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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Life Lessons from a GPS

I spent a lot of time the other day driving around the city.  I had a number of meetings and a bunch of errands and nothing seemed close to the other. I racked up a lot of miles going back and forth and in between, even in getting to the city in the first place. I had very good company for this travel. I took our trusty GPS device which we affectionately call "Shirley".

GPS stands for Global Positioning System and according to technical specifications is a space-based satellite navigation system based on a method called triangulation. Wow.. that's a mouthful.  I really don't spend a lot of time thinking about how this thing works. I turn it on, plug in an address and a map "magically" appears and  a voice tells me where to go and how to get there. Hmm...

When I first got "Shirley" I used to argue with her a lot.  I didn't trust her. I'm directionally challenged, but I really thought I knew better than she did for some reason. Sometimes I didn't think Shirley gave me the instructions far enough ahead of time so I would make some decisions on my own, and a little prematurely, that made my journey a little more complicated than it might have needed to be.

Over time I've come to trust Shirley and we have a much better relationship.  Shirley has taken away a lot of stress for me. I don't worry anymore about finding my way, I really trust that Shirley will do the navigation for me. It frees me up to "just" drive. There's some comfort in that.

Perhaps because I was "stress free" the other day, I did some thinking about Shirley.  It seems to me there are some life lessons to be found in the GPS technology.

The GPS is based on satellites orbiting the earth. The distance between my vehicle and three or four satellites is measured constantly and that identifies my position in space. I don't know how that works any more than that. But the point is, it would seem , that I don't need to figure that out because Shirley works just fine without me having any idea how she "does what she does".  It would seem if I can trust some sort of orbiting satellite or three or four to provide me direction while traveling at 110+km/hr, I should be able to trust some sort of divine universe power and a master plan for my journey on earth. Maybe I don't need to understand how that works, what's actually "out there", or how the system is designed. Perhaps I can just find the trust.

I can override Shirley at any point in time. She doesn't actually do the driving, she just provides me with suggestions.  That seems to be similar to the concept of free-will.  We can vary off our path and take short-cuts, back roads, and alternative routes in life. We can decide we just aren't up for a challenge that might be presented to us. We get to choose, but if we are willing to accept it, there is a lot of help along the way.

If I "mess up" and don't follow Shirley's advice correctly she does a "re-calculation".  She doesn't throw up her circuit board in disgust and tell me I'm on my own.  She very calmly, without judgement, adjusts and gives me new instructions.  Having been way off course a time or two, it would seem she will recalculate an infinite number of times. I think the life journey is similar. There are no mistakes- just miss takes and you always get a "do over" after you've spent some time to recalculate.

The more I trust Shirley's guidance the smoother my trip is. That lesson took awhile, but I no longer second guess Shirley or think I know better.  I follow the signs to the best of my capability. I still have to make allowances for detours, road closures and sudden changes. Sometimes I shut Shirley off when I already know the route and am confident to go it alone. Again, that seems like a life lesson. Sometimes we need that guidance and sometimes we're good to make our own map. But it's always nice to know the help is there if you run into trouble along the way.

A lot of people I know have a GPS. Most people give it a name.  I guess it's just because it feels like if something is talking to you, you should personalize it. There are lots of names out there for the same model. That seems to be an individual choice and as far as I know, it doesn't affect the directions you get. So maybe the same is true of life.  Maybe it doesn't matter what you call your guidance system; God, Buddha, Allah, Gaia, Spirit, Divinity, Source, Mother/Father, and the list goes on. Maybe whatever you call it- it's still the same system. Hm...

Sometimes I can't get the direction I need from Shirley.  Occasionally, I plug in an address and it just doesn't seem to be there. But no matter what, it seems Shirley tracks my position in space. Again that seems like a life lesson.  Sometimes the directions don't seem to be clear but "the now" is always present and tangible.

On thing is very clear with my GPS.  At any point in the journey, if I plug in "Home", Shirley can get me back there.  There is huge comfort in that.  It might even be that I would venture further than my comfort zone knowing that I can find my way back.  Particularly in uncharted, woodland, this feature can be life-saving. Hmm..

The final lesson I take from my GPS is this.  While Shirley provides the navigation, is often decent company, relieves stress, and provides comfort, it is still up to me to do the driving.

Happy Motoring!

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