From the time I learned about labyrinths I have been fascinated by them. My dream was to visit the Chartres Cathedral in France so I could walk their labyrinth. It was on my bucket list, a dreamed up magical place that will take care of all my problems, allow me to surrender, and silence my internal yearning for stillness.
So I did what any sensible person in the modern world of instant gratification does, I bought a smaller wooden replica of the labyrinth that I can trace with my finger. The instructions on the back of my hand-crafted labyrinth said “The labyrinth is viewed as a metaphor for life’s journey. It offers lessons as we walk the path. Walking the labyrinth can assist in addressing challenges, meditation, prayer and finding peace and serenity. It is not a maze; there is only one way in and one way out.”
After few times of using my labyrinth, I realized my thoughts, my beliefs, the numerous stories in my journals, have not really changed. In my internal world I go round and round in my thoughts, I cling onto my long held beliefs, I am stubborn and rigid in my righteousness. At the center of the labyrinth, I found the stillness I yearned for, for me it lies in detachment from constant obsession to define myself. On my return journey from the center, I set an intention to dissolve these thought patterns that cling on to me like weeds. We don’t use Roundup on weeds, we carefully sow the seeds that we want to nourish and nurture.
While it would be lovely to visit France, I don’t need to physically go anywhere to self-reflect. My growth lies in coming to the center of the labyrinth and carefully observing my thought patterns. In the center is my soul, connection of Atman to Brahman. There is a Native American belief “when you release a pattern, you release it for seven generations before you and seven generations after you.” After I became a mother I felt an immediate burden of generational unresolved issues that would now haunt my daughter. Slowly after a lot of self-work that burden has transformed to love. I am grateful that the seven generations before me and after me have chosen me. With love I am now dissolving these patterns. With love these will get transferred to my daughter. It is my hope that as I follow my path to the center, so will she when the time is right for her.
In the book Kriya Yoga Upanishad, Goswami Kriyananda says “To prefer external pilgrimages to the internal, esoteric pilgrimage-places, is to prefer pottery fragments to jewels.”
All these texts can be interpreted in many ways. External pilgrimages can help in bringing awareness to internal vibrations and energy that are conducive to self-reflection. However one can’t be internally focused only when one is on an external pilgrimage, one has to make self-reflection part of daily life. When we are hit by grief, challenged by poverty, drowned in despair, helpless by external circumstances, the only way forward is to align ourselves with the light within. Whatever journey we take to walk the labyrinth, and whatever labyrinth pattern we choose, we all arrive at the center. At the center, there is no duality, only acceptance.
I have a choice to make – I can dream of Chartres Cathedral or make a labyrinth in my neighborhood and walk it with my neighbors. When we allow ourselves the joy of witnessing our life, we create openness to witness lives of other people. I have often wondered if no one knows I died, then did I even exist. We exist when we become an active witness to our life. We can’t expect others to understand us and know us, until we see ourselves.
Chartres Cathedral labyrinth was my external pilgrimage, what is your external pilgrimage? What problems is that external pilgrimage going to solve for you? And then the hard part – are you willing to prepone that internal journey to now! Like, right now!!
Thank you for being a witness to my story, I hope you find courage to allow yourself and others to witness yours! My next obsession is to visit the beautiful libraries in the world, and I don’t know where that is leading me to…