Seeking & Exploring
On the path of self-discovery, there are two main orientations—Seeking and Exploring.
From a young age most of us are conditioned to be Seekers. To search and find. To acquire and achieve whether those achievements are material or spiritual.
For many years I knew myself only as a Seeker, and would say things like . . .
I am a truth seeker.
I am a thrill seeker.
I seek love.
I seek knowledge.
I am a spiritual seeker.
Being a Seeker served me well for many years, and carried me a great distance on my journey of discovering who I am and why I’m here. But my seeking came at a cost because I assumed I knew what I was supposed to find.
I learned through direct experience that seekers tend to look only for what they expect to find (or have been told should find), and they seek evidence to confirm those expectations.
In this way, seeking is desire and expectation in motion because it deals in probabilities, should and shouldn’t, and solutions to problems. Seeking might give you a better version of what you’ve known, or have been told you’re allowed to have, but it will rarely lead to the Unknown.
No one seeks the Unknown. You don’t know what to look for. When I realized that, my days of seeking ended. Instead, I began to explore.
What is the difference?
The Tale of Seeker and Explorer
Imagine two adventurers—Seeker and Explorer—who each set out to find a legendary treasure so vast it is rumored to be beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. For a great many years, treasure hunters have sought but failed to find it. Most doubted its existence entirely.
Seeker, being ambitious and resourceful, inquired of the kingdom’s oracles and holy men. After conferring together they told Seeker, “In a vision one of the oracles saw coins buried beneath a skull-shaped boulder in the kingdom’s harsh southern desert. Find the skull rock and you will be rich beyond imagination. Be on your way and do not be turned aside by any other path.”
That very hour, Seeker set off toward the desert to find the skull-shaped rock and the treasure buried beneath it.
Explorer, too, was ambitious like Seeker and sought counsel. But they did not seek the advice of the sages. Instead, they sought out an old man who lived in a hovel on the edge of town, a merchant rumored to know about the legend of the treasure.
As the sun set, Explorer found the old merchant.
“A treasure exists, yes,” the merchant said. “My grandfather buried it in the southern desert before his death. When I was very young he took me to the very spot. I don’t remember where it was, and now I am too old to care. All I can tell you is it is in the desert, beyond the Books Cliffs before you reach the sea. Good luck finding it.”
“And what of the skull rock? Should I search for it?”
The merchant’s lips turned a grin. “Beyond the Books Cliffs, before you reach the sea.”
And so Explorer headed south, close on Seeker’s heels, toward the desert.
Consider the two adventurers.
What will Seeker desperately search for as she crosses the desert if not only what she has decided to find—a skull-shaped rock? It’s unlikely she will look for, much less see, anything else.
The seeker has already decided what she will or should find (and where). For her, there is only the skull-shaped boulder. Nothing else matters to Seeker.
But what if the sages were wrong? What if there was no rock? If there was, what if the treasure was never under it? What if it was somewhere else? Perhaps the story of the rock was just that, a story crafted as a diversion from the treasure’s true hiding place. Or worse, what if the boulder is a trap?
Seeker looks, but Explorer sees.
Let’s make a shift from Seeker to Explorer. Where will the Explorer be looking if not everywhere? What will they be looking for if not for every possible clue, no matter what it might be?
The explorer is wide-eyed, alert.
The explorer is driven by curiosity.
The explorer sees possibilities.
The explorer makes room for the unexpected.
Everywhere the explorer looks might hide treasure. Seeker is looking for something while the Explorer is open to everything.
Truly new discoveries and frontiers—the life-changing kind—are always the domain of the Explorer. As you journey today, I encourage you to be an Explorer. Have a beginner’s mind.
Know that you don’t know.
Don’t only look for what it is you think you’re supposed to find.
Do not hang on to what you think you know, or what others think they know. Use your maps and the advice of others, but realize they often get in the way of true discovery.
For just a little while, leave behind everything you think you see and everything you think you know. When you think you know, you only think you know.
Simply look and see what is around you. Not what you think you should find, but what actually is even if it surprises and terrifies.