Each moment offers infinite possibilities. Although our memories and dreams for the future have value, we can only live in the eternal present moment. Today’s world pulls us out of this moment more than ever, and when we aren’t present, suffering arises. We worry, we long for what we don’t have, and we put off our lives until the elusive “someday” when—or if—we have that new lover, better job, or reach a particular goal.
Foremost in my own history was a longing for peace of mind. A story emerged from this search for freedom from suffering. The Tao of Hitchhiking is about that journey to connect with the underlying, ever-present inner peace. While the book chronicles a real-life physical trip, life (fortunately!) continues after the trip ended. This blog provides an on-going peek into the daily work of a spiritual traveler. Here is the summary of my forthcoming book:
The Tao of Hitchhiking: A Journey to Freedom is a memoir that reveals a journey from depression and despair to health and happiness. Set in an exciting cross-country adventure, it follows a young woman’s quest to find meaning and purpose in her life. She departs at rock bottom with nothing left to lose, and embarks with a backpack and the desire to learn to live in the moment and to trust that the Universe will take care of her. Each time she steps onto the road, she practices centering her thoughts to create a clear, kind energy to offer to potential rides. What follows is much more than she could have anticipated. People share their life stories and deepest secrets, and as she offers an unbiased ear to strangers from all walks of life, she discovers the common elements of joy, hardship and feelings of separation that embody the human experience. While her copy of Wild Edible Plants gathers dirt in her pack, she discovers that the Universe is abundant, offering her plenty of meals for her good company, endless experiences of the kindness of strangers, and wonderful camaraderie with people whose lives are very different from her own. From this she realizes that while everyone has unique challenges, we all face similar doubts, fears, heartaches and loss. This common thread of human experience inspires her to find meaning in each moment, without the often depressing labels of good and bad.
The heroine’s search yields an unexpected result—a spiritual path in a material culture. The theme explores how life can take a vastly different direction by how we choose to interpret everything that happens, each person we meet, and every place we visit. Then we can learn from each experience, following synchronicities to discover the reasons for the events of our lives. The character learns how her choices shape her life, and that her state of mental and physical health are also choices within her control. From this she begins practicing present moment awareness, and establishing an accepting relationship to life. The message of the story is that everyone can choose a happy, fulfilling life.
This is a poignant message in our escapist, externally oriented culture. Our relationships with people and the world are becoming increasingly superficial. We’re more “connected” than ever electronically—communicating via texts and social networking—yet we lack depth in personal relationships. Many people are spending less time participating in life, while watching the lives of others online. People are becoming increasingly overwhelmed, stressed, anxious and depressed by following social expectations instead of their true desires. In fact, many people don’t even know what they want, and are seeking meaning and purpose in their lives. The story demonstrates that each of us is not alone with our feelings of overwhelm, confusion, depression, or restlessness, and that anyone can turn their lives around. This book is about self-empowerment; seeing fears as illusions, treating oneself like a loved one, and finding happiness in the midst of life’s most difficult challenges.
About the Author: Melissa Karolides hitchhiked over 20,000 miles, journaling the early insights of this book. Embarking with a lifetime of chronic depression behind her, she learned to trust the lessons of the universe, and returned to California to join the opening team of the Chopra Center for Well Being. She went on to obtain certifications in yoga and Deepak Chopra’s Primordial Sound Meditation. Melissa also holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She co-authored the reference book Focus on Fitness. Melissa teaches yoga and meditation at the college level, and facilitates workshops on yoga, writing, and life-purpose discovery.