What is a Path?

I suppose the first time that I ever thought very much about that question was when I was very young and reading the stories of the search for The Holy Grail. There it was made quite clear that if a knight went into the forest on an already existing path, then another would have already found The Grail.. So the knight had to create his own path. About which the Spanish poet Antonio Machado (1875 -1939) once wrote: “Traveller. There is no path. The path is made by walking.”


And then, somewhere along the way, I became aware of Robert Frost’s poem about coming to a cross-roads and choosing to take the one less travelled.

But, many years later, it was Carlos Castaneda who had Don Juan offer this advice which I was much more ready to listen to: The path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you ….Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question…. Does this path have a heart?  If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.

Subsequently, the Western Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield will add these sentences: But both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart and the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

And Kornfield’s insight reminds me of Joseph Campbell’s comment that “There is nothing worse than climbing to the top of a ladder and realizing that you have put it against the wrong wall.

Next, Jean Shinoda Bolen, who also talks about anything being only one of a million paths, adds this advice: To know how to choose a path with heart is to learn how to follow the inner beat of intuitive feeling. Logic can tell you superficially where a path may lead, but it cannot judge whether your heart will be in it. It is worthwhile to scan every life choice with rational thinking, but wrong to base a life choice on it.

Unfortunately, there are, it seems to me, two aspects of human life that have a significant influence on our ability to choose a path with heart. The first is simply Fear, fear of the Unknown. The second is more pervasive and that is childhood conditioning. In my case, for example, from the time I was a very small boy, my mother constantly reminded me that it was my responsibility/duty as the eldest son to follow family tradition and go down a path that would lead to the birth of yet another son to be named William. So I left the sea, which was where my heart had always belonged, to come ashore and find a woman who would help me discharge that duty. And that, sadly, was certainly not a heart-based reason for marrying anyone.

But that was long ago and when we divorced at the end of the last millennium, I started looking for new paths, the first of which was a path with heart that led me to the little village of Moonstone, Ontario, where I was then attuned as a Reiki Master by my friend Nancy Bradley. That then led me to The Pas, Manitoba, the Canary Islands, both with heart, and a year later to Peru which, on that occasion, had no heart at all.

The next path took me to the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, which, on that first short visit, had no heart either but then on to Switzerland to visit Greta, whom I had met there, which was full of heart. The next one led to Australia to visit my estranged brother and it had no heart either but it took me back to New Zealand where I had that life-changing experience described in Beginnings

The next two paths were to Sedona, and had their ups and downs but then led back to Peru with a men’s group from Alberto Villoldo’s Four Winds Society. And that was all heart too. (See pictures in the Photo Gallery).

And while all this was happening I was walking Gabrielle Roth’s Five Rhythms path that took me to Vancouver, Olympia, Washington, California and Hawaii followed by a weekend with real heart in Asheville, North Carolina. That, sadly, would lead me to Mons, in Belgium, that had no heart at all, and then back again to Switzerland  with its great heart. A woofing path in New Zealand led me to Germany and happily back to Findhorn and Switzerland again.

Lastly, initially since 2001,I followed many paths without heart here in Victoria before,  for a few years, satisfying  my need to be back on the sea by purchasing a 25 foot Albin motor cruiser that had been made in Sweden.

In 2011 I sold her because she had literally become like an albatross around my neck that was preventing me from leaving Victoria which had never been a really happy place since the traumas of my first year here alone. So I had been looking for a new home for a long time and, a couple of years ago, the universe paid a neat trick on me because I had just agreed with one of my daughters that I would return to the Ottawa area to be closer to family ~ as I aged, that seemed the rational thing to do.

So, in fact, I had even started looking at co-op housing there. But then I came back here after six weeks of being abroad and, to my surprise, found myself sitting by the sea every afternoon for a whole week, and quickly realized that the waters around Victoria were actually where my heart belongs. So I immediately got on a bus to Dallas Road in James Bay because on the other side of that street is grass and then, a hundred metres away, steps that lead down to the beach and to the Strait of Juan de Fuca that separates Canada from the USA, with its snow-covered Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

And I started ringing apartment door-bells, one of which I discovered to my surprise when I later moved in, actually, and unlike the other ones I had been in, has a heart because there is a very active and friendly seniors group among the many residents. Said differently, I had no thought, based on my experiences in Victoria, that I would find a real sense of community in an apartment building in this city. But I did.

So, for the first time in far too many years, I am finally walking a path here that does have heart. And that is a huge blessing. And from this place of tranquillity, I can now look for that other path that will hopefully see me spend some time each year at sea. So I have just renewed my membership in The Power and Sailing Squadrons and am receiving invitations to cruise.

In the meantime I spend part of my days and nights sitting on a balcony, ten floors up, watching the sun and the moon dance their ways across the water. The sunsets are amazing and full moons light up my bedroom at 3.00 in the morning

Lastly, I had mentioned earlier, that I had been exploring many paths one of which Jean Shinoda Bolen, described this way, (But I cannot cite the reference which I first used four years ago in a newsletter to my friends):

Psychologically, choosing a path with heart, achieving a sense of wholeness, making choices that lead to greater consciousness, and becoming fully human all have to do with being in touch with the archetype of the Self. Then our actions come from flowing with the Tao~ our choices then are based on love and on faith that love is the best inner compass because, as Jack Kornfield wrote in, The Wise Heart, a Guide to the Universal teachings of Buddhist Psychology: “A peaceful heart gives birth to love. When love meets suffering it turns to compassion; when love meets happiness it turns to joy.

And, right now, I am on a path that is filled with Joy which is a great blessing for this final stage of my life.