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  • Henry Schoenfield

Lessons from the Winding Path

In the East River Park, a short walk from my apartment, tucked almost underneath the Williamsburg Bridge is a labyrinth. It is easily one of my favorite places in New York City. Here, the ancient practice of walking the labyrinth becomes simple: lines painted on concrete as an invitation to wander in a safe container.

Through countless times of engaging in this practice, the labyrinth has taught me several lessons. Among them: to be on the path, to focus only on the next step, to trust the journey, to know that the crack are part of the path and that ultimately, there is one center where we all end up.

Being on the path sounds easy. Every day, no matter what we do, we are on the path. At least we are on a path—and a path that is leading somewhere. But it’s easy to overlook the path, to take it for granted. There’s so much in our world to compete for our attention. So much information and stimulation bombarding us at every moment that it is easy to forget that we are on a path. Take a moment right now. Before you read any further. Take a deep breath and to connect. Your path is right here. Right where it has always been.

Once we are aware of the path there is only this step, this one step. How tempting it is to get ahead of ourselves. We want to be in the job, relationship, or home of our dreams. We want to get to the time and place that there will be no worry or stress. Only that time and place doesn’t exist. There is no there. There is only here: this breath, this step.The journey along the labyrinth like the journey of our lives is not straight. There are turns, places where we seem to double-back. In the container of the labyrinth it’s easier to see that these turns are all part of the journey. They all tie in, they all belong. You might think, what are the turns that are showing up today? How am I going with them or how am I resisting them? Resisting them is perfectly natural and understandable. And…how does it serve you?

One of the best parts of the East River Park labyrinth is that it is cracked. If you look at the picture above you can see the cracks. Some of them have been painted and have been embraced by the labyrinth while others are there and have not yet been brought into the fabric of the path. And so it is with us. There are cracks in the pavement of all of our journeys. Some of these we have integrated already while others still await integration. The cracks don’t overwhelm nor do they disappear. They simply are.Finally, in the labyrinth, there is one center. Just as there is one path. We do not need superhuman strength or powers. One step at a time is all it takes to get to the center. And one step at a time will lead us back out again. Today the road may seem level and smooth or it may seem steep and rough. Either way, it’s just what is in front of you right now.

Now, I invite you on a pilgrimage through the labyrinth. You don’t need anything special. Just a few moments of time and awareness of your breath as you trace your finger on the journey into the center and back out again. Notice the path, one step at a time, with all of its twists, turns, and cracks. And know that you are right where you need to be.

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