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GPS apps are amazing at getting us where we want to go. But we do have to tell them where we want to go and how we want to get there. Are you going directly to your final destination or do you want to make some stops along the way? Do you prefer the most efficient or the most beautiful route? Are you walking, cycling, or driving? All this is our choice.
These apps are not just helpful in getting us where we’re going, but they keep us out of trouble along the way. In this way, the app steps into the driver’s seat. Mine flashes if I’ve strayed from the speed limit or the route. It informs me of potholes and hidden police officers. It also helpfully beeps and changes my route if the algorithm discovers an issue ahead.
If you don’t follow instructions, you risk getting lost
The only real way to get lost using one of these apps is to choose not to do as they say.
Being a lifelong follower-of-the-rules, this is not a real issue for me, but I share my life with people who regularly second guess or ignore their GPS. I’ve nicknamed this behavior “freelancing” and though the excuses given for freelancing are myriad, the fundamental reason behind them all is that the driver has decided that his or her way is best – they are choosing to stay in the driver’s seat.
While freelancers don’t always get hopelessly lost, they do frequently take the long route, or sit in traffic, or get speeding tickets. None of which are gamechangers, but each incidence does reinforce the notion that there are benefits to listening to your app.
Spiritual practices can be GPS for life
Your chosen spiritual practice(s) perform a similar function to our GPS apps. Whether you practice yoga, meditation, centering prayer, or do your level best to follow the teachings of your chosen faith in your daily life, you are choosing a tool that helps you get where you’re going. The benefits to sticking to the “route” suggested by your practice is that you will get where you’re going with fewer wrong turns and detours.
Your choice of practices is limitless. My brother was a passionate runner. One of my former yoga students climbed rock faces. My husband stands in creeks with a fly rod in his hand. Perhaps like you, I have many practices that keep me on track. I practice yoga. I sit in meditation. I write in my journal. I hike. I walk the dogs. I read inspirational scripture, essays, and books. I go to church.
The destination of your practice is up to YOU
Just like with your GPS app, where you’d like to go and how you’d like to get there is your choice. Your practice can’t do that for you. Possible “destinations” could include contentment, satisfaction, spiritual fulfillment, depth of life experience, or the ease of suffering.
Whatever your destination, once you head out, following the path laid out by your metaphorical GPS app (a.k.a. your chosen practice) is advisable. Part of why we choose a practice is that we trust it to get us closer to our intention.
Even when you know the way, a little support is a good thing
There will come a time for all of us when we are proficient enough that we no longer actually need outside guidance. A word to the wise (and, no, this is not just directed at “freelancers”): it can be challenging to maintain any practice for the long haul on your own. Regular check-ins with a supportive mentor, teacher or community can help us avoid hidden potholes and police officers along the way.
Don’t forget to double-check where you’re going!
In addition to checking in with a support system, remember to doublecheck your intention regularly. You wouldn’t just turn on the GPS without typing in your destination, right? After all, even though my GPS app “remembers” that I go to work on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, the reality is that sometimes that’s not where I’m going. I first need to hop in the driver’s seat before handing over the wheel to my “GPS” to get me where I’m headed.
That said, once you’ve made sure your proverbial GPS and your heart are in agreement about where you’re headed, you should be able to trust your practice to help you avoid unwanted detours and potholes along your way.