By Tom Goddard and Marc Gafni
Most, if not all, of us have chapters in our lives that feel like detours, or worse. A bad job, a nightmare relationship, a bout with drink, a regrettable move — sometimes all at once! Such times are characterized by anguish, or anger, or shame, or desperation — again, sometimes all at once.
Perhaps now is one such time. Perhaps a dominant thought these days is “how do I get out of this and move on to a better place?”
Perhaps not. Maybe this is a good time, with only an occasional look back at a particularly bad detour, a reminiscence tinged with shame or remorse. If we can tell the story of such a time, we tell it with justifiable anger or sadness.
Either way, whether the detours are in the rear view mirror or squarely in the here and now, our common reaction is to push them away from our experience. Life would be, or would have been, better without the detour.
But that’s just one level of understanding, and not necessarily the only one, or the “true” one. On one level of consciousness, at the level of separate self ego, it’s true. On a higher level of consciousness, you can hold this at a deeper level. At this higher, or deeper level of consciousness, you can behold the amazing realization that each such detour, no matter how painful, is or was essential to the unfolding, the realization, of my Unique Self.
Every detour is a destination. To know that every detour is a destination is the first step in turning your fate into your destiny.
In a non-dual understanding, everything is as it needs to be. In my (Marc’s) book, Soul Prints, I tell this story:
Every morning, the water carrier of Stanislav would walk from the well at the edge of town through the same shtetl streets, toting his two buckets of water to his customers. Day in and day out, he performed his routine with a simple joy.
One day he was particularly joyous and burst out in song along the way. But his song was interrupted by the sound of weeping from one of his buckets. The bucket called up to him, “How can you sing so joyously? Are you blind? Don’t you realize what a bum bucket you’ve got in your hand?
Don’t you realize that for years now I’ve been leaking? Look at your other bucket — he doesn’t leak. I don’t know why you didn’t use me for kindling a long time ago. What good is a bucket that leaks!”
The water carrier gently responded to his bucket, “No, my bucket, you are the one who is blind. What good is a bucket that leaks, you ask. Well, look and see.”
With those words, the water carrier made a grand motion toward the ground beneath the bucket, pointing out the path they had walked for years.
“Look, my leaking bucket, look at your side of the path — the yellow daisies, the wild red strawberries, the luscious greens. Now look at the other side of the path, the ground beneath my sturdy, leakless bucket — it is nothing but gravel and dirt. All of this beauty is precisely because of your leak. For years now you have watered this side of the path, making it the most beautiful thoroughfare of Stanislav. Your leak is what makes me sing!
You see, every place you’ve been, you’ve needed to be.
Step One — The Facts, Nothing But the Facts
Write a paragraph or two about the detour. Describe it in some detail, but dealing only with facts. Omit any evaluation, including any evaluative adjectives.
Step Two — Damn the Detour
In this step, you get to unleash your dislike of the detour. Draw a line beneath that description, and, beneath the line, write “Level of Consciousness Number One.” Beneath that title, launch into your evaluation of the detour. No need to invent anything — just write your authentic feelings about that time and place in your life. Get them all out on the table, the regret, anger, shame, irritation — whatever is true for you in terms of your rejection of the detour.
Read this paragraph, take a deep breath, and feel the embodied sense of it. Notice where in your body you feel the resistance you’ve just described.
Step Three — Not a Detour, but a Chapter
Now that you’ve got that out of your system, we’ll move a step higher (or deeper) in the realm of consciousness.
Draw another line beneath that paragraph. Write the next title: “Level of Consciousness Number Two.” Do your best to write an interpretation that sounds something like “this period in my life was/is perfect. Despite all the pain, I’ve learned [fill in what's true], a lesson I would not have learned any other way.”
Be sure to let go of the word “detour.” Instead, use some word like “chapter” or “period of my life”, or even “invitation”, a word without the slightest hint of the notion that things should have been other than they were. Or, perhaps there is another approach that is truer for you while still telling the story of how the detour is a perfect chapter in the greater story of the unfolding of your Unique Self. To the greatest extent possible, make this interpretation one focused on the gift of this place and time in your life, the perfect blessing.
Now, stop writing, perhaps take a break, and go back to the beginning to read this paragraph slowly, taking a similar inventory of the physical sensations associated with this interpretation. Take your time in this evaluation, exploring physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts that emerge from this interpretation. Jot down any notes about what you notice.
Step Four — Tracing the Threads of Blessing
Here we move another step up Jacob’s Ladder.
Draw another line, write another title, this time, “Blessings”. Think of the things that resulted from this chapter in your life, and trace what resulted from it. Trace the threads that actually happened as a result of it and see if you can find threads of blessing. Write a few sentences from this perspective.
Take a break, and when you come back to it, read those last few sentences. Notice any sensations, emotions, or thoughts associated with reading from this perspective.
Step Five — Destiny
And now we move to the inside of the Face of God.
Draw another line across the page, and write the title, “Destiny”, beneath that line.
Write the story one more time, except that this time, write the story as though every detail of it was your destiny.
Now, what’s particularly important about this step is that you be clear about what “destiny” means. It is not a synonym for “fate”. “Fate” has its roots in the Latin word fatum, which means “prophetic declaration, oracle, prediction.” Not much choice there, is there?
On the other hand, “destiny” has its root in the same Latin word that underlies “destination”, dēstināre, which translates into English as “to intend, resolve.” In these words, “destiny” and “destination”, we can see that we have a role. However, in contrast to the New Age ego-narcissists who think that our skin-encapsulated egos get to make all the decisions about where we are going, dēstināre suggests something else, something grander, something that includes both the decisions that this individual glorious human being called “you” make and the infinite forces that set the table for, provide the context of, and enable all those decisions.
Destiny, in this sense, is what happens when God unfolds through you and through every step of your path. When you live on the inside of the face of God, your every step is sacred, and every twist and turn of your path is part of the Divine Emergence.
So, with that context for the word “destiny,” revisit the story of this chapter in your life one more time. Take the highest, or deepest perspective to which you have access and describe every facet of it as sacred destiny. Take your time. This is an important story.
Once you’ve finished writing, step away from what you’ve written for a few minutes, a few hours, or a day or so. When you return to the writing, soak it in. As you read, maintain an awareness of your physical sensations, your emotions, your thoughts.
Step Six — Making This the Story of Your Life
Now that the perspective of Destiny has emerged, make that version, the Destiny version, your story about this chapter of your life.
Practice telling the story to yourself, then perhaps to a friend or relative. Do this over a few days or, better yet, a few weeks.
This process of turning what we have thought of as a regrettable part of our life into the perfect story is what we mean when we say, “mythologize, don’t pathologize.” In it, we have the opportunity to open ourselves to the astonishing perfection of a dynamic emergence of consciousness which is too often obscured by our evaluations and assessments.
In that opening, we just might realize that each one of these so-called detours was actually the destination.
Every place you have been, you have needed to be. This has been, not your fate, but your destiny.