'From the top, light and shadows will shape the land you know in new ways,' said the mountain as I rested with my back against a sun-warmed rock at the summit. I closed my eyes, and felt I could stay there forever.
But the voice of the mountain said, 'Don't be seduced by the summit. Don't linger too long,' and I remembered what my father told me.
My father was a mountain climber in his youth. He climbed to the top of Mt Taranaki, on whose foothills I grew up, twenty-one times. He taught me the first lesson of alpine explorers: that it is more dangerous to descend than ascend.
And so I set out before the weather changed and the wind came up and the light faded.
This time I discovered another path.
'Be mindful of every step,' warned the mountain. It would be easy to slip or sprain an ankle going down too fast.
'Follow the signs, and go slowly,
even though a new destination has appeared.'
Joseph Campbell, who studied the mythology of hundreds of cultures, said that an important part of the great adventure (the 'hero's journey') is the Return. It is important not to return too fast, but to take time for integration. The new path down the mountain led me first to the labyrinth.
Time to pause and frame a question. The labyrinth is based on the 7-circuit classical labyrinth as shown on ancient Greek coins. Never have I walked a labyrinth with so much spaciousness on every side. I was given several answers to my simple question, all of them perfect.
And then it was time to enter the Sanctuary. Based on the old Byzantine chapels of Europe, this stone building breathes silence. Now was the time to stop, to meditate, to linger.
The golden mean was used throughout, giving a deep sense of harmony.
The late afternoon sun cast magical reflections on the wooden ceiling panels
and on the stone floor, with its central greenstone circle.
I chanted a little, feeling my voice enlarged into the four corners, reverberating as never before in this place of amazing acoustics, where it is said that sound takes 5-6 seconds before dissolving back into silence.
I could have rushed back down the path I originally came up on. But the mountain showed me another way. It brought me to this sanctuary, and reminded me that while sacred places abound in wild nature, there are times when human endeavour also results in great beauty, stillness and upliftment.
As I left, the bells, cast in Germany using old methods and transported hundreds of miles to reach this place, began to ring. The cascading peel rang out across the valley, up the sides of the mountain and into the sky.
What an exceedingly profound meditation just the reading of this post is. Thanks you for leading the way. The Sanctuary is perfect.
Vicki, what a lovely comment. Thank you for joining me in the meditation.
A lovely sanctuary and labyrinth. And your post gives us an example of how to appreciate every aspect of our journeys.
Gallivanta, it is such a special place, in every way, and well worth experiencing fully. Thank you.
Dear Juliet, I felt myself taking a spiritual journey as I walked in your steps and listened to the wisdom of your father and the voice of the mountain.
I don't often think of the return trip of a journey, though I often instinctively know to slow down and have care. I would love this walk, the sanctuary, the labyrinth. Thank you for the journey.
Penny, thank you for walking with me and for your understanding of the nature of the journey. I can imagine how much you would love this place.
I didn't realise you grew up in Taranaki. I think i may have told you that my father's family came from Taranaki? I wonder if your father knew the Stewarts. I'm sure he probably would have given it's a very small town. My great-uncle wrote a book, 'Springtime in Taranaki'; all about his childhood. (I know I've mentioned it before). Love the images and it is so true; you need to be more careful on your return than when you're on your way. So many people think the destination is getting to where they're going and don't take as much care on the return journey xx
Hi Charlie, yes I've read your great-uncle's book with great interest, after you first told me about it. What a nice connection to know your father's family came from Taranaki. It's easy to forget to be aware on the return journey, and not just on mountains. Thank you.
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