A Wayside in the Woods
TILLAMOOK STATE FOREST, OR—The mind loves a good plan. Plans soothe and settle our fears. But plans, when followed, restrict our freedom.
As I write this, I find myself sitting next to the Wilson River in the beautiful Tillamook state forest. The woods are lush and green and florishing with new life and a small waterfall next to the van creates a soothing and natural white noise. The air is cool and clean and fresh and smells wonderful. According to my most recent plan, I shouldn’t even be here.
And yet I do find myself here—here in this unexpected and beautiful place. There is no way—with what I knew an hour ago, let alone last week—that I could have planned this.
The original plan was to head up the coast to Astoria, and then follow the Columbia River east and north up to Canada. But this morning, while sitting in a coffee shop in Tillamook and putting the finishing touches on some code, I realized I’d seen enough of coastal Oregon for awhile, so what should I do? Should I follow the original plan because of stubbornness or ego or mind? Or should I let go of all that mental crap and just wander wherever I’m drawn?
When you have a home and a 9-5 job and kids and a dog and a cat, you need to do some serious planning to manage your free time. You’ve got a lot of stuff and a lot of commitments and a limited window of opportunity.
When you live in a typical RV or travel trailer, your restrictions are far less but you still (nearly always) need to plan your next destination—either a campground or a known camper-friendly area. You’ve got a lot less stuff than the typical homeowner, but still enough stuff and a big enough rig that you can’t just camp anywhere.
But when you live in a van, you don’t have to plan squat. If you can drive there, you can camp there.
As appealing as freedom is to the heart, the mind doesn’t like it. Freedom means the unknown and the unknown it too scary for the mind. Minds like plans and security and facts.
Many people say they want freedom—many people say they want enlightenment—but the simple fact is, our mind doesn’t want us to be free, it doesn’t want us to be enlightened. Our mind wants us to be safe and secure. It wants to know what’s going on. In the case of the ego, the mind clings to the story of “you” and wants a happy ending. The mind wants the known. It wants a plan. It wants to control things and the only way it can control things is if it can plan for a predictable future.
Freedom—whether physical or spiritual—simply doesn’t work that way. Freedom doesn’t work with a plan because freedom doesn’t work in the future.
Freedom only works in the Present, and the Present isn’t something you can plan—it’s not something you can control. The Present is vague and mysterious right up until the very moment it happens. It isn’t something solid. It isn’t something you can know ahead of time.
There is a medieval tome of wisdom and spiritual freedom that is NOT called The Rock of Certainty.
No. Freedom—spiritual or otherwise—is neither solid nor certain.
That beautiful ancient tome is titled, The Cloud of Unknowing.