Today was a special day for my family. So, we put everything aside – work, cleaning, everything – and hopped into the car and headed Up Country.
There is a place in Maui called The Labyrinth of the Sacred Garden, and though I have no idea what the actual address is, I know that you can find it somewhere along the right-hand side on the Road to Hana.
You pull into a tiny parking lot, shut the car down, and step out to find yourself in another world. The first thing you notice is the temperature. It’s much cooler here than it is along the coast. The second thing you notice is the breeze. There is an energy to it that does not exist anywhere else on Earth. It’s like the fingers of some long forgotten god, lovingly caressing you down to the soul, and it feels absolutely unbelievable.
The third thing you notice is the labyrinths. They are everywhere. Walk into the official “gift shop,” and you can run your finger along a worn labyrinth carved into a single large piece of smooth stone. Move a little further into the property, beyond the wares for sale, and you come to a Buddhist meditation area, several koi pots and ponds, Zen gardens in all sizes of containers, and finally a man-made labyrinth formed of small white stones. You can stop here and walk this one if you’d like.
Or you can go outside again.
Out the back door you’re drawn; something about the base of the mountain summons, the green of the forest, that unbelievable breeze.
At last, you come to the first of the two real gems of the Sacred Garden. This is the real labyrinth, carefully constructed, intricately perfect. You begin to walk its length, always looking down, always aware of your steps – one foot after another. Others may be traveling it with you, but they are separate from you, locked into their own channels of this confoundingly comforting design. Time drifts. Sound moves away. You realize so many things, little by little, one after another.
You realize that the labyrinth is a reproduction of life. Sometimes, you seem to be going the wrong way. You pass people who are going in the opposite direction. They walk right by you. It feels odd, disorienting. But you continue; one foot in front of the other, and all the while, unbeknownst to you, you’re drawing ever closer to your goal.
Once in a while, because of the labyrinth’s tight twists and turns, you find yourself moving alongside someone, in step, parallel. But in reality, you’re in different lines of the maze, and in different stages of life. Soon, one of you turns away.
Perhaps most confusing of all is what I realized myself as I drew to the center of the labyrinth and gazed down at the final remaining three feet of puzzle. I had but to take a few steps and I would be at my goal.
But I didn’t want to be there yet. I found myself whispering aloud, “It really is the journey.” And just like that, the center no longer mattered. I looked up – at the world that waited beyond the labyrinth – and noticed the second of the two real gems of the Sacred Garden. A wooden swing rested empty beside a picturesque ravine. The breeze, that wonderful, beautiful breeze, touched the swing there.
Without looking back at the center of the maze, I stepped past the invisible walls represented by the painted stones. I walked across the labyrinth. I walked through it. And I stepped out into the world to make my way to that swing, sit down, and gaze out across a river bed that I hadn’t been able to see clearly until now.
Now I could see that this dry creek bed had been touched by countless people. Towers of pebbles and smooth stone had been erected everywhere, large, small, some almost impossibly balanced, and some clearly created by children. People, at peace, had left their artistic, peaceful mark upon the world.
The breeze kissed me. I smiled – and breathed.
I really like the Sacred Garden. I will definitely be going back there.
Oh! The final lesson the labyrinth taught me was one my eight-year-old daughter helped me to learn as she raced through the channels of the maze to shoot into its center in record time: If you’ve got the zest for life that a child has, you reach enlightenment a hell of a lot faster than everyone else. ☺