5 Spiritual Lessons from Life's Trail

A chaplain with the Good Samaritan Society shares spiritual lessons he's learned from the long, winding trail.

- Posted on Aug 27, 2018

A wooded path

“I love the life lessons that Steve Scarano learned during his seasons as a trail angel,” says Cullen Woods, chaplain at Good Samaritan Society—Manzano del Sol Village in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A serious mountain biker, Woods, 65, has tackled plenty of trails himself, and he believes Scarano’s lessons have spiritual resonance, particularly for people in retirement.

Say “thank you.” Woods thinks the trail is an apt metaphor for life, as Christianity was originally referred to as the way and early believers were known as followers of the way. “We are pilgrims as we move through life,” all of us travelers on a journey to a holy place, says Woods. “Gratitude is really important on our pilgrimage. Gratitude for this life. For this day. For the breath we have right now. Once we have gratitude, we see even the breath itself as a gift.”

A lot of stuff you just don’t need. “As we transition into retirement, we find things that used to seem important no longer are,” Woods says. “There may be ideas and biases we need to get rid of. Sometimes we have to let our children go and say, ‘They’re on their own.’ Sometimes we have problems and codependencies to give up. This life stage is more about weeding out things that hold us back and abiding in faith, living in a relationship with the divine.”

Some stuff you do need. “Some of the stuff we need we might not have yet,” Woods says. “Qualities such as patience, for instance. A sense of humor. Humility.” He notes that “being open to new ideas, new people, new relationships” makes a big difference. Woods saw something inspiring one day outside his office door: five people of different socioeconomic, ethnic and educational backgrounds, who would have never connected before, engaged in genuine conversation. “I felt I had a picture of heaven,” he says.

Putting one foot in front of the other may be better than seeing the big picture. “To me, the commandments are in present tense for a reason,” says Woods. “As the Alcoholics Anonymous saying reminds us, one day at a time is all we’ve got. If we think too far ahead, we miss today.”

Hike your own hike. “That means respecting your direction in life and respecting those of others too,” Woods says. “You meet different people on life’s trail. They may not be going the same direction you are. They may turn around and go back. But at that moment, you get to enjoy the trail with them.”

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