Follow Your Heart, Not the Herd
The Lost Seeker
A seeker, filled with passion and excitement, decides to leave home to travel to unknown places; to go straight into the hidden depths of the human heart; to dive right into the stillness and the silence where the most profound wisdom ripens on the Tree of Knowledge.
The only way to get to their destination is by bus. The seeker is initially aware that the bus is nothing more than a mode of transportation; a cumbersome yet necessary first stage of the journey. Bouncing along for the first few days, the seeker remains keenly awake and attuned to their greater mission and doesn’t get distracted by the surrounding dramas.
But, over time, the rocking of the bus has a hypnotic effect. Soon, the seeker nods off, only to awaken hours later to the sights and sounds of their fellow passengers, the obstructed view to the outside world, and the few simple truths that are available in this space.
Though there remains (and always will remain) a sense of discontent deep in the belly, the seeker soon forgets about the greater voyage into the mouth of darkness, where truth awaits. The seeker trades a real life on foot and through nature for a view of the world through mud-spattered windows and stories on repeat. The seeker, rather than maintaining their individuality, merges into the collective herd mentality, from which it doesn’t take long for them to permanently trade their curious and adventurous spirit for the belief sets held and passed around the bus travelers.
Many of the beliefs had their origins in the wild outdoors but, as they are told and retold (and as some people seek to have more power on the bus than others) the beliefs have become less nuanced and forgiving and more binary and divisive. Nevertheless—the very fact that they were initially from the wild means that there is just enough sacredness to pass them off as Truths.
The seeker begins to believe that this—this experience, these people, this view—is the only reality. That this is the only truth there is.
With the help of other passengers (and some who call themselves life coaches) the seeker learns tools and mantras to help them ignore the voices and the pulls of their heart and soul.
Fights occassionally break out on the bus, and sides get taken. The seeker, too, chooses sides—unable, amid the noise, to hear the quieter voice of their soul and heart that knows that the truth—the greatest truth—could never and would never divide. It can only ever bring wholeness.
Years pass this way, and the seeker never even tries to get off the bus, having now traded the “destination” for the “journey” because that’s what modern wisdom tells them is the thing to do.
The seeker forgets that the bus was only ever a mode of transportation, not a source of wisdom, and lives out the rest of their years amidst the dull churning of the bus.
The bus in this story is a metaphor for our culture and our conditioning. The seeker, of course, is me. And you. And us.
But of course, hopefully without the same ending.
We all come into this world hungry for adventure and exploration. We all start off in our lives with the word “why” constantly on our tongue.
We can’t wait to hike the mountains and trudge the swamps.
We want to taste the real world—not accept some superficial substitute.
We don’t want lessons through a screen, relationships with an avatar, or growth through five easy steps.
But, the commodified, streamlined world quickly notices the fire in the eyes of a young, passionate seeker, and seeks to put it out before they can change the world for the better. Let us count the ways the world can demoralize us when we’re young! Let us note how the world oh-so-gently encourages us to “settle down,” in more ways than one.
The culture, its hypnotic and repetitive hum not unlike the engine on the bus, tells stories about heroes and good guys and happy endings. It lulls us to sleep with fairy tales of heaven and angels. It tells us who we are and why we’re here so that we don’t have to go off looking for these answers ourselves. And so, in the name of going along to get along, we slowly quiet our questions and muffle our hearts.
Anything begins to sound like truth if we hear it enough times. This is how we get cultured. It’s how we get tamed.
We’re always free to get off the bus. But getting off means walking alone. At least on the bus, we have others who believe like us. At least on the bus, we don’t need to question those beliefs.
So instead, we begin to invest in the beliefs of the collective, to the point we think they are ours.
We pass them down to our children.
We can’t imagine, nor will we accept, other truths besides the ones we’ve invested so fiercely in.
The purpose of the bus—of the culture—is to slowly hypnotize us, to make us forget that there are so many more ways to view this world and so many more truths to be sought.
What point is there, the seeker is told, of setting off on your own? What value do you think your findings would have when the greatest thinkers have already lived and found what you’re looking for?
Wisdom is no longer cultivated from our life stories but comes in pre-packaged, bite-sized morsels on Instagram.
Answers to life’s greatest questions are handed out by religion, spirituality, and even pop culture.
Pick from these colorful belief systems—but when you take one, you have to swallow it whole. You have to be able to regurgitate it. You cannot mix and match and still expect to be part of the group.
But sometimes, when everyone else on the bus is dozing and we’re staring out the window into the darkness, we remember that we are here to create our own wisdom, not merely choose from the pile of offerings.
We are here to create our own footprints in the sand, not merely follow another’s.
We are here on a grand adventure, not a grand tour. We don’t need to be shown around. We need to show up.
To do this, we have to wake up from our bus ride and walk away from the conditioned comforts of the known. We have to create our own unique path through life — one in which the only guideposts are the nudges of our soul and whispers of our heart.
It’s possible to find comfort in riding with the herd on the bus. Many do. It’s possible, even, to find pleasure, joy, and fun. They do play good music!
But human life is, at its core, a pilgrimage of the soul. As an individual soul, it is meant to be a solo pilgrimage. After all, we came here alone, we will leave alone, and, to some degree, this means we must find ourselves—our truth, our heart, our soul—alone.
You probably are familiar with the poem by Robert Frost entitled that includes this stanza:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
If I were to re-write it, I would say:
Two roads diverged in the woods and I—
I carved my own path.
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