Lost in the Jungle

By Greg Baer M.D.

August 7, 2012

I once lived in the islands of Samoa, isolated in the vast stretches of the South Pacific, five hundreds miles from the nearest neighbor. One day I climbed the dirt road up a mountain, and looking for a bit of adventure, I walked into the jungle on a path well-worn by the natives.

In the jungle the vegetation seemed to occupy every available space, so that even taking a step off the path seemed impossible. But I wanted a more intense experience of the jungle, so I struggled my way off the path for a short distance. It was like being in another world. Although it was mid-day, it seemed like twilight because of the density of the ferns, bushes, and trees that grew to a great height and formed a high canopy that nearly blocked out the sun.

Satisfied with my novel experience, I turned back toward the path, but I discovered that I'd become disoriented by the exuberance and entangled complexity of plants, insects, and birds, to the point that I could not find the path. This was a problem, since the path was the only easy way back to the road. Walking through the vegetation was nearly impossible, yet somehow I had to make my way back to civilization.

Not knowing where the path was—or the road—I concluded that the only thing I really knew was that all the villages were located near the sea, far down the mountain. So I began to make my way downhill. This was no small matter. I discovered that the tangle of plants on the jungle floor was so dense that in some places the only way I could continue moving was to climb from vine to vine, several feet off the ground—reminding me of the old Tarzan movies where he swung from vine to vine while yelling in that characteristic yodeling style.

During my descent, I encountered a stream, which was encouraging. All streams eventually reach the sea, so I thought surely I could follow this one down to a village. I walked for some distance, and when I rounded one bend I nearly walked out over a five hundred foot waterfall. Clinging tightly to a vine, I leaned out over the precipice and viewed more clearly the tremendous height from which I would have fallen.

Looking across the great canyon created by the river, I saw the road I had left several hours before. Parked on the road was a tour bus, where tourists were gathered around a guide, who was pointing out the wonders of the waterfall and the gorge that lay before them. I had heard him give his speech before, and it included a statement something like this: "This is one of the most beautiful sites in Samoa. The waterfall you're seeing falls from what we call Mauga Sa—the Forbidden Mountain. We have named it in this way because it is sacred, and no man has ever been to the top of those falls and returned alive."

But as the guide was giving his speech, all the tourists saw me at the top of the "forbidden" falls, waving to them. Having spotted the road, I was able to make my way through the jungle to the road and back to the village from which I had begun my hike.

Our lives are often dense jungles, pressing in on us and confusing our way. But there is a path through the confusion. If we are truthful and loving and responsible, we will stay on the path. If we get distracted by Imitation Love, and by fear and Getting and Protecting Behaviors, we can become quite lost. It is always possible to find our way back to the path of happiness, but the way can be very difficult. It's far easier to stay on the path than to find it once we're lost.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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