That is a big question.
Someone close to me asked that recently. I thought about it for several minutes. I wanted to give her a real, truthful response.
I used to want other things. When I was 33 I wanted to go back to school, get a master’s degree in Special Education, and probably go on for a PhD…research, something like neuroscience, but that wasn’t on the radar back then. I thought maybe I’d study language acquisition, how learning occurs, how we make meaning and express that. I wanted to blur the lines of academics. I wanted to learn what makes us who we are and how to make conscious choices so I could make a positive difference in the world.
I had studied ancient wisdom since I was 20. I loved yoga, Buddhism (finally something made sense!), philosophy, metaphysics, world religions and meditation. I hung myself on the end of a climbing rope to be scared and dig deep and complete multi-pitch climbs in the Sierras. I lived in 2 countries, taught special ed. in 3 states, and was hungry for more. I traveled to places I didn’t realize were “spiritual.” I was drawn to Tasmania, the Yucatan, Ecuador, Colombia, and later in life the Himalayas. I lived in my tent, hitchhiked around, and by 1980 I was living in my pickup truck looking for a place to land.
I moved to Montana. I taught children with disabilities, got married and gave birth to a son. The only way to work on a master’s degree in Montana back then meant leaving my son in the summer when school was out and living in another city to go to one of the universities. I wasn’t willing to leave him.
That was a pivotal choice.
I began to see beauty and awe through his eyes, not just my own. I allowed myself to be in the present, have ‘wonder blow outs’, and more than anything, I began to heal.
I see now that sacred geography is sacred because it heals us.
Had I gone off to a place to be busy achieving and accomplishing, I would have robbed myself of the opportunity to be touched, go inside, explore my inner world, and grow beyond my intellect.
I had physical challenges, illnesses, injuries, surgeries, and when I was 50 diagnosed with post- polio syndrome. Health issues can force one to ask esoteric questions. Being with children with disabilities can prompt one to take a deeper look at how this all works.
Along the way I realized the importance of theory to practice. Knowledge without experience is just knowledge. Experience without learning from it is just experience. Knowledge along with experience becomes wisdom.
Being asked, “When you look back, would you have done it differently?” Made me pause and reflect. It would have been easy to say yes or no to the question and leave it at that. But life is short, and meaning matters. We must not squander the preciousness of a human life. We are here to learn, grow, heal, and be an offering to others.
When you look back, would you have done your life differently?