Brian and I were backpacking in Torres del Paine National Park, a pristine and stunning wilderness area in Chile’s Patagonia region. Friends had flown in from the U.S. to join us. We were having a grand time. But I was preoccupied.
It was November, Thanksgiving, and Brian and I had been traveling for almost six months. We were moving through South America at warp-speed and we’d become tired and road-weary. Ahead of us loomed another missed Christmas (our fourth consecutive Christmas away from family). We were homesick and lonely. We talked about giving up this traveling thing.
In just six weeks we were scheduled to travel to India. I was terrified. In India I had committed to driving a rickshaw 3,500 kilometers through the country, from Rajasthan in the north to Kerala in the south. It was an unsupported adventure in a rickety rickshaw. I’d be traveling with two women and, alone, we’d be picking our driving route, finding our own accommodations in Pune and navigating the crazy roads of this big city and other like Mumbai. It sounded suicidal. All rational parts of me were telling me not to go. But there was a deeper place in my soul that believed something was waiting for me in India and that if I could just push through the barrier of fear I might find something essential there.
I felt torn and anxious. I hiked alone with my thoughts and my mind turned over all of the reasons I shouldn’t go to India.
I have a simple prayer that I whisper whenever I feel lost and unsure of the next step:
“God,” I say, “Please guide me. And please give me the wisdom to know when I have received your guidance.”
So I hiked through the park and I said my prayer. I walked. I prayed. I worried.
After a few hours of walking we reached a clearing and stopped to take in the icy blue beauty of Glacier Grey. The wilderness around us was pristine and untouched. We posed for pictures and then sat in silence as the glacier cracked and ice crashed into the water.
We sat in that space for awhile, thrilled by the roar of the ice as it broke free of the glacier. Eventually we stood to leave and as we did my friend Patrick reached down to pick something from the ground. He dug beneath the rocky gravel and when he stood again he held something small in his hand. Silently, he opened his fist. There in his palm was this OM symbol.
I stared jaw-dropped at the tiny object in his hand. What were the odds that this tiny, silver charm would be here in this isolated environment? What were the chances that, as this abandoned necklace lay beneath dirt and rocks, it would catch Patrick’s eye and he would dig for it, then wordlessly offer it to me? I picked the OM symbol up off of his hand and put it in my pocket.
We began walking. I closed my eyes. “Okay, universe,” I said, “I definitely got the message.”
So I went to India and India transformed me. One day I will tell the story of how.
Now, I wear this OM around my neck to remind me that the universe has my back. And I wear it as a celebration of the thrilling fact that life is magic and filled with things so big that we cannot explain or understand them.
There are no coincidences. This I am sure of.