When I started this blog I launched right into posts about challenging and trying to improve myself, especially in preparation for my Great Adventure. I think it’s time to back up now and talk about how the adventure came about: why I’m going, what it means to me and why it’s worthy of your attention.
In other words, this blog is about to get a whole lot more personal. It’s time to tell the story of the Rogue Priest.
At a young age I dedicated myself to learning about ancient Celtic religions. I did this because the Celtic deities are gods of nature, and nature is the only place I had ever felt anything spiritual.
Because I threw myself into study and practice I became recognized as very knowledgeable by others with the same interests. The first time someone asked me to be their teacher I was only 19 years old. This was the beginning of the process that led to me becoming a priest and eventually founding a temple.
Although my work at the temple is very meaningful to me, for years I felt something was wrong. It’s not that I was unhappy (I was content), it’s that I was unfulfilled. I tried to ignore it—I watched movies, I played video games, I distracted myself. But I couldn’t shake the “wrongness,” the feeling that something was missing.
It was as if there was something in the world I needed, that I wasn’t getting.
So what was it?
The Yearning for Adventure
For as many years as I can remember, I’ve had the idea that I want to travel to South America. I can’t say why that’s the destination; I’m just drawn there. But this dream never included racing off on a jet or sipping drinks on a beach.
It involved walking.
The dream I had for myself was to walk, one foot in front of the other, from the upper Midwest down through Mexico, Central America, and into South America. Along the way I would learn from the people I met and write of my experiences.
This dream took a back seat to innumerable priorities, from my then-wife to my job to what I do at the temple. But that urge to walk into the unknown was omnipresent. No matter what else I was doing I had it in the back of my head that “soon” I would be heading off on my trip.
Eventually “soon” was no longer enough. I was unfulfilled because I was putting off my dream. I needed to find out why I was holding back.
One of the tools I used was meditation. The great thing about meditation is that it works regardless of your beliefs—it’s a self-contained technique. With enough practice, it offers an amazing amount of insight into the mind.
Over the course of a week in April I meditated for over 30 hours. I stayed in a spare room at a friend’s farm so I wouldn’t be distracted by anything else. In the morning I would eat a simple breakfast, sing a prayer to the sun, sequester myself and get to it. In the afternoons I walked through the countryside and reflected on what I learned.
The meditation was revealing. I gazed deep into myself, examining parts of me that did not want to be seen. I delved into the wrongness. I found why it was there—why I wasn’t going after my dream.
It was fear.
Twin fears, like two snakes balled up together. I was afraid on the one hand that the whole idea was just a story. This fear was deep and cold because I thought about the horrible ankle injury I had suffered recently and that maybe it was “too late” to walk across a continent.
At the same time I had a fear of actually doing it. This was a moralistic fear, that I would let down or fail others to whom I have a duty (my mom, whose heart will be broken if I leave; my students at the temple, who rely on me for so much…). It was also a prideful fear, the fear of what it will look like if I leave a good career. It was even a selfish fear, asking whether happiness is “worth” giving up familiar luxuries and comfort.
Somewhere among those two fears I had to find my reason to beat them.
One afternoon I hobbled along a dirt road through farm fields, dormant vegetation moving stiffly in the warm breeze. I took in that sense of road openness, of the great world around me and I knew I wanted that to be my life. But to get up the nerve I needed to know why. I had to understand why the dream mattered to me.
A Personal Legend
I found it surprisingly easy to admit that the reason I love this dream is that I want to build a name for myself. I want to be famous before I die. I’m not an actor or a musician, and I’ve discovered I’m definitely not a politician. But I am a writer and philosopher. Writers need something to write about and philosophers need to move out of perspective. Travel provides both.
It was more difficult to ask why I want to be famous. I’ve always felt that urge, it’s in my nature. But it’s more than that—I want to change the world. I want to change lives.
This is how the idea of the heroic path became so important in my life. To live on the road, building name and reputation, exploring new places and making new friends, helping the people along the way—the heroic path is not just an idea in a book to me, it’s the way I actually want to live my life. It’s my life purpose.
To borrow a phrase from Paul Coelho, it’s my personal legend.
From Dream to Action Plan
This past January I started making changes in my life so that “soon” actually happens. I changed jobs so I have the income to prepare for the trip. I began transitioning out of my responsibilities to the temple, and I started this blog to develop a platform for my writing. I may not know how long it will take to launch this trip, but I’ve arranged my life so that everything I do leads toward it. When I go to work in the morning it’s to make the Great Adventure possible. Staying up till 3 a.m. working on this post? Makes the Great Adventure possible.
And suddenly it’s as if the fear has lost its power—it’s still there in my mind, but it’s like a caged animal at a zoo. By knowing my purpose in life I know exactly what I need to feel deep fulfillment. Every step I take toward it is giddying.
And really, that’s why I share this story. There are many ways you can pursue your legend. You don’t have to take my way. But find some way. If you have a dream you should be following it, not tomorrow but today, even if it’s hard or crazysounding. Every day you should do something that takes you toward it.
And if you don’t have a dream?
Start remembering. You had one once.
UPDATE: Starting this week I’ve set a firm rule for myself: minimum of one post per week. Some weeks may have more, but each week I will produce at least one flagship post about the heroic path, travel, or self development. These posts will be designed to add something of value to my readers’ lives; there will always be a useful “take away” of some sort. What sorts of posts do you want to read? Tell me in the comments below. And as always, please subscribe, please tweet, and please link to me on your own sites—if the heroic path is of interest to you, pass on the love!
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