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Here’s a Brand New Metaphor for the Spiritual Path

photo: Francesca Dioni on flickr

photo: Francesca Dioni on flickr

If you have any interest in spiritual growth, or even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard this a million times:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

I always thought this quote came from the people who made posters in the 1970’s. You know the ones.

There’s a picture of a forest with a wide dirt path winding into the distance. And some variation of the “journey/destination” quote is stamped on the bottom of the poster in a flowy, encouraging font.

Like this:

life is a jouney done

Or this:

another journey done again

Or maybe the makers of the poster went cowboy-style:

cowboy journey done

As it turns out, the origin of the quote is Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I’m not sure how he would feel about the cowboy version of his sentiment. He’d probably dig it.

I also wonder how Ralph would feel about the excessive enthusiastic recycling of his words. Perhaps he’d dig that too. Perhaps not.

After all, it was Emerson who said:

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

So I’m thinking Emerson might appreciate a new metaphor for life’s journey. One that has not been trampled upon ad nauseum more than once by spiritual teachers and makers of inspirational posters.

Check it out:

The other day, I was listening to a CD of a session with one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Abe (aka Abraham Hicks). They were talking about this whole “life is a journey” thing, and how we humans need to let go of being in such a hurry to reach our destinations.

As they were saying this, I realized that this journey metaphor doesn’t always work for me. At least, not as far as encouraging me to enjoy the moment.

Here’s the thing: I love getting things done. I experience a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from completing my tasks – from reaching the destination.

photo: Paxson Woelber on flickr

photo: Paxson Woelber on flickr

Yes, I understand the whole journey/destination idea. I’m down with what Ralph has to say. But my moments of really, truly sinking into that metaphor are rare.

And then I thought about dancing.

If I’m in the middle of boogying to an awesome song, I’m not in any hurry to finish. Indeed, I’m bummed if someone turns off the music in the middle of the song.

When I’m dancing, I’m not trying to “reach” the end of the dance. Dancing is the destination. If the song is especially funky and the dancing is especially fun, I never want it to end.

photo: Fred Benenson on flickr

photo: Fred Benenson on flickr

See, now that works for me.

I know that “life is a dance” metaphors have also been used. And used. And used.

But not like this:

“Life is about the dance, not the end of the dance where they turn off the music and you have to go sit down and you’re really bummed out.”

Can’t you just see that on inspirational posters everywhere? Or at least in my office?

So, if you’ve heard the “life is journey” line one too many times, remember that you have options!

You can groove with my dancing metaphor. Or you can create your own.

Surfing. Napping. Competitive knitting.

Do not go where the surf/nap/knitting needles may lead, go instead where there is no surf/nap/knitting and leave a trail.” 

Or something like that.

photos: Mike Baird, starshaped, and Koshyk on flickr

photos: Mike Baird, starshaped, and Koshyk on flickr

What’s your favorite metaphor for the spiritual path or life in general? Share your comments below!

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26 Responses to Here’s a Brand New Metaphor for the Spiritual Path

  1. Jo Lauer September 24, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Thanks for that, Z. I try not to get myself into an either/or situation. While I’m on the journey, I try to appreciate every nuance along the way. So, the first (overused) phrase applies. Once I’ve finally accomplished my goal, I shift over to the joy of the celebration. Win/win. If I don’t accomplish my goal, I’ve lost nothing.

    • Z Egloff September 24, 2013 at 9:38 am #

      Hi Jo,

      Yes, the either/or way of thinking about things is limiting, isn’t it? I like your way of looking at the journey/destination metaphor. I especially like that, in your viewpoint, even if you don’t accomplish a particular goal, nothing has been lost. Thank you!! :)


  2. Tracy September 24, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    LOL!!! Z, I love it. I really needed to hear this today.
    I, too, feel the pull of the dance. I know Ellen, bless her, would agree too!
    I also have extreme trouble with the whole journey thing.
    My substitute list is short – maybe really good novels,
    NY pizza, dancing in the car while driving and embarrassing my kids, and trips to Disney (land, world, anything).

    “Life is not about finishing the NY pizza. It is about not eating it so fast that you get that really gnarly pizza burn on the roof of your mouth, but not so slow that the cheese stops being soft and drippy.”

    • Z Egloff September 24, 2013 at 9:40 am #


      Whoo Hooo!!! I love your new line. I can see it on posters already! The posters will be in every pizza place in the world, encouraging their customers to Enjoy Every Bite! Which is really what it’s all about, no matter what we’re doing. Thank you for making me smile! :)


  3. Natasha September 24, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Z, I love the quote life is about the dance. I feel the same way. Totally in the moment, and enjoying every moment of movement, every moment of the music. Then the song is over. What a journey in itself!

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Z Egloff September 24, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      Hi Natasha,

      Great to see you here, as always! I’m glad you can relate to the dance metaphor – it really makes it a lot more fun, for me! Happy to have you on the dance floor with me! :)


  4. Karen Fry September 24, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Love it Z! I imagine that when my cat Bodhi is enjoying “the journey” of laying on my legs in the morning (I’d like to think it’s all about me, but it’s more likely about the heat coming off of my legs), he’s bummed when I have to cut the journey short because I need to go to the bathroom or get another cup of coffee. He’s definitely not trying to get anywhere. And… when I get back, he’s likely to pick up the journey where he left off.

    There’s no where to go, I’m already home.

    Love you bunches!

    • Z Egloff September 24, 2013 at 9:42 am #


      So awesome to “see” you here. Bodhi is truly a spiritual master. I love that he doesn’t hold it against you when you leave. And that when you come back, he welcomes you back with open paws, ready to embrace the warm moment once again.

      Love you too, sister!!


  5. Anna September 24, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Mine is surfing… well boogie boarding really. There is always another wave!
    Thanks for the great blog.

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

      Hi Anna!

      Thank you for stopping by! :)

      I’ve never surfed, but it seems like the perfect metaphor for life. And the waves just keep coming. . . .


  6. Janet September 24, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    LOL, Z–I have no idea what life is about! Sometimes I’m in love with it, other times it’s “what the @!#$ is this anyway?”
    I love you, though–thanks for the post!

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi Janet,

      Having no idea what life is about sounds like an enlightened view to me. Just sayin’. 😉


  7. Donna Jean September 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Thank you for smiles & laughs! My journey has been my computer lately. One of the best places is, of course, ZD. My latest, greatest journey has been, of course, WomanSpirit! You brought many belly laughs to me and everyone else there. Thank you and I love you! Donna (Donna Jean – on the Land).

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      Hi Donna Jean – on the Land,

      I love you back! I’m glad that your computer is bringing you joy. This is the best use of computers, or anything else, really. WomanSpirit was awesome this year. Thank you for being part of my journey. I mean, dance! :)


  8. d karma king McCrady September 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    I have always liked Ralph Waldo Emerson, but also love dancing, so your metaphor is perfect for me. But, I think along with our journey/dance we should be creating music so others can dance, creating paths for other’s journeys. For me, my spiritual path is more like, stop and plant roses so that others can smell roses on their journey.
    thank you

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Howdy d karma king McCrady,

      How awesome is your name? Worth breaking out into dance. Or song.

      I love your idea of bringing joy to others in whatever we do. This is a great addition to the metaphor. And to life itself, for that matter. Thank you.


  9. Connie September 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    If you get a charge out of the “Completion” Wanna comke help “FINISH” the Garage. This paticular journey may never end, and maybe that’s good..Love you,

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      HI Connie,

      Ah, I see. I have to be careful what I post on here. I just might find myself up to my neck in projects! :)

      Having a garage full of an endless number of items sounds magical, actually. I agree with you that “finishing” the journey is perhaps not the goal.


  10. Karen September 24, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    Hidey ho, Z,

    Thanks for another insightful and funny post. Your “Life is about the dance, not the end of the dance where they turn off the music….” has a certain, uh, je ne sais pas about it. It just might catch on as people search for more meatier mottos.

    One of my favorite metaphors is that of Abraham’s pie. They use it to explain the value of diversity, saying that when we create a pie (our life experience), the more ingredients (variety) there is to draw from, the more opportunities we have to stir up something really pleasing to us. They also use the analogy to remind us that what other people put in their pie (experience) doesn’t have anything to do with our pie. We are the bakers (creators) of our own pie/experience, and everyone else is the same.

    Abraham continues by saying if there’s a bottle of tabasco sauce in the kitchen, there’s no need to panic and rid it from the place. It won’t get in our pie unless we put it there. Our pie can easily co-exist with it.

    It’s such a terrific analogy. BUT it has been known to evoke hunger, and I must head to the freezer now and see if there’s a Mrs. Smith ready to quick-thaw. (I’ll choose a less-edible metaphor next time.)

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      Hi Karen,

      The Abe pie metaphor is awesome. I especially like the idea that the tabasco sauce of others has no power to harm our own pie. If everyone on the planet really got this idea, the world would be a different place. Although, the world being exactly like it is is part of the perfection of diversity. So there you go.

      I hope you enjoyed your pie! 😉


  11. Marylyn Kirk September 25, 2013 at 12:01 am #

    “Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together”

    ― Marilyn Monroe

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

      Hi Marylyn,

      An awesome Marilyn quote by Marylyn. This is perfect timing for me, hearing this quote. Thank you!


  12. Mary M September 25, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    Considering Abe’s gratitude/appreciation analogy, I’m struck by the thought how the word journey is tied to the word destination. There can be a sense of the absence of the destination in the journey and the absence of journey in the destination. This makes me think of the power of NOW. In the moment of NOW, there is both the journey and the destination together, especially if you are dancing!

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      Hi Mary,

      I love this idea. Ultimately, there is no time and everything is happening at once. Journey and destination are one. Especially in the dance!

      It’s funny you should mention the Power of Now, because I love that book and practice and was recently guided in a dream to read it again. Thank you for another nudge in that direction. :)


  13. Imani January 26, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    I have come to realize , there is no path, there is no journey. No destination. All that is, is here and now and all that is, is emerging through you. So now, when I dance, joy is flowing through me…when I am working on building my new website and awake at 2 am in the morning , I experience timelessness (except for when I look at the clock) as pure joy and passion for my writing and creativity. All that ever is existing, is you , your emotion and essence unfolding in the moment. What do you choose to express?

    • Z Egloff January 28, 2014 at 11:31 am #

      Hi Imani,

      I love those moments of timelessness. For me, it’s when I’m doing what I love the most: writing, creating. That’s when I step into that timeless dance where everything is connected and flowing and magical and so much fun! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter with all of us!


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