when I was so frustrated trying to work this out in my rational mind.
So what reminded me of this childhood memory as I walked through the woods?
For me, faith has patterns
This weekend my walk was different. I decided to follow a path someone had outlined using small stones piled up along the way. The path led through a large isolated woods with no discernible path just leaves sprinkled with snow with markers of stones now and then.
I would look ahead and see a marker and then feel relief – I was on the right path. “I’m not lost yet,” I heard myself thinking. I couldn’t always see those markers and yet I knew they were somewhere out in the woods and I knew what form to look for, so I kept walking and looking.
I couldn’t always see those markers, or the path, but I knew I’d find them before too long. I was trusting something would guide me.
That’s when the word “faith” came to me. I felt a knowing about how my walk in the woods would unfold. I wasn’t scared. It wasn’t life or death if I didn’t see the next marker. I knew I could find my way home before dark. I just trusted there was a pattern guiding me when I didn’t know exactly where to go.
I noticed how I didn’t panic or cry, or feel angry or frustrated. I just walked and noticed the nature around me. And knew I would be guided if I did my part and paid attention.
Faith means trusting those patterns
During my walk I felt such peace. Feeling so certain of a good outcome made me feel so secure. By good I don’t mean I thought I’d find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, or that I was going to “win” at my walk. By a good I mean okay. There wasn’t anything to worry about. I could just wander around in the woods and enjoy myself.
This is the feeling I would like to channel in my everyday life when unpredictable people, events, and outcomes interrupt my day and even stick around for a while.
I want to channel that knowing that if I stay with my intention, hold onto my integrity, and keep an inner awareness – there will be a pattern to guide me even if I cannot literally see it.
Yikes, that sure sounds like faith.
- Faith in a greater good if I do my part.
- Faith I have a purpose to be alive on this earth at this place and time even if at times I am not clear what it is.
- Faith that if I stay present and not off in worry land I will see things that feel correct and guide me. I can then do my part to find my way.
How to Find the Markers on Your Path
As I’ve been thinking about my faith in patterns, I realize:
- I can see the patterns in people, politics, in nature, in events, in fashion, and even in how animals interact.
- I am not so good at seeing patterns in the universe because I haven’t really studied the universe but when I read Stephen Hawking I know he sees them and I have faith he’s right.
- I have faith in the patterns I can see as well as the patterns bigger than my perspective can take in.
This knowing means I can stay in not-knowing places with more confidence and trust – which could be faith.
One pattern I see over and over again with people who experience anxiety and/or low moods is how the bigger the anxiety, the farther they can stray from the path.
The anxiety grows as their minds go out further into the unknown and that increases their worry.
If that ever happens to you, I have 3 markers to help you find your way back.
#1 Leave the search for the bigger picture, and bring your attention to what’s right in front of you
It’s so important I want to say that again. Leave the search for the bigger picture, and bring your attention to what’s right in front of you
Be mindful of who is there and what is happening. Feel those feelings of appreciation for both the who and the what and any Calm you feel. Feel into what you know to be true in that moment.
I recently met a courageous man who despite so many negative events and hardships, continues to get up to do what is needed each day to get him where he wants to be in life. His gentleness precedes him. The world frequently does not cooperate with this man’s plan, but on 360 days of the year he keeps going, trusting his plan. Possibly even faith. The other 5 days he is in despair.
Along the way this man finds markers – not 3 rocks piled high – but people like you and me who give him a hand up. I know I’m rooting for the universe to conjure up the wind beneath his wings as he struggles to believe in the good.
He is an everyday hero. And you are too. Hero or heroine, every day you wake up and meet what life has brought you.
#2: Understand that feelings are waves, not particles
Remember how you learned that light is a wave and a particle? That’s what I’m thinking of here.
Unlike light, Feelings are only waves, but not particles. Feelings are waves and they move through you. Feelings were not made to get stuck inside of you like particles. Watch them flow through you and see how they change rather than grabbing them and holding them close to your heart.
Hardships trigger up in us deep vulnerabilities. Worthlessness, emotional hurts, shame, deep fear and loneliness to name a few. Being human seems to come with emotional hurts. They come and they move on through when we can feel empathy and caring.
When we aren’t in a place of hardship we can be there with empathy and compassion for those around us who are struggling. Now we have more resources to be emotionally available with our love and compassion.
#3: Trust that markers exist along your path
There are markers along your path. There’s always a pattern – look for those patterns.
When we can’t find our way and the markers seem far and few between so no pattern emerges – let’s remember faith.
- Faith in our own resilience
- Faith in our ability to get up and be where we’re meant to be – even when it is so hard
- Faith we can love ourselves and let ourselves be loved by others
- Faith in others to be our markers and guides
Have faith in love and in goodness during this holiday season and through the New Year.