It had rained for four days straight, but the clouds parted for a post dusk beach walk. The night sky was softly illuminated by a half moon that floated in and out of the rotund clouds scattered across the sky. Stars hidden for days flickered and danced their constellated waltz. It was a perfect night for a walk.
As I pondered my life’s path on the way back to the car, I was startled by the release of a Chinese lantern into the night sky no more than twenty feet from where I was standing. The bright orange flame illuminated the small balloon that carried it skyward. It floated over my head at an amazing speed seemingly toward a known destination.
I stood transfixed by this primitive device as it rose under its own power. Nothing more than the physics of heat rising caused its ascent. Soon it was almost out of sight on an apparent collision course with the stars. For a brief moment it looked exactly like a star, indistinguishable from the ancient reflections of light in the night sky. When it disappeared from view, I wondered if the flame finally went out or if it was just too small for my naked eye to see.
The path of this small lantern reminded me of my own. At first it was bright and clear, full of possibilities, and with a direction certain. As time plays its game, the light of the path dims and sometimes I lose sight of it. Often the path I was on no longer exists. It was there as long as it needed to be, but I completed the journey without awareness of the end.
I also pondered the intention of this lantern. It seemed to know exactly where it was going, but in reality it was merely following the path of least resistance. It allowed the currents to carry it where it needed to go. All paths have this route at their core. What is sometimes tricky to understand is that the path of least resistance may not always be the easiest path. My personality/ego can sometimes make the path of least resistance difficult. I can also get lost in the quagmire of what feels good rather than what my core tells me is best.
I no longer believe I have only one path in this lifetime. The lesson is to pay attention and know when one path ends and a new one begins. I am called to learn not to hold on too tightly and to live fully in the “in between.” It need not be so difficult to come to the journey’s end even when I do not yet see the starting point for the next one. The next path is always there as the gift of hindsight clearly demonstrates.
So what ultimately happened to the lantern is not important. It served its purpose both for me and for its creator. I am reminded again and again to let go. Just like the lantern, I can find my way when let go, stop resisting and allow the currents of life to guide my way.