Is your path straight or winding?
Is your relationship on purpose or getting in the way of your purpose?
It's all about rhythm.
People tend to think and talk about paths as straight lines which start at point A and arrive at point Z having achieved the desired goal(s). At least this is how they refer to their own paths.
There are lots of motivational and inspirational talks out there about paths which vary wildly in direction, are the "path less travelled", which zigged and zagged for reasons that only made sense later and lead the person to where they should have been all along. We love these stories in the same way we love tragic plays and romantic movies: they allow us to experience these things without having to change who we are or the life we live.
Being in the world is hard enough, full of difficult choices, long hours, hard work, and for most it’s enough to put together the life we have and keep it all together. Having a path full of uncertainties, an intuition which tells us to do things which are risky and contrary, and requirements which run contrary to everyone else's opinion and common sense just isn't in the cards for us.
There are some underlying assumptions in all this worth noting.
The way we talk about paths makes several either/or - black/white situations out of things where none really exist. For example, that there is such a thing as a straight path and it's the opposite of a winding path. I have yet to meet someone whose path was truly straight. Our minds are story making machines and for narratives sake, for good story telling, we smooth out the jagged edges. We get rid of some of the highs and lows, emphasize some points in time over others, even to ourselves, make meaning out of events and put things into a context which fits our needs of the moment. We remove all the time we were unsure about who to marry or what job to take and add in certainty, making things fated and all other choices irrelevant. We look at pivotal situations in our early adulthood and decide there were no other options for us, erasing and smearing every other possibility which was offered, spitballed, and argued in order to make the way we went the only way things could have gone. We straighten a path which turned in various ways and erase the alternatives from the map as we go along. It's easier, it's human, and it both helps and hinders us in making sense of the life we have co-created up to this moment.
In creating this dichotomy of straight vs. winding and submerging it as an assumption we change our role from the sculptor releasing a work of art from stone to the stone being worn away through forces beyond our control. We change our perspective to that of a boulder in a river trying to survive the constant onslaught of the water.
We also make a dichotomy between the life we live every day, the path we walk moment to moment, with having a spiritual path. The concept of having a spiritual calling has gone out of fashion with Vatican II and various monastic and clergy scandals. It seems overly connected with personal sacrifice, a permanent retreat from the world, dogma and rules, and with struggle to rise above this human misery which should be but is not separate from politics and power.
Having a spiritual path, however, while being in part an ongoing journey at self-definition, is a means of following a calling, now called a passion, which leads to a spiritual and fulfilling life without all the negatives of religion and religious structures.
Whatever you wish to call it, a path is commonly seen as a unique subset of life. It's presented as something we can choose to have, can take a risk on, can add into the mix at some point if we choose, but can go on without as most people are assumed to do. It has nothing to do with dating, children, mortgages, bills, cars, friends, movies, marriage, pets, shopping, or any of the other myriad things which make up a life. Paths are about the big choices, the huge pivotal moments, the life altering events which draw a bright line between then and now, or so we are led to believe.
However, if we are spiritual beings living an embodied experience, then our entire life is our path. Our choices of who to date, what apartment to rent, what car to drive, where to go on Friday night, all of these things are the path. Each one is a step forward.
If we strip away these assumptions, that paths can be straight or winding, but not both and neither, that paths are only about spiritual callings and not about mundane life, then we can see more clearly the paths we are walking and how we are walking them rather than us being walked by them like a people mover at an airport.
Many people's paths follow a common template of uncomfortable childhood, marriage/children/career, then a switch in gears at around midlife. We may think of this as a straight path especially if the marriage lasts 40-50 years, the career lasted for 30+ in one industry or type of occupation even if there were multiple employers, and the children launched successfully into their own lives. It seems uncomplicated, routine, even "normal" and comfortably boring.
However each path is a walk which takes us from here to there. It's called a path rather than a chair because we are moving through terrain rather than sitting still. The straightest path still takes us through hills and valleys, takes us into geography which is new to us, provides scenery which is interesting, and moves us to places we never expected to go.
One of the biggest components of any path is partnership. Whether this takes the form of marriage, long term committed partners, dating, having children, or any of the other ways in which people create connection, partnership is a means by which we not only move ourselves along but shape the path going forward. Like braiding we twine our path with another's in order, hopefully, to create something stronger, better, and more than the sum of its parts. For some a relationship fills a lack, for others it opens doors to new realms, and for still others it's a welcome component in the mix which brings things together in the right way for the right result.
Often we hope the person we twine with will be "the one" so we need look no further. The idea is this twined path continues straight on into happily ever after. For some this is true, for others it’s something they make true by concerted effort and personal sacrifice. Still others find this is not true at all and they cut the connection or tie it off in order to prevent any further difficulties or damage as they move on to try again. And some find their paths only twined enough to bring something or someone into being and then diverged wildly in far flung directions no matter what is done to make it otherwise.
If we look at a path as not something spiritual which is separate from embodied life, but the nature of embodied life itself, then our relationships become part of how we walk our path. In a relationship where both partners are doing their best to be healthy for themselves, for their significant other, and for the unique entity which comes to be known as "we" or "us", there is a rhythm to living which is very much like walking. Each person in the relationship can be thought of as a foot. Hence in any given season, on any given day even, one will be moving forward while the other stays rooted, providing stability and balance. This is most easily seen in situations where one partner is working on or going through a promotion, a change in identity like completing a degree, or living a military life where they are stationed at one base and then another.
One partner puts out effort to move forward, to make change, to create a new aspect of themselves, while the other remains firmly as they are in order to provide stability. In these situations we think of their partner as having to help out by keeping everything else going. The partner who is moving forward needs to focus on this and the other needs to take care of all the daily details and keep the home fires lit. Once this situation is resolved, once the movement has stopped and the person has at last begun to acclimate to this new change in their identity then the other partner can lift up and begin to move forward while the first plants themselves into this new aspect of life.
This of course brings to mind all the times in the past 75 years where spouses have given up promising careers, decided to stay home instead of work, supported their spouse, only to be dumped, divorced, or told decades of "not yet, just a little bit longer" which are all examples of good plans gone awry. However, it also points out why couples who are actually good for each other can sometimes struggle. While one is excited about a new opportunity, a new direction in their life, new insights or enlightenment and wants their partner's buy in and even participation, the other looks at them skeptically, asks all kinds of probing and unnerving questions, refuses to participate while at the same time supporting their partner’s efforts, and creates a separate but equal household. This can seem like they are holding things back, trying to keep things from moving forward, being stubborn or negative, but instead can be signs they are doing their job, keeping things stable, being firm in their support, keeping the foot firmly on the ground so the forward motion of the other foot doesn't cause the couple to stumble, fall, and injure themselves or others. Once the first partner is grounded in their new life, the other will start coming around, becoming more flexible, open, accepting, and willing to try or even join in while at the same time starting to move forward themselves with their own unfolding.
Some relationships are meant for very specific purposes which do not have long term components. Like a hammer and chisel applied to stone, they are meant to cut away what is no longer necessary in order to expose the form underneath. Most people think of this in terms of what they were meant to learn from the relationship which they thought would be one thing and turned out to be something else entirely. Some relationships are like a workout which is preparing us for a marathon or the Olympics. They aren't the goal themselves; they are a means to an end. They can be hard, sometimes amazingly unpleasant, but they help us to become who we need to be in order to achieve our goals. They teach us to be better, help us learn lessons about ourselves and the world, encourage us to look at things in new, clearer and more complex ways. They show us how to do things differently for better results and spur us to be more than we ever thought we could or would.
Some relationships are solely to bring children into the world. The being wanting to come in wants the genetics which will be included in the combining of their parents, but their life plan doesn't include both parents being in a long term relationship. It is not uncommon for children to be born into a partnership they know will not and should not be long term. For these children the dissolving of their parent’s relationship can be like the breaking open of a seed or nut, providing a wealth of lessons, opportunities, and connections from which they will create their own path.
There are also relationships which are work horses. They are the structure in which both partners create their adult lives. They support and are molded by careers, children, family and friends. They make a stable place for everyone to live and thrive throughout the adult years. However, at eldership which can arrive at retirement, at the empty nest, or even before, they no longer serve. Things which were quirks or "just the way things work" during the adult years become challenges in eldership. Partners who have been stable and holding things together now need to move forward but find their significant other refusing to allow any change. Partners who have been in movement but doing so for all the wrong reasons in all the wrong ways while ignoring their own personal work go into mid-life crisis. Expectations and assumptions which crept into the relationship explode upon coming to light. Paths which seemed twined together forever are discovered to have been diverging for decades and now the gap is becoming too large to cross.
Whether we’re in relationship or not, in a healthy one or not, our paths don't start at some crisis point. They don't begin at a moment of inspiration, devastation, ecstasy, or satisfaction. They reside in us and are us from the moment we arrive. We are creating them even as they are creating us. The sculptor is in intimate relationship with their creation.
The creation process changes them forever not only in the doing, but by what has come into being. Look at any notable artist and you can see with each piece they are not only creating something which goes into the world, but the process forms them into a new version of themselves. So to with all of us.
Our paths are formed not only through circumstances and the requirements of the world around us, but what we choose. Where we choose to be, whether we zig here or zag there, saying yes to this and no to that, strips away the extraneous in order to unveil the numinous. In relationships with others, sometimes the sharp rap which cleaves away a piece is necessary, other times the slow sanding which creates a gleaming smooth surface is better.
There are times when we might not know which is right, what tool to use, which part to tackle next and how. For these we need a means of stepping back, taking a break, letting the big picture come to us again. However, it’s usually the case we already know what needs to be done. We're just a bit afraid to do it for fear of what might happen. Because the result might be wrong or it might be right and in either case things will never been the same again.
And that's the real assumption which trips us up all the time. Because it doesn't matter whether we take action or not, the path is walking us as much as we are walking the path. Not having taken an action is an action. Not having made a choice is a choice.
Letting fear of change hold us back from doing something doesn't prevent change from happening. It just prevents us from happening in a way we choose.
Teri Uktena | Akashic Reader & Teacher
Having grown up in Cherokee culture and studied with her elders to learn the medicines, ceremonies, and traditions of her people, Teri has expanded her experiences by studying with elders of other tribes and other cultures finding beauty in their uniqueness and amazement in their wisdom.
Teri has for many years been providing Akashic readings and instruction to others in order to advance crucial knowledge of each soul's purpose. Check out her online classes and weekly podcast and teachings here: The Akashic Reading Podcast.