Navigating Without a Map

Navigating Without a Map Woodbrooke Quaker learning and research

How do we navigate life? What does it mean to be spirit-led? I’m looking forward to engaging with these questions with participants on the Standing in the light and sitting in the dark course, 8th-10th February 2019 at Woodbrooke.

For me, it’s definitely not a case of following some pre-ordained plan, like a children’s puzzle where you trace a path through a tangle of lines to see which person has caught the fish. Thomas Merton joked that we waste a lot of time looking for such a map when the unfolding of creation is more like a great improvisation in which we are invited to participate.

Skilful jazz improvisers create music without a score. Similarly, there are ways of navigating without a map. Think of the guides to Morecambe Bay who can read the sands to find a safe path through the ever-moving maze of quicksand and firmer ground. More prosaically, as a regular walker I know which of the footpaths near my home are passable in winter without welly boots and which aren’t.

Can we attune ourselves to recognise and read our inner landscape, to hear the music of the Spirit?

I’m getting better at recognising the level of tiredness that means I shouldn’t send any more emails that evening. Harder to describe and to trust is that sense of gut-knowing of the rightness of a course of action, even when it’s unclear how it will unfold or what the cost will be. What in our experience provides us with personal touchstones for recognising the subtle nudges and disruptive demands of the Spirit in our lives?

Let’s also remember the stories of 9th century Celtic pilgrims who set out to sea in coracles with no sails or rudder, explaining to the astonished people they met: ‘We stole away because we wanted for the love of God to be on pilgrimage, we cared not where’.

Whether you’re the sort of traveller who researches, books ahead and carries an extensive first aid kit, or a disciple setting out with ‘nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic’ (Luke 9: 3, NRSV), join us in February to explore how we journey.

Katie Evans, Oct 2018

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