Day 190

“Where are we?”

We didn't have a camera...but this is what a labyrinth looks like!

Halfway through the middle of my life, I found myself in a well-tended wood on the road from Lenox to Stockbridge. The path was covered with clean woodchips and soft sunlight.  We turned uphill and walked against the downhill current of a babbling brook. Crossing the footbridge at the top of the path, Frank and I  found ourselves in a quiet, crowded parking lot beside an institutional brick building that might once have been a school or even a convent.  The building faced a long emerald lawn overlooking the rolling Berkshires and a wide, blue lake.

“Where are we?” I asked a woman whom we spotted climbing the front steps of the unmarked building.

She looked at me strangely for a moment, and then answered, “You’re at Kripalu. You look like you belong here.”

Isn’t it amazing? My daily walk — grabbed at the end of a long day of driving from Middlebury, Vermont via the scenic road — had led me right to the steps of the greater Eastern Seaboard’s well-known and best-loved Kripalu yoga retreat and training center.  And we’d found it completely by chance — not approaching even from the road, but across a footbridge through the wooded grounds.

From there, Frank and I walked down the empty great lawn, toward an attractive grouping of trees where we found another unmarked and absolutely fortuitous discovery: the labyrinth.

“Here we are,” we said.

Instinct and intuition had led us to this discovery at the end of our weekend away: a solitary walk through a spiritual landmark.  We went quietly. Frank walked ahead of me. In time I found I was chanting a wordless tune, which I kept up for another turn around the center of the circle. On my second rim of the labyrinth I saw the rocks marked with smaller rocks, remembrances left by others. On the third ring, toward the center, I smelled the balsam fragrance of the trees. As I neared the center I found I was walking more quickly, and at the center I stopped at the totem and recited the prayer for peace marked there in four languages.

Leaving the labyrinth by retracing my steps, I realized that walking the rings was, for me,  a lot like writing a novel: first you enter and circle the story, then you step to the outer ring and trace the frame of everything. You write and walk slowly and steadily toward the center, and once you are there you retrace your steps — refining, editing, noticing things you didn’t notice before — until you’re ready to reach the end, bow, and honor the journey.

I hope you will have a chance to walk a labyrinth one day. For me, this gift at the end of a long weekend away served to reaffirm my commitment to finding grace, gratitude, and generosity in daily life. What I realize tonight is that one needn’t go far to find these attributes. They are right inside of us and there to be recognized at any moment: we found the labyrinth and we were grateful. We walked it in silent contemplation, and we found a sense of peace and grace. Generosity? It doesn’t have to be a monetary generosity, does it? I think for today it’s enough that we were  generous in our silent gratitude toward the beauty of the mountain and for one another’s company.