Hiking is one of many relaxing and calming activities I enjoy. Recently we (my husband, the dog and I) had the pleasure of visiting the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, which is a complex volcano center with volcanoes from 10 million years ago. It was our first time there and the main reason we visited was because we heard there was a labyrinth in it.
A must before heading up to the hills is a stop to the lady’s restroom. To our surprise, it was locked. However, the men’s restroom was open and a long line of women and men was forming there. Soon the line became a friendly atmosphere to get to know each other to some degree.
It was pleasant to learn we were not the only first timers at the park nor the only ones in search of the labyrinth. There were people with GPS, maps, references from friends, and all kinds of tools in order to find the labyrinth. I was wondering why the labyrinth was not clearly marked on the official map of the park.
After having our turns in the restroom, each of us headed toward different trails aiming to find the reason to be at the park. For a moment, I felt on a “quest for meaning”. I was glad to see many interested in finding the labyrinth. I compared it with our own search for the meaning in life. Each one uses different tools available and that feel comfortable, in addition to the freedom to choose our own path.
Finally, it was our turn to decide which trail to take. Even though we had our own tools, my husband in a practical way said: “Let’s follow the people with GPS”. Indeed, we followed them up to a certain point. Since we were with our dog, we took him into consideration and decided to stop. The trail they had chosen was not anymore of a convenience to him.
It became clear to me how sometimes in life we do that. We follow other’s opinions, decisions or arguments just because we think “they know” better. It is always our choice to continue or choose a different path. It is important to stop and listen to that inner voice of wisdom and think about all involved- not only us, but also those who surround us.
We decided to take a different road. It looked extraneous and started to gradually go up on the hill. We joked around and thought that at some point it needed to start going down, then we would be able to breathe and relax.
As we continued through that road we asked people we encountered if they knew where the labyrinth was located. No one was able to point it out. A young couple told us they were not able to find it and were returning back home. They had given up. It was somehow discouraging, but we decided to let it go and continue. We declared we were going to enjoy the walking no matter what. That is what life is about- enjoying the ride, enduring till the end, and not giving up your dreams and desires.
Finally, we got to the top of the hill and still could not see the labyrinth.
We found out we were standing up on the ridge of what was, 10 million years ago, a volcano crater. It was a magnificent feeling. While enjoying the view and taking time to rest on the hill, we suddenly saw a geological mark sign with an arrow pointing out the path to the labyrinth. We found it!
As we were walking down the wide road, the labyrinth started to reveal itself.
Even though I knew it was a labyrinth, I couldn’t identify its type or shape. It was somehow confusing. I was expecting the one I am most familiar with – the 11 circuit medieval labyrinth or the Chartres Labyrinth, as many call it.
I felt disappointed. I judged the labyrinth, its surroundings and its shape. I couldn’t figure out where the entrance was, so I picked a place from the most outer circuit. While walking the labyrinth, I experienced a muddy path making it difficult to walk. Bushes were partially blocking a section of the path, rocks were not aligned to delimit the circuits, and from where I was standing, the center looked awfully disorganized. It looked like a pile of rocks burying trash.
Reflecting upon this, I find this is a common behavior in our daily lives. We have expectations in many areas like: when we approach our bosses for a salary raise, go on a blind date, visit a new country or place, ask for a friend’s favor, enter in a new business partnership, etc. When reality doesn’t match our expectations then disappointments, upsets, judgments and dissatisfactions arise blocking us from seeing the opportunity we have to learn, grow, improve or expand.
The closer I was getting to the center, the pile of rocks I judged as a pile of trash started to have a different shape and feeling. My view started to become clearer and clearer.
Some rocks were there to hold beautiful messages of hope, compassion, love and peace. Some rocks had inscriptions. My heart melted and even felt guilty for having such judgments towards them some minutes ago.
It was a good reminder that when we allow ourselves to be in touch with our most inner being, call it love, heart, wisdom, God, Light, Jesus, Buda, or any name you wish to call it, the perspective changes. Where there was hatred, darkness, revenge, disappointment or sadness, it transforms into love, compassion, understanding and hope.
After walking the labyrinth, we stepped aside and enjoyed teenagers, families and dogs interacting with the labyrinth. Even though I would love to share with you those reflections, I will leave it for a future post.
When it was time to leave that place, we climbed up the hill (the labyrinth was located inside the volcano crater). Once we reached the hill, we noticed there was a vista point- it allows people to see the labyrinth without the need to go down the hill. I was able to see the labyrinth from a higher point of view. The shape and style became clear. It was a Classical labyrinth. I laughed at myself for not being able to identify it when I was in such proximity.
It was the perfect example for me that when we gain altitude in any situation it becomes much clearer and easier to handle or understand the situations we are in.
If you have been to the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve without any success in finding the labyrinth, hike again and endure until the high hill. Look for the geological mark #2. There are several roads to choose from to reach down the labyrinth, choose the one you are more comfortable with and be careful as some are very steep.
Up on the hill you will gain enough altitude to appreciate the labyrinth, as well as your life reflected upon the path.
As Aristotle once said: “The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation”. Mark Hardwick interprets the quote as: “Aristotle is challenging us to become more self-aware and reflective about our lives”
Let’s let Aristotle challenge us,