When You Are at the Darkest Point in the Forest, You Are on the Right Track.

get elephant's newsletter

Photo: Meta B on Pinterest.

“You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else’s path.

You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else’s way,
you are not going to realize
your potential.”

~ Joseph Campbell

I used to look around at everything, quietly taking it all in, measuring myself to see where I’d fit or where I’d fallen short.

We all do this at some point. We have that bright spot in us until about seven or eight when we start becoming more self-aware, stop believing in fairy tales and start to measure. And for many, the measuring never stops.

Am I making enough money? Is my job title important? Am I married with 2.5 kids? Do I have it? Do I measure up? Am I on the right path? Am I on the path that people “expect” me to be on? Do I have all the right things?

And we measure and measure the things that don’t matter and waste all the days that could have been marvelous adventures if we’d left our measuring stick behind and instead grabbed a sword to cut a path through the pathless woods.

I was talking with a friend this weekend about Joseph Campbell, and Abraham Maslow, and how what Campbell tapped into that Maslow missed with his hierarchy of needs was that people need not just to feel secure—but to feel alive! We can tell ourselves that our paycheck is important or our car is important…all those details that make us feel “secure” are necessary. But what good is any of that if the hero inside us lies dormant? Maslow missed the fact that people need to feel alive. The purpose of life is what we bring to it:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Let’s stop measuring our lives in inches closer to the finish line.

Lose count of all that and instead, measure our yeses.

Keep track of the scars we have from last minute leaps.

Close the book and put away the list of things we thing we should do, we ought to have or everyone else is doing and do the things we must do.

Let’s take leave of the well-worn path and careful plans—and live.


 Like elephant adventure on Facebook.

is a new feature on Elephant Journal—enabling you to instantly share your mindful ideas, photos, art, YouTube videos/Instagram links & writings with our 5 million readers. Try it Now.

Write Now

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven.
She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds.
Kate’s books are now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives.

You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


29 Responses to “When You Are at the Darkest Point in the Forest, You Are on the Right Track.”

  1. Capri says:

    Love those Joseph C quotes and your message. I'm with ya.

  2. Heather McCaw says:

    I really needed to read this today. Thanks so much!

  3. ridiculouslyrawradiance50 says:

    Hey there Kate!
    I love the synchronicity of your article and my world and all that I'm about these days- I'm living my YES'S out loud- It IS a practice and a worthy one at that.
    I'm SO {IN}!
    Thank you for showing up with more!

  4. Justaguy says:

    Maslow didn't miss this- he put it at the top of his hierarchy, as the need for self fulfilment. Unfortunately we live in a time where we are frequently conned into believing we don't have "enough". The vast majority of advertising (up to 5,000 pieces of which we're exposed to on any given day, according to CBS News) is directed at manufacturing a sense of need in us. Often this is done by not-so-subtle threats to the needs lower on the hierarchy (belonging, security, self esteem).
    As usual, JC has done a masterful job of presenting one of the timeless themes that run through mythology. (My favourite version appears in The Quest of the Holy Grail.)

    • Ah, you are correct on Maslow! And correct of the advertising/societal influences for sure. We could all just keep our heads down and live happy little sitcom lives, but then who would slay all the dragons? Who would find the Holy Grail? 🙂

  5. Thank you for this. Amazing timing. It makes the risks I've taken to live my life seem worth it, and not only that, the essential thing to do. The only thing to do. Love the forest metaphor. So perfect for autumn contemplations. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Erin says:

    I just love you. Many times when I click the link to something that resonates with me from my elephant email, I find you at the other end of it! xox Great writing!

  7. greateacher says:

    I appreciate the article. I would like to ad done thought: I am nto so sur eof the platitud ein the final box.. about letting go of the life we planned to live the one we have. Some of us planned good things which have rewarded us immensely.. so its not just dropping everything.. its more of accepting the changes and misturns of fortune sometimes as we build and use our principles and learnings.

    In fact, holding onto in faith our dreams an dplans in a bad economic downturn is important. I helf onto my faith in my teaching during 4 years when I was sub teaching in a district wher etheir subs were treated as expendable. I believed in my skills and passion an dability to be an excellent teacher. Finally a previous district after 4 years of hiring freezes opened their hiring and I am ntow working in an environment which cherishes and values my skills and has open arms for me, the same person who did NOT give up.

    • I wouldn't consider a widely cherished quote by Joseph Campbell to be a platitude! For many of us, it is important to let go of our notions of what life "should be" in order to fully live our true paths. It sounds like what you are talking about is something completely different. You stayed with something that you were passionate about instead of giving up and doing something that would have been easier. That's exactly the point here…

  8. […] it all came clear. I figured something out without actually figuring it out, and there was suddenly all of this space. It’s a little hard to explain how wonderful and important that experience […]

  9. Needed this today darling!!! Thank you xxx.

  10. Deborah says:

    Love the path quote and needed the reminder – perfect timing! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  11. […] When You Are at the Darkest Point in the Forest, You Are on the Right Track. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  12. […] desolate field has its own beauty, and its own purpose, like the times in our lives where things change and fall away so new things can grow. The dark things in life aren’t the bad things. Usually, they are […]

  13. John says:

    Ya gotta love a gal that plants dandelions!

  14. […] During the cry time, feel as rotten as you want. Call yourself a loser, tell yourself you’re not good enough and that you don’t fit […]

  15. […] When You Are at the Darkest Point in the Forest, You Are on the Right Track. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  16. […] When You Are at the Darkest Point in the Forest, You Are on the Right Track. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  17. […] would Joseph Campbell do, of course. What were you […]

  18. Sydney Solis says:

    Campbell also said about Maslow's hierarchy of needs that it was "for boring people." People who are living in the world, if they are truly alive, are seized by something. The builders of Europe's medieval Cathedrals and the Pyramids of Egypt didn't do it for economic or political reasons! What they did was completely unreasonable! They were seized by myth!!!! They were not living in linear time, but cyclical and eternal time. Sacred vs profane time, and most people are stuck in the later. Myth is that which pitches you out of the mundane world and links you to the divine. For as Campbell said, "A mythic image has one food in reality and another in the transcendent. So what myth are you living? What are you bringing forth to the world? Mythic Yoga!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.