656. The way forward: closing from behind or opening ahead

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In Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak, he describes the Quaker way of discerning one’s path. Pay attention to the way closing behind you. It's a gentle approach on its surface, conceding to circumstances and using those closures to steer your path. I’m not sure it’s that simple or easy, however, which is not to suggest that observing, feeling, getting stabbed by, having the wind knocked out of you by a way closing behind you is ever easy. But I’m wary of one-size-fits-all principles. Who is to say the way closing isn’t a call to arms or a test of faith, a result of chance or simply the need to try again? Yet, the closing may indeed be a divine repositioning. I know of several dear ones who are having work-related ways close behind them; whether to resist or surrender, so to speak, to any given closure is a very real dilemma. I heard another approach described years ago by writer and editor Doug Newton in a workshop on spiritual practice for writers. It was more of a path-opening versus path-closing approach. Think of the blinking runway lights showing the way for a plane to land, he said, as I remember it. What circumstances are lining up in your life like those blinking lights to show you the way forward? I like this image that is oriented toward openness and that asks us to pay attention to many dimensions of our lives to see clues for the way forward. Other approaches have been documented, of course: burning bushes, flashes of light, visiting angels.


[Photo: taken, while on yesterday's walk, of a not-quite-burning bush but certainly a bush that suggests small flames.]