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Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

The benefits of being lost

Katie Gordon

Why would we want to be lost? What does it mean to be lost? My best definition for what it means to be lost in a soul-oriented sense is this:

We don’t know how to get from where we are to where we want to be.

We tend to think of being lost as a negative thing. We can, of course be lost physically, but maybe you’re lost because you don’t have any idea what you want to do next in your life or where you want to go. Maybe you wake up one day in the room you always wake up in and realize your life feels directionless. Our expression “lost soul” typically means someone who is sort of wandering through life, not knowing what they’re doing or why. Jumping from one thing to the next, thinking that next thing will make them happy.

So we have a negative connotation of the idea of being lost.

But being lost isn’t a bad thing if you know you’re lost and you know how to benefit from it spiritually. Most of us consider being lost annoying, frustrating, or even terrifying depending on where we are when we get lost. We avoid being lost by using our smart phones and GPS so that we can always figure out where we are, where we’re going, and how to get there. Particularly in the technologically driven, fast-paced Western world where progress is so important, we are encouraged from early on to know where we are and where we’re going in all aspects of our lives. And of course that information is often helpful. But not knowing is of equal value.

In our underworld wandering, there’s great value in being lost because we can find ourselves when we’re lost. Actually, if you think about it, the deepest form of wandering requires that we be lost. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, being lost means you are on the threshold of a great opportunity because of the possibilities that seem to be endless. You begin to trust and surrender to that place of not knowing.

Of course when you’re lost, there will be grief. The outcome you had hoped for or at least planned for seems to be either unobtainable or undefinable. Nothing is what you thought it would be or look like. What you have to do in that moment is to be present. To shift from being lost to being present is to admit to yourself that your goal may never be reached. This shift opens up entirely new possibilities for fulfillment in ways that you never imagined before you got lost.

In surrendering to being lost, you discover that not only do you not know how to get where you wanted to go, you also are no longer sure of the soul-level rightness of that goal. You’re able to be chosen by new standards that come not from other people or your old identity but from the depths of your soul. You’re attentive to a new and much larger guidance system.

So the art of being lost isn’t just about getting lost, but it’s about giving in to the unlimited potential of the unknown. Using the "being lost" to your advantage. The best way to encourage the shift from being lost to being found is to first accept that you don’t know how to get to the place you want to be, and then opening completely and fully to the place you are until the old goals fall away and you discover more soulful goals emerging. This kind of being lost is a form of ego death and rebirth.

This is what it means to enter the cocoon of soul initiation and to surrender fully to the disintegration of ego death.

Imagine being lost in the woods. Here you are, sitting beside a tree in a forest. You don’t know which way is home. You call out, and no one answers. You’re obviously out of cell range. Maybe you panic and maybe you don’t, but it sinks in that you are really lost. Gradually, you become aware that everything you can count on anymore is right here, and there’s no guarantee there will ever again be anything else. You’ve spent years on a meditation cushion or in your yoga practice to get to this place of present-centeredness. This is now your world. You’ve lost almost everything you thought was important; your old goals are irrelevant. Here you are. What will you do with it?

This is a place you must arrive psycho-spiritually for the purpose of soul initiation. You have to be willing to release your old routines, old agendas, old goals and open to the soul’s passion as you find it right here and now. Old beliefs and desires fall away. You quiet down inside and it becomes easier to hear the voice of your soul. THIS is why you seek to get lost. For that deep stillness.

There are four components to the art of being soulfully lost. Yes, it’s an art, this practice of present-centeredness. First, you have to actually be lost. As in, you don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there. Second, you must know you’re lost and accept it. Third, you must have adequate survival skills, knowledge, and spiritual tools. In other words, you need to first cultivate psychological and emotional self-reliance. And fourth, you must practice non-attachment to any particular result of being lost, such as being "found" by a certain time, or being found at all. So in other words, you have to accept your present condition, relax and surrender into it, and arrive fully where you are.

Getting to know what the experience of “lost” feels like, what it looks like, is the only way out.

When you hear the call to descend to soul, to take this journey into the underworld, we experience firsthand how our old goals of social and economic advancement, maybe our job, our relationships, our social groups, the place or way we live, is no longer appealing. We know we want more, but we don’t have any alternative yet. We’re lost. We realize quickly that we can’t extract ourselves from this old way of belonging to the world by playing by the old rules and being a part of the old paradigm.

And so we learn skills of self-reliance. We learn how to leave the "home" of our old ego, the identity that we've been cultivating throughout our lives thus far. Tools such as shadow work, disentangling ourselves from our addictions, working with our sacred wounds, learning to prioritize authenticity rather than acceptance. These are the tools we need that come in the form of pathways to soul encounter. Then we need to learn and cultivate the art of being lost. And then we have to settle into and accept the fact that, as of yet, we don’t know yet what our soul deeply desires for this life. But we have faith that through this journey, we’ll find out!

Of course another way you can cultivate the art of being soulfully lost is to actually get lost in nature or even get lost in your urban environment. To wander until you’re not certain how to get “out” or how to get where you want to go. At this point, you sit and practice being present, accepting what is, in this moment, because this moment, what exists is all you have. (Disclaimer: please learn some survival skills if you’re actually going out in the wilderness.)

You have faith that at some point you’ll find your way out, but you’re not in a hurry because you realize, again, that the whole point of this practice is to not be attached to the end outcome. The point is to be with yourself, right here. This is an opportunity to practice solitude, wandering, observing. To practice making friends with the stones, trees, animals, and plants around you. This is a chance to trust the path that begins right at your feet, to be fully in the moment as it unfolds in the most beautiful and unexpected of ways. If you can do this in the woods or even in a city you don’t know well, you can do this when you’re feeling spiritually lost in this underworld journey to soul.