I asked them to go out on a limb for me. after 2 months of trainings, many Saturdays crammed into a small room with AC, learning the essentials of how to manage a field team, the final session was upon us. We had reviewed serious topics, we had loosened up with absurd charades, we had dropped eggs from the roof to build morale. But for this last session, I asked them to forgo their notebooks, have a look inwards, and see what was written there.
Early in the day I set up a hasty labyrinth in the courtyard with string, scotch tape, rocks and twigs. During the training, we talked about mindfulness, self-awareness, and the tools of meditation, and I asked for deep breaths and silence. In a wordless shuffle we headed outside, and I asked them to trust me, and to trust the labyrinth’s path. I also asked them to walk it slowly–slower than they imagined was possible. and they did.
The thing about self-knowledge is that it’s floating at the surface, just near the edge of awareness. There is a lot of hyperbole in spiritual discussions: the ultimate, the infinite, the deepest dives and the longest journeys. But I’ve found you don’t have to travel that far to know yourself, or to know your own truths, or to understand the big picture; you’re actually just behind yourself, looking over your own shoulder. Reality is there for the taking, set between two strings on a cobblestone walk. It’s only a matter of looking with intention, and without expectations, without judgement.
They looked, and they found things. They found tears and laughter; they found birds chirping and a desert sun shining; they found stillness and got stuck; they trembled through the intensity, and they hugged and shook hands afterwards. Seventeen men and one woman, Malian all, walked through a meditative labyrinth, and found things they hadn’t realized were available to them in that moment: clarity, tranquility, freedom of thought. They also found things that frightened them: anger, frustration, illness, incertitude.
It was my great honor to witness their walk, and it was to my advantage as well; it’s been a long time since i wandered through a labyrinth. At the end of the day, they set forth in writing their personal goals for leadership. Fortunately those goals are just next to them; it’s only a matter of stepping in, and practicing.
I’m working on self-knowledge, trying to see through the shadow that separates me from myself, trying to get lost on purpose in the labyrinth, to lose my usual bearings in an effort to establish my own anchor. I’m grateful for the time I spent with these guys, and grateful for their enthusiasm in learning, in teaching, and on the path of self knowing.
And lastly, grateful that my own true self isn’t far at all.