Finding a Way - Part II
Standing on the moving walkway, I didn't even have to move my feet. My mind began to wonder back to the experiences of the past couple of weeks, as I trusted the walkway will bring me to my desired destination at the airport. My inner landscape was like a soup of thoughts, and I could not discern which way is up and which way is down. I was lost in my own mind. A sudden glitch in the walkway jolted me out of the persisting chain of circulating thoughts. I remembered I was being carried to the large circular duty-free area at the airport. I heard the hum of distant conversations and the water fountain as I stepped off the walkway. The boarding time on my ticket told me that I had a whole hour for myself before I must arrive at the gate, so I started to walk around with the power of my own legs once again.
Considering the frantic past few weeks, I welcomed a whole hour to wander around aimlessly. The duty-free area is a curious place, I thought. There is something charming about the waiting time it imposes. There are not many occasions when life forces us to stop and wait before we can proceed to our next destination, but the airport is one of those places. There is not much we can do about it. Life is asking us to pause for a moment, and impatience can only make things worse. I realised that everyone around me was waiting for a flight. No one questioned if they would eventually arrive at their destination. They were all going to arrive there sooner or later. But before they proceed, they must wait. I realised that the question is not if we would arrive or not. The question is rather, how long must we wait?
As I was about to learn many times in the following years, a waiting period can be uncomfortable and cause agitation, but it can also bring blessings. It gives the mind time to wander freely, to play and dream, to do whatever we enjoy and don’t normally have time for. It opens up space for us to discover something new, or to allow an unplanned surprise to enter our life. I looked around. Some unlucky individuals brought their work with them, but mostly I saw people wandering around, listening to music, playing games, or reading books. Others sparked up conversations with their travel companions or even with complete strangers. Few sat around and simply observed their environment. How wonderful.
Being alone, I would normally walk to the main shop of duty-free toiletries, cosmetics, and alcoholic beverages. But I was suddenly very much aware of the fact that I already possessed all the cosmetics I needed and that I am not really much of a drinker anyway. Instead, my legs carried me to the bookstore. I always loved book stores. They hold so much potential; so much knowledge to be discovered. Books can bring guidance. Books can set the stage for a new story.
I did not walk to my usual area where lengthy novels depicting imaginary characters could be found. Something was different this time. For the first time in my life, I found myself standing in front of the section titled: Philosophy. I did not know what I was looking for. This was new territory. Many books exposed a spine carrying sophisticated titles. I looked around. What do they all mean? Which one should I choose?
I looked straight ahead. Funny. In the central area of the middle shelf in front of me stood two identical books. There was a vacant space of a single book in between them, as if the third identical book had just been taken out a minute ago. It felt like the empty space of the removed third book had been waiting for me to notice it. I looked closer. The remaining two books were small and beautiful; they had a dark green leather covering and were stamped with Hebrew silver letters which spelled: The Book of Tao, Lao Tzu, “Tao te Ching”.
Fascinated, I picked up one of the two books and started browsing. The text was oddly organised as poems. The pages were minimalistic, mostly blank with one short poem of text on each two-page spread. How can these poems be philosophy? I thought to myself. I asked one of the employees about the nature of the book. “Oh, you chose philosophy,” he noted, “I don’t know much about this book, but it has something to do with ancient eastern wisdom,” he said and walked away. I didn’t know what to make of it, but something told me to buy the book, so I did.
A couple of hours later, on the plane flying from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam, I opened the book once again. A note from the translator appeared on the first page. The note opened with an apology. “These simple words would never suffice in describing the great Tao.” An Israeli Zen Master had translated the ancient text. An Israeli Zen Master? This specific compound of words felt foreign and unintuitive, like an oxymoron. He wrote that understanding the Tao takes time and practice, that every reading of the book will expose deeper meanings. He then noted that the word ‘Tao’ could only be translated to the words ‘Way’ or ‘Essence’ in Hebrew, and that the 'Tao te Ching' means 'The Way'.
How ironic; in my lost state, I somehow I bought a book titled ‘The Way’ in a foreign language. I read on. The text was powerful, soft, and intimate. I could sense the person who wrote it. I could feel it from the blank white paper, from the space surrounding the printed letters. I heard it from the space between the words. So I continued reading. I read the first and second verses. I paused… and continued. I had to stop in between verses to digest the words. I felt my heart rate rising. Something profound hit me like a ton of bricks with every page I turned. I continued until I reached verse eleven. And as I read it, sitting in my airborne seat suspended between heaven and earth, I burst into tears. My entire life, I understood it all wrong...
Little did I know at the time, but I found this book in the midst of a life imposed waiting period, and I was being asked to cultivate patience. I had lost touch with myself and was being encouraged to rediscover my own true way. I needed to slow down enough to sense life’s natural currents. I needed to learn how to dance to nature's rhythm. Getting lost can be a wake up call to find a new way, and the unfolding of the unfamiliar path cannot be rushed. Things will find us when we are ready to notice them. Sometimes the Universe just asks us to slow down, learn how to listen, and wait.