Birthing Stones

IMG_0308After the roar and frenzy of downpour, thunder and lightning from yesterday afternoon until this morning, I awoke with anticipation at the surprises that lay ahead of me; nature doesn’t wreak that much havoc for no reason.

On my walk over to the site, sidestepping puddles of muddy water and fallen limbs, signs of a tropical storm were abundant: the rice fields on either side of the road, already flooded by waters fed via irrigation channels, were now flowing over their clay and grass banks, creating miniature waterfalls in every direction. The sounds of rushing streams were a constant humming companion to birds chirping, cicadas and crickets snapping, frogs croaking and roosters crowing their last of the morning. The air was full of fragrance and quiet; other sounds, both natural and man-made, were on post-hujan (rain) hiatus.

By the time I reached the labyrinth, I knew the question I would pose to it today. For the past month or so, I’ve been dealing with an intractable and increasingly frustrating dilemma. I was being asked to make changes to a document, some of which irked me. But more annoyingly, each time I believed I was done, more revisions were requested. I was feeling impatient, fed up and ready to pull the plug. I asked the labyrinth for guidance: do I stick with it or do I nip it in the bud?IMG_0504

I’d barely stepped onto the path, when my downward-looking gaze settled on a pair of limestones, shrouded in soil yet unmistakably there, the tops of each one barely protruding, smack dab in the middle of the path. How was it possible, despite all my digging out last week, and all the shoveling that Bahul and Udi had done, that these stones were still turning up? What was going on? I thought we were done!

A few turns in and I found myself humming a tune, then recalling the lyrics: Every move you make, every vow you break, every smile you fake, I’ll be watching you. Suddenly, I just knew that somewhere in Lombok, Pak Hay was watching me every time I’d gone ahead and bent down to wriggle out an errant stone. I felt like a convict in flagrant violation of parole.

I shook off the encroaching paranoia, slowed down my stride and let the smaller stones stay put. But I simply couldn’t bear to leave the larger pieces embedded in the ground. As I continued to meander, my thoughts turned to the mysterious workings of nature…

IMG_0507The same way that our bodies repel food and drinks that are unhealthy, spoiled or not well aligned with our constitution, so the earth purges that which is detrimental to its cyclical well-being. The earth and human bodies are all meant to strive for balance and harmony. Those stones that had been hidden from view, flung about and buried deep in the soil, were taking their time to re-appear; but re-appear they must. The soil was regurgitating each one – bobbing like buoys, or crowning like babies’ heads – to the surface, just visible enough to attract my attention.

But I was still stumped, because the question I had asked of the labyrinth was no closer to being answered. Or so I thought…

By the time I turned into the final circuit leading to the center, I had a flash of understanding: Even though, from a distance the labyrinth looked cleaned out, every time I walked the path, more stones were being upturned. There was no master plan in nature, to deceive or trick me, no attempt to intentionally shield stones froIMG_0223m view.

The unfolding and restoration of the labyrinth – like all works of creation – required faith in time and process. Why did I think that this niggling dilemma of mine had to unfold any other way?

The labyrinth, in its infinite wisdom, gave me more answers today than I’d been expecting. There was no guarantee that I would be equally enlightened tomorrow, my last morning at the retreat (this visit); but at least I had peace of mind and the belief that in time more truths would be revealed.

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