The Art of Being Lost

Bill Plotkin, author of Soul Craft and Nature and the Human Soul, is a depth psychologist, ecotherapist, wilderness guide, and is founding director of Colorado’s Animas Valley Institute (www.animas.org).  His work is a powerful gift to anyone interested in living more fully.  The “art of getting lost” is only one tiny little juicy tidbit among all that he offers.  His work will change you.

These sections are taken directly from his book, Soul Craft.

But being lost is not at all a bad thing – if you know you’re lost and you know how to benefit from it spiritually.  Most of us consider being lost a bummer, highly undesirable or even terrifying.  We all have important things to do, there’s not enough time in the day as it is, thank you, and getting lost is a major fly in the ointment of success, a monkey wrench in the gearbox of progress. 

In the Western world, where “progress is our most important product,” we are encouraged from our earliest years to know exactly where we are at all times and precisely where we are going.  Yes, such knowledge is often desirable if not necessary, but not knowing is of equal benefit.

By arriving more fully in the present, through being lost and accepting it, your life suddenly suffers a radical simplification.  Old agendas, beliefs and desires fall away.  You quiet down inside and it becomes easier to hear the voice of the soul.

There are four necessary components to the art of being lost:

  1. You must face that you are lost

  2. You must know you are lost and accept it

  3. You must have adequate survival knowledge, skills, and physical or spiritual tools

  4. (most important)  You must practice nonattachment to any particular result of being lost, such as being found by a certain time, or at all

In other words, you must accept this condition, relax into it, and arrive fully where you are.

Here is Bill Plotkin’s personal experience with the feeling of being lost...

When I find myself lost in the wild, fear starts in my groin and works its way up to my belly and down to my knees.  My heart races.  My throat wants to shout for help.  My whole body begins to tremble and my head whirls.  My breath grows shallow and rapid.  My heart beats quicker and quirkier.

But if I don’t panic (or after I’m through panicking), I notice my body actually likesbeing lost!  Not the mind, but the body.  My skin begins to tingle, as if with delight.  I become very awake.  My senses grow sharp and clear.  The sounds, colors, textures, and edges of things become distinct and radiant.  I can’t help but notice an enjoyment arising through being so present, so much in this body.  Here.  Now.  Thought slows down and becomes crystalline.  What will I do, I wonder.

I hear a weird voice say, “Let’s enjoy being here before we get in too much of a hurry to be somewhere else.  If we can make a life here, after all, we can make a life anywhere.”