I have nothing against Google Maps, but this week it told me to sleep in the middle of a five-lane city street packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic.
We were driving to see the redwood forests of northern California. We overnighted in San Jose, where we’d booked a charming little Spanish-colonial hotel, set among lush trees. I put the address into Google Maps, which confidently led us into the heart of a major metropolis jammed with vehicles, pedestrians, and huge, flashing Christmas light displays. “You have arrived at your destination,” said the soothing voice from my phone.
So I called the hotel, which turned out to be awaiting my arrival in the heart of San Jose…Costa Rica. This is a true story.
As I booked an outrageously expensive room on very short notice, I reminded myself that living as a Wayfinder isn’t about always getting where you want to go, when you expect to arrive. It’s about venturing into the unknown, making mistakes, and ending up in the wrong place, repeatedly. A good Wayfinder is someone who’s comfortable losing the way.
We eventually got back on track—like you do—and today I stood among trees that were already tall when Jesus and Buddha walked the earth. They grew taller as the Vikings sailed, were already huge before the Aztecs ever met a Spaniard. Wandering through them, I felt acutely that they were not only alive all that time, but aware. They’re like space creatures: immensely still, benevolently alien beings.
I got lost again among these giants—this time not geographically but psychologically. Spiritually. My small body, my brief life, my human identity all felt inconsequential next to the redwoods, and I loved it. Being lost in a blaring city had been jarring. It took some serious positive thinking to cope with it. By contrast, losing myself in an ancient forest was a kind of ecstasy. At some point in the hours I spent there, I forgot that I was separate from the trees, from the soil. I forgot to be a self, divided from the rest of the universe.
This kind of “lostness” is what lets us know that our Wayfinding compasses, our inborn Google maps, are working perfectly. When our minds quiet and our hearts open, we find ourselves in a map of the universe drawn like a Chinese painting, tiny human travelers barely visible in the vast beauty of nature. We don’t need to feel huge or central, the focus of attention. We don’t need to feel anything but present.
The mindset of Wayfinding can help us on a literal journey, or in every ordinary day. For you, today, that might mean navigating a relationship problem or a career disappointment. Stop, acknowledge that you’re lost, feel for the step forward that brings peace and lets you loosen your hold on what you thought you wanted. Take that step. Then do it all again. Move always toward inner stillness and loving communion.This mode of Wayfinding can become a constant state. It doesn’t mean life will be perfect. It means getting lost, but without anxiety: blundering into places we never anticipated and don’t understand, and rejoicing in it all. Once we’ve set our internal navigation to track our true purpose, we’ll get lost a thousand times: that’s how the way is found. At any given moment, it’s okay to be someplace unfamiliar without a clue where we’re going next. Whatever is happening, whatever’s around us, we always ultimately know where we are. We’re home.