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By Kristin Reisinger, MS RD
I recently returned from a yoga retreat in the Berkshires. It was a gorgeous autumn weekend, nearly peak foliage season and at a time when I could most certainly use some good ol' fashioned soul searching, somewhere far away from the drudgeries of Manhattan and the grayness of my apartment. It was there I lost my Labyrinth virginity, walking the newly sculpted path which has forever made an impression on my soul and transformed my philosophies on life.
Let me preface this by illuminating you on the fact that I am generally a cynic. I am not the kind of girl who moans wildly during yoga class like a cat in heat or has spiritual awakenings while listening to Enya. Nor am I religious. But my experience which I am about to unfurl was a powerful one, and for this reason must be shared for others to experience as well.
So what is a Labyrinth, you may ask. Well, I am not referring to the video game nor is it a maze. The Labyrinth is a walking path; a metaphor for the spiritual journey into one's self and back out into the world again. There is one way in, one center/goal and one way out much like journeying to the center of your core and then allowing that transformed self to birth itself back out into society like a butterfly. It is an ancient symbol relating to wholeness.
Of course I didn't know all this at the time. I thought it was a tad silly, especially since I was walking it with my mother. But there we stood, silently declaring our intentions at the Labyrinth's gaping mouth. I held my pause longer, mentally fumbling around for a thought, not quite knowing what to think. What did I want to change? What in my life needed altering? What could I do in my life to help others and to help the world? Personal issues came to mind, my career, goals, everything and anything. I could have been standing there all week compiling a list.
I finally pieced together my goal for the walk realizing that my whole reason for being at the yoga retreat in the first place, was an internal cry out for a much needed time-out from life. I've been burnt out, stressed over my career, finishing a degree, ending a relationship, etc. I was turning into a basket case and driving everyone in my path crazy. I promised myself to listen to those internal signs from now on and to remember on a consistent basis what is really important. It is so easy to get wrapped up in a life that you think you need to be living by working too much, remaining in bad relationships or placing unnecessary expectations upon yourself that it is so easy to forget that there is so much more in this world.
I reminded myself of that as I collected leaves off the grass later that afternoon and was so ecstatic just to study their colors and designs. I thought about it as I drove home under a cloud dumping rain only to see a gorgeous rainbow ten minutes later. Life can be beautiful and it can be beautiful even when you're alone.
As we finished walking the stone-lined Labyrinth, we paused once again at the mouth. It is here that we reaffirmed to ourselves what those intentions we made at the start were and then we went our way, back out into the world at large. I felt invigorated. I felt happy. I felt alive.
It may seem a bit trite, but I suppose it is one of those things you need to do in order to understand. The energy emanating from walking the Labyrinth is powerful and transforming. The intention can be anything you want it to be. It is about stretching what is possible and achieving the impossible. It is about change, growth and discovery. It is about living the most exciting life you can live filled with love, courage, beauty and mystery.
And from here, you can only go forward.
Kristin Reisinger, MS RD, is a New York City-based nutritional consultant, fitness trainer, freelance health + fitness writer and musician. She holds a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology + Nutrition from Columbia University and is a Registered Dietitian through American Dietetic Association. She is also a competitive figure athlete, former Galaxy competitor, avid snowboarder, rock climber and surfer. She has been competing for over five years and will continue to do so until she is 80. She can be contacted at email@example.com.