Via Basel: 3 R’s and a Labyrinth
I am part of a small meditation community that has met on Sunday evenings every other week for many years. Until the pandemic hit us, we gathered in a hall generously provided to us in a nearby local church, but like everything else it’s now virtual. It continues to be powerfully nourishing, sustaining us in these difficult times. We usually take turns leading the practice, giving it a fresh and varied perspective that is appreciated by all. The first meeting after the New Year was a combo meditation and labyrinth experience led by Janice Lewis.* I was inspired by her presentation and guidance and found the processes closely parallel life itself. She describes it as a walking meditation with fingers or feet. Briefly the 3 steps of the labyrinth are: a Release at the start of your journey, a Receiving in the center, and a Return at the end, the 3 R’s.
The sage Richard Rohr has introduced his daily meditation theme for 2021 calling it “A Time of Unveiling.” He’s convinced that we are living in such a time when reality is being revealed as it is. Charlie Warzel in a January opinion piece in the New York Times states that America’s “reality crisis is born of selfishness, shamelessness and suffering. It is bone deep.” On an individual level, unveiling our dark shadows is a prerequisite to release. I can go ahead and add a whole similar vocabulary: letting go, loosening, unbinding, detoxify, purify, cleanse. What all these words point to is the simple act of discovering and removing unhealthy aspects and attitudes of our body, mind, and spirit. I know many who plan to have a dry January, after bingeing on drinks and sweets in the holiday season. Others go on retreats to rejuvenate their spirits. Some may go on fun but safe vacations to get away from the sadness of the past year. Any of the above may be worthwhile.
I plan to stay put physically but go on a mental purge, reflecting inwards, identifying my toxins, biases, and doing a reality check (as uncomfortable as it is) in a kind and compassionate way, avoiding the guilt as best as I can. As I enter the labyrinth of life, I am Ready to start the Release process. As I proceed, the emptying continues, providing space for the gifts to come. Once in the center, I Rest and Receive the gifts offered, humbly and with gratitude. Retracing my steps mindfully, I return to whence I started, Remembering that life is a circle with winding paths rather than a straight line. I pause, Reflect, and then Repeat the whole circular process until it gets to be second nature, letting the journey of life take me along, surrendering completely and fully. And I discover more than 3 R’s!
The New Year is providing us with several fresh starts: vaccines for the virus, a new administration and congress, and a new sense of hope. Let us Rejoice.
Join me during this consequential year to unveil both our internal demons and the external ones in society at large, examining them critically, authentically, and realistically for the betterment of all.
Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, and social engagement.