When You Are Lost, Stand Still

Jun 11, 2020

Have you ever been really lost?  Even for a moment, have you made a wrong turn, or taken a path that seemed suddenly unfamiliar?

If you have, do you remember the anxious, almost panicked urgency that made you want to walk faster, or run, or drive—anything to get away from that dark cloud of helplessness that rises when you don’t know where you are?

Here’s a fascinating paradox: people who are lost usually run faster - in the wrong direction.  Every frantic step takes them farther away from their destination and heartbreakingly further from any chance of help.  It can happen to anyone.

When you’re asked to do something at work that will enhance your career but compromise your integrity, you can feel lost in an ocean of rationalizations. When you know that a friend needs to hear a painful truth, but telling that truth could end the friendship, you can feel lost in all the reasons to not say what needs to be said. When you witness people in power harming those who are defenseless, you can be held back by the fear of becoming a victim yourself.  There are so many ways to become lost.

Like everyone, your first reaction to feeling lost can be denial, or avoidance, or silence.  But these reactions are just ways of running in the wrong direction. And the faster you run, the further you are from knowing what to do.


Find Your Way Home

In an earlier time, when becoming lost was literally a matter of life and death, the Native Americans passed an ancient teaching to every child: When you are lost, stand still.

It’s not popular advice today, especially when you’re surrounded by those shouting for you to work harder and “love the grind.”  But here’s the key: in times of certainty, focus and effort are powerful practices, but in times of uncertainty, they will exhaust your energy just when you need it most.

Instead, stop.  Don’t mistake movement for progress.  Become still.  Quiet your body and your thoughts.  It’s the hardest thing you may ever try.  It could also be the most important.

Can you ever do deep work if you’re overwhelmed by the frenzy of a twenty-four-hour news cycle and a non-stop barrage of social media?  Can you really engage with an open heart when you have fears about your safety and your health, and a growing anxiety that the world is spinning out of control? 

Here’s a promise: If your life is filled with urgent, but inessential things, you will never have the capacity for those that are truly important.  And the deepest regrets are created when you aren’t able to show up for the people and the moments who mattered most.

When you slow down, even for a few minutes, the most amazing thing happens.  You begin to see more clearly.  Your mind has the capacity to begin unraveling what seemed so complex moments ago.  And when your mind is still, you can hear the voice of your heart guiding you not only to what is best, but what is also right.

There will always be fearful challenges to face, and without them, we would never grow strong.  But remember, the antidote to uncertainly is not certainty.  It’s openness.

Build moments of stillness into every day and watch what happens to your inner strength.  When there is less conflict raging within, you may open your eyes to a world where you are never really lost. 

And when you can hear the voice of your heart, you are on the way home.


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