Meditation Monday – The Spiritual Practice of Getting Lost On Purpose

by Christine Sine
Sydney Harbour Bridge

by Christine Sine

Last week I listened to a series of meditations by Barbara Brown Taylor. One of them was on the intentional practice of getting lost. What on earth would I want to get lost on purpose for was my first response. I have a very good sense of direction and when Tom and I travel together we rarely get lost. When he travels alone he often lost and has had many unexpected adventures and encounters as a result.

Surprisingly this topic kept revolving in my mind. Maybe it is because I will be traveling to Australia next week for the first time for almost 4 years and I suspect that there have been  many changes since then. The possibility of getting lost in what was once a well known landscape is quite high.

Why would I want to get lost on purpose though?  Rochelle Seltzer in her article Getting Lost on Purpose  explains:

Because when you let yourself wander without an agenda, without knowing what you will find, you are open to surprise. And open to delight. And open to unexpected wonder. Letting yourself be spontaneous and open to whatever you may discover, and delighting in the surprises (even if you come across something like a decaying old factory rather than a scenic babbling brook), fires up your brain. It inspires you and prompts you to think differently. It ignites creativity and opens you to new possibilities.

Wow. This getting lost on purpose is just the kind of activity I delight in and as I think about it, I realize it would make a wonderful practice for my upcoming trip. I love to wander and explore and the idea of wandering aimlessly through a landscape that I once knew well really does inspire me. Such a practice encourages me to walk slowly, to look with wide open eyes and avidly listening ears, to pay attention with all my senses. It is one way of saying – it is not the destination that matters but rather the journey. And as I wander I pay attention not just to the landscape around me but to the voice of God within me. New landscapes, new perspectives, new encounters are often the ways in which God speaks to us.

So here is my proposed practice for the next few weeks. Will let you know how I do and what I learn:

  1. First I need to set aside sufficient time for this experience. A couple of hours at least 2 or 3 times a week should work well. I also need to take a small journal with me so that I can reflect on my experiences at the end of the excursion.
  2. Second I plan to take the bus or train to a destination I was once familiar with but that has changed a lot since I last explored it.
  3. Next I will wander aimlessly through the area without a map or my phone GPS turned on and with no destination in mind. What landmarks still look familiar? What has changed beyond recognition? What unexpected sites caught your attention and gave me joy? I am excited about the possibility of discovering gardens I never saw before, or murals on buildings.
  4. If I see a plaque on a building I will stop and read it and spend a few minutes imagining the person, the event or the place it commemorates.
  5. I will take photos as I walk of whatever catches my eye.
  6. When I find a place to sit down I will take time to look through my photos and reflect on my experience and on the sense of God’s presence within my wandering.
  7. I will write about it in my journal and then say a prayer of thanks to God for the experience.

I realize that there are lots of things that could derail this practice for me over the next few weeks, but if I don’t practice it in Australia, I look forward to doing so once I return home. Setting out aimlessly without a destination in mind gives me permission to explore and to listen in ways I don’t normally do.

When Rochelle Seltzer suggested it to her (without the spiritual elements) they report that the peace and pleasure of their short excursions have a big positive impact on the rest of their day, and opened up their thinking in surprising ways. I am looking forward to trying it. I hope you will too.

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