As I reflect on this past week spent in a quiet, personal retreat at The Abbey of Gethsemani, one recurring thought is that you must occasionally go off the beaten path in order to discover real treasure. Most of my friends, family and colleagues think that going to a monastery for any length of time is not just going off the beaten path, but is a bit wacko. At least most accept it even if they think it’s weird.
Going to Gethsemani is, for me, a place off the beaten path when I can get away (mostly) from the hurried, online and offline daily life I live and concentrate on things more fundamental, more spiritual, more at the core of who I am and believe I should be.
However, even at Gethsemani, there are times when I discover more because I go off the beaten path while there. For example, when most people enter the Visitor Center, it seems the main attractions are either the gift shop or the theater with a movie repeating about the Abbey. But you have to go past those to a hallway lined with photos, plaques and various quotes to learn more of the history, life and mindset there. I spent a few hours looking at every photo and reading every word there, and the total time spent there by others while I was there was measured in just a few minutes. Most didn’t want to take the time, yet it was there that I learned so much more this trip than in the past about Gethsemani.
Likewise, while walking through the woods to “the statues,” one only discovers some gems by going off the main path. For example, there is a tree (pictured here) that separates near the ground into two separate, very tall trunks, but then reconnects into one trunk very high up. You’ll miss that if you stay on the main path.
If you live life reflectively, you can learn much regardless of the path you take, but often you will discover things that others do not by being willing to follow leap year lesson #90 – The best treasures are found off the beaten path.