In my former life as a restaurant owner, a common phrase you would hear me tell my staff was, “Find your own way,” - as in: “figure out what works best for you, and do that.” As long as we were consistent in our outcome, I didn't care how they achieved their results. It was my job to set the standard, and it was their job to meet it or exceed it. I didn't have time to micro-manage grown-ass adults. I did my best to hire carefully, and let them have at it.
“Find your own way” has kind of been my mantra ever since I graduated high school.
I never was what you would call a "good" student. Not that I had bad grades or disrupted class (although in truth, I wasn't a straight A student either, and I was kinda the class clown)...it was more that it wasn't easy for me to learn in the way that school was structured. I was often profoundly bored, especially when I was forced into learning things that were of no interest to me or that I knew weren't going to serve me in the future. I didn't know exactly what I was going to do when I left, I just knew that I would choose it as much as it would choose me. I also knew that I would never be done choosing, because I had too many interests to pick just one. It didn't make sense to me why I couldn't have them all.
I wish I could say that it was easy, but it was far from it - especially considering that all I heard from nearly everybody was, "You have to get a degree to find a real job," as though working for someone else was my only key to success. The only people telling me otherwise were my parents - "You're never going to be happy working for somebody else." I knew that was my truth. I wasn't a worker bee, I was a bee keeper. I was a square peg trying to force myself into the round (w)hole of society, and I had to stop trying to make myself fit in where I didn't belong. I didn't want the life that everybody else had. I wanted my own.
After spending a couple of years doing some immensely stupid shit, I became cognizant of my need to "awaken" and “just be.” Not in a "new-agey hippie" kind of way, but a real mind-shift of "Stop acting like a punk. There's something better for you than this." So I lit a fire to every bridge I knew never needed crossing again, and disappeared from that life literally overnight and started fresh.
I came to realize that when I was actively searching for (forcing) the path, I would often times close my mind to other opportunities that became available to me. Over time, this caused me to have some very serious discussions with myself about what I was (and wasn't) doing, and in these discussions I came to understand the need to both do and do nothing, or “do and allow.” I developed an awareness that it wasn't enough for me to simply set out on my path. Perhaps I needed to allow the path to show itself to me. Instead of trying to force my path, I needed to be aware of what or who was there to guide me. I discovered that when you embrace the concept of “things don't happen TO you, they happen FOR you,” shit gets real. The mind shift that follows is nothing short of liberating.
You see, one doesn't simply find their path. One must actively cultivate it. It's interesting that the Sanskrit word for “cultivation” is “bhavana,” which means “bringing into being” or “allowing into being.” So cultivating a path is a creative endeavor of learning how to both do and do nothing at the same time.
I stopped trying to force things to happen and instead just allowed them to happen - all the while remaining aware of where I needed to step next. “Allowing” in this sense meant being open to people and experiences that I would otherwise shut out, in order for me to cultivate my own path...and in some cases, help others cultivate theirs. In order for me to “do,” I also had to “allow.” I discovered that “the" path is really "many" paths that intersect with many others...if you allow them to. They are a common bond that connect us all. Serve that bond, and your path takes you on many journeys. Serve yourself, and you end up walking in circles and really going nowhere.
Much like when you cultivate a garden, you create the conditions that allow it to grow. First, you have to identify what you want to grow, and then remove all the things that will impede them from growing. You have to prepare the environment to create this living thing so that you can enjoy the rewards it has to offer.
"Do"...Pull the weeds. Prepare the soil. Plant the seeds. Water.
"Allow"...Allow the sunshine. Allow the bees. Allow the growth. Wait.
Where there was once a tangled mess of weeds and thorns, soon becomes an abundance of life-giving sustenance. Yet, the only way you can harvest the fruits of your labor is to both commit and let go at the same time. You have to labor and have patience.
Do and allow.
The act of cultivating a path is both a task AND a gift that binds us all.
Our paths may intersect. They may run parallel. They may sway back and forth, criss-crossing many times. Or they may never meet at all. My path has taken me in many directions and brought me many experiences. Most of them fantastic, some of them not so much. But even if I could go back in time, there's not a single thing I would change, because they have all allowed me to find my way to this particular path that I'm cultivating at this particular time, and I am profoundly grateful and rock-solid on the realization that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be right now, and the people that are coming into my life are nothing short of amazing.
There are no coincidences.
Synchronicities are the direct manifestations of our subconscious - calling our desires into existence, and informing us that we're in alignment with our chosen path.
Some people identify it as God's will. Some call it karma. Others may even refer to it as "gnosis," or a spiritual awakening leading to an inner knowing. Of course, there are also those who dismiss it outright as "woo," because there's no room for science and spirituality to co-exist in their paradigm. That's okay too. That's their path.
Regardless - I believe that if you want to truly understand your individual purpose here in this lifetime, then it's incumbent upon you to remain open to the notion that the people and experiences set down before you on a daily basis are here to teach you - good or bad - and set you out on your path. I also believe that all of our paths are intended to make this world a better place. Just like our paths intersect, we too, are all connected to one another. The stick you leave in someone else's path may end up causing you to trip and fall one day, so leave your paths and your relationships better than you found them.
Throw off the blinders of our mass-marketing consumer culture that separates us into smaller and smaller boxes. Awaken and start cultivating a path to your best life. It's literally right in front of you.
Do and allow.