Years ago, I read a famous book on spirituality. The person in the book went to a metaphysical bookstore in LA and while she was browsing, a book jumped off the shelf and into her hands. Without a creative impulse, I decided that because I was reading this, I too needed to get to the same bookstore so magic could land in my hands.
I was a copycat trying to lighten my darkness of depression, unemployment and feeling victimized by the world.
After an obstacle course in getting there, I arrive at the book store. A woman approaches me in the self-help aisle. She asks me for money. I tell her that I don’t have anything for her. I leave incensed. This was not what I came here for. I feel like I took a wrong turn. Then another. I wasn’t looking to help. I was looking to BE helped. Gawd!
As I return home and park, a homeless woman approaches me and screams how she has lost her car, her family and her job and that I NEED to help her. She is scary. But I am scarier at this point. I scream back that I don’t have anything for her and I huff away. Another wrong turn towards…well not towards what I want. Double Gawd!
Stoopid book on spirituality. Nothing magical happened. ONCE AGAIN, I am overlooked! No empathy coming my way *pout pout pout*
A few years later, a co-worker of mine (I was working at this point, but I wasn’t much happier), and I went up to the Mt. Washington home of guru Paramahansa Yogananda. It was lovely.
I had been raised around new agey-ness and meditation, but I was never really good at the sitting still with my thoughts. So although I could get on-board with the teachings and the philosophies, I couldn’t put meditation into practice effectively. Still, the location was serene and quiet.
I no longer carry that darkness with me. I know how to be happy, live in gratitude and be more empathetic towards those who are suffering. I have even learned how to meditate to a point where I can almost feel my body exude light.
That doesn’t mean I don’t succumb to negative energy. I do. But I can usually change course as it’s happening.
This past week, however, I found that I was working double-time to get back on the feel-good-train. It was exhausting. I came home Friday night and told Shaka about it. He said, “Maybe you’re not supposed to fight it so much. Employ the downstream thinking you usually practice.” He was right. But I didn’t hear him finish his sentence since I was stuffing my face with chocolate covered pretzels and then I fell dead asleep like some tired, weird, cartoon bear.
The next day, after watching a documentary on Paramahansa Yogananda, I exclaim to Shaka, (with the same desperate fervor that prompted me to go to the metaphysical bookstore many years ago), “I must take you to do the labyrinth at the Mt. Washington location. It’s beautiful and serene but there is this labyrinth that you HAVE to do! it’s really cool!”
“A labyrinth. Not a maze. There are no walls or anything. I used to do this with my co-worker. We went a few times.”
“Cool!” (he’s so easygoing)
So I call the place and find out they will be open Sunday. I ask about the labyrinth.
The woman on the phone doesn’t recall there being one. I hang up, knowing there IS one, but we will have to find it on our own when we go.
After the past week of exhaustion and frustration, I was slowly turning my weekend around 180 degrees. Life was good!
So after voting for our friend and his slate (United Progressives) as delegates for of AD 46 (which was exciting to be a part of – and he won!),
we got a text from Mads that there was a soft opening for Groundworks Coffee in North Hollywood.
It’s in an old train station, right by the Metro. We loved it!
Time was running tighter than I wanted. We had reservations for an early dinner at Lucques (a generous Christmas gift from Shaka’s sister), so I was getting nervous that there wouldn’t be time to go to the labyrinth. Shaka, the zen master he is, assures me that downstream thinking is our friend and we will make it on time to do it all.
The twisty-turny roads towards the SRF on Mt. Washington are more windy than I remember. Shaka is questioning whether I have actually ever been here.
“It’s been awhile,” I tell him. Which it has, but the terrain is not familiar. My co-worker drove us there before so who knows how much I was paying attention (
a little not at all).
We arrive! It’s breathtaking! The sky was a clean, just-rained kind of clear that you see in movies.
We find parking pretty quickly. Then, we look for the labyrinth.
The grounds are gorgeous, but I am not seeing what I remember in my head. We come upon the sundial. “This is where it was!” I screech.
“This is beautiful. Does it matter if we find the maze?”
“It’s a labyrinth! And it was here! Where did it go? Come on! Let’s see if it got moved.”
We walk to an open space of green, surrounded by palm trees and foliage whose look and smell lies deep in my childhood memories of Pasadena.
We sit on a bench. My gaze darts around the open space like I am looking for a late uber driver. Shaka sits quietly.
“I am feeling something here I haven’t felt in a long time.”
“Yeah, it’s peaceful,” I say unpeacefully.
“Let’s just sit quietly. Listen to the sounds you normally wouldn’t be able to hear.”
He is in meditation with his eyes open and is quite still. I frantically look at my phone to search labyrinth, mt. washington, self-realization fellowship, where-the-f-is-it?
After a few moments, I look at Shaka. “Want to walk around?”
“I want to stay here a little longer.”
“OK.” I close my eyes and try and feel what he is sensing. But I can’t. I am chasing a memory that doesn’t exist and I am frustrated. This was not what I came here for.
At the same time, we look at each other and he agrees to walk to the Visitor Center with me.
Shaka, still in a calm state, looks around the store and is breathing in the incense as two women who work there are talking. They turn to help us. I ask about the labyrinth. I tell them I came around 12 years ago and I walked it. The one woman snarkily says, “Well, if there was one, it must have been before I was here and I have been here 41 years.”
I bristle. We thank them and walk out.
Shaka asks if I am okay.
“How did you know I was not okay with her answer?”
“I know you.”
We wander around the main house and find a path that leads to a beautiful fountain and a view of the other side of the mountain.
I sit. And all of a sudden, a wave of energy hits me.
I tell Shaka that I am now feeling something and that I would like to sit here for a bit.
And then apparently (according to Shaka), I took a selfie.
But then….I meditated.
Like a flash, I felt the words come into my brain.
The labyrinth isn’t here (echos of Westworld ring in my head, but I digress).
And then the location of where it is, comes to me.
I come out of my stillness quickly and say, “The maze isn’t here!” I grab my phone and look it up.
“I thought it was a labyrinth.”
“It is! The
maz labyrinth is at Forest Lawn. I went there with my co-worker too! Now, it’s all coming back.”
Shaka, is laughing and shaking his head at me. “You almost missed this entire experience looking for something that wasn’t here. And I am still not sure you have actually been HERE!”
I am reminded at how I was waiting for a book to jump off a shelf and missed the message that was ready to bite me, so long ago. The message that others were worse off. The message that my life was pretty good. The message of being in the moment. That message had evaded me then.
I was doing the same thing now. But why? Wasn’t I better now?
Hadn’t I improved?
Well, yeah, I mean, I guess, now I was able to laugh about it as Shaka gently makes fun of me. Fun of me for thinking that lady was dumb and mean (though I still stand by the fact, her snarky response was NOT necessary), fun of me for not recognizing the gift of finding something unexpectedly great in place of what I was seeking, fun of me for being so anti-zen even though my mission was to get my zen on in this spiritual place.
Driving to our dinner reservations, we were both still laughing about it.
I was just happy that my memory hadn’t failed me entirely.
There was a labyrinth, or rather there is one. Somewhere else.
And I can’t wait to show Shaka some time. We can go there and meditate.
Because, you know it’s just so hard to find the right place to do that if you are already in a maze where you are waiting for books to fall off shelves.
But then I remember, it’s not a maze. It’s a labyrinth.