Taking the Backward Step to Move Forward in 2020

backward step
Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta

When someone calls our name, we turn in their direction. We look back, not ahead to see who’s calling and what they want. The same thing applies to an inner calling, that yearning that doesn’t go away. Looking ahead for something doesn’t work. Understanding where it’s coming from requires us to look within, towards the source.

Zen Buddhism refers to this as taking the backward step — exploring and understanding that longing that wants us to act or move in a certain direction. Doing so requires regular practice, stillness and quiet, accessible only when we dial down the mental chatter and external stimuli.

Last year I decided it would be interesting to follow my Ancestral Trail back 500 years in 2020, ship my motorcycle to Europe and visit the lands of my ancestors in Russia/(now Ukraine), Poland/Prussia, Germany. Perhaps my experiences would be the fodder for my next book.

In September 2019, while on a three-month moto-book tour, a stop at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park in south eastern Alberta changed that. I was already questioning whether that big trip (to Russia) was the best use of my time and energy. Sure, it would be fun, exciting, and heart-quenching, but something undefinable niggled in the background.

My answer came while walking through the hoodoos. Clearly, the land spoke, telling me overseas travel in 2020 wasn’t the best way for me to serve. She had stories I needed to hear and share. It was time to be more contemplative rather than taking a moto-adventure in Europe. Although there was plenty more I could learn about my ancestors, I’d learned what I needed (for now).

When I set out on my original quest in 2014, I had several questions:

  • Who was I before my culture told me who I was, and how did the experiences of my ancestors live in me?
  • How did the experiences from the lands my ancestors and I walked, shape me?

During that stroll through the hoodoos, I realized I’d completed part one but the second part remained outstanding.

So, this summer I will again load up Trudy (my motorcycle) and head west, to southern Alberta. It’s where I crashed my motorcycle (not Trudy). Both sets of grandparents crashed there too as they struggled to start a new life in Canada. It’s where eleven-year-old Dad left his heart when they moved east. (Read Crash Landing.)

It’s the land that calls me to return, take the backward step, and listen.

I have a concept of what that may look like, but realistically have no idea where my path will lead. “I Trust,” said Dad as he lay dying, the best parting words he could endow me with. It comes to mind daily and will guide me into unknown territory. The greatest challenges are listening, then acting on my guidance.

The voice of my heart has never steered me wrong. Undertaking this calling, the backward step into an adventure of the body, mind, and soul, will be no exception.


Author, writer, and student Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery.

18 Comments on “Taking the Backward Step to Move Forward in 2020

  1. Following your heart can never be a wrong step. Stepping is moving no matter which way you move.
    It was great to see you at the Toronto Bike Show and chat for a minute. Take care.

    • Mary you inspire me every time! Thank you. I just need the courage to follow it, especially when I don’t know where it’s going! 🙂

  2. Beautifully described Liz. May you continue to listen to the longing. As you share your stories you inspire us all to do the same.

  3. Some people travel to accomplish something or put another mark on their belt, like climbing a mountain or riding around the world. Is it following the head, ego, or heart? Then there are those who are on a journey, a pilgrimage of the spirit or soul, and that requires listening to a different voice from within. Liz, this is you, and we are all the better for it, for you give us insight into listening to our ancestors. Thanks. AND, welcome back.

    • 🙂 Thanks Brent, and good questions. They come up with me too, and then I catch myself. I can never judge another’s motives. My aim is to be true to myself. That’s a 24/7 job right there!

  4. Wishing you the best as you continue your journey — both internal and external. I hope you’ll find what you’re seeking and then, as you did in Crash Landing, share the trip pwith ut.

    • Thanks Steve. I have thought that this might be my next book. (I also thought that about the Russia trip.) And then, again, I catch myself. All I need to do right now is go and listen. I don’t know what I’ll hear or how it’s to be shared. I’ll know when it’s time. As my beloved teacher Oriah points out, we have a tendency to thank our Higher Power for getting us to a certain point, and then saying, Thanks, I’ve got it from here! Life is a journey and we’re on it until it’s time to go.

  5. Letting go and listening is at the heart of the Spiritual. A sure path. Glad you are enjoying the journey, Liz.

  6. Oh my gosh life would be so boring if we knew the answer to every question, what was around every corner and what tomorrow is going to show us. Life is such a mystery. It is meant to be explored and unraveled. Go Liz go!

    • 🙂 Not all see it that way. Even for those of us who are so inclined, some love gravel; others prefer a packed surface. The key is to be living it!