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Western wall in Jerusalem at night

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During the Season of  Lent our consciousness is drawn to Holy places like Jerusalem.  I’ve had the privilege of being there during the Holy Triduum. It was the experience of a lifetime and has been since the 4th Century, where those on the path have come to see Palestine as a ‘holy land’ and Jerusalem as the “City of Many Faiths”. No other place, not even Rome, holds the same distinction in the minds of those seeking to find a connection to Spirit.   As St. Jerome once said, “The whole mystery of faith is native to this country and this sacred city.”

No matter how many centuries pass or how widespread the message of Christ becomes, our souls are wedded to this land that gave birth to humanity’s first experience of Creation in the flesh.  A dusty land where many of history’s greatest leaders have  journeyed and even today provides a snapshot of our past, present and future as people of the path. To experience this land as a pilgrim allows us to be drawn not only into the history of who we are as a people of faith, but connects us somehow with the geo-historical locale in which it all took place.  A walk through the Holy Land allows us to be part of the richness of our tradition and journey as a ‘people of the word’, making real the importance of a sojourn to places that nurture and contribute to our process.

Just as incense leaves an odor on the air it touches, so God has left traces of himself in this desolate land. Pilgrims today have that same eagerness to breath in the fragrant air of this relationship where human and divine become as one.

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The Labyrinth


I remember my first walk. I was so reverent, so filled with myself. I was sure I was on the path, to where I am not sure, but I was certain none the less that I was one of that rare breed of sojourners that truly got the meaning of the Spiritual Journey. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I began by lighting a candle to set my intention, placing it in the sand pots near the entrance to the Labyrinth. I then paced around the outer rim of the labyrinth like a caged animal seeking freedom from a captivity I did not yet understand. I stopped at the entrance, bowed sanctimoniously, and began my walk. With each turn along the way, something was moving inside me.

My heart began to feel heavy, my steps burdened. What was happening to me? The ‘Perfect Pilgrim’ I thought I was entering the sacred path, was now experiencing a state of turmoil and fear like I’d never known. Tears began welling up in my eyes, and with each step a shift was taking place. I could literally feel weight being freed from my heart, my body and my soul.

When I arrived in the center I felt lighter than I ever remember, yet the cockiness that convinced me I was one of the chosen, became the karmic moment my spirit needed to transition into a state of humility capable of helping me understand what letting go and following spirit meant.

Leaving the rosette to return to the world, I somehow ended up back in the center again. Guess I didn’t let go after all! In that brief moment, all I could do was laugh. I sat momentarily, then asked Spirit what she wanted. All I heard was, ‘Let Go.’

The Winding Path is all about the healing power of Spirit, and how she asks us all to ‘Let Go’ of our burdens so that joy and peace permeate the way we live in this world.

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Anatomy of a Vision Quest

Throughout indigenous North America, the vision quest is among the most sacred of  rituals. Although used primarily by healers and practitioners of native religions, it not exclusively reserved for them. Coming in the form of dreams, visions have affected the course of native social and political development throughout history. Among the Lakota Sioux, dreams and their inherent meaning are explained by a Shaman or Spirit Guide. The Lakota have a specific term for dreams and the meaning behind those dreams—Ihan’bla. This is a general term for the study and interpretation of the images presented to an individual during a vision quest. Visions are seen as a means through which the supernatural world may contact and advise the natural world.

Called Hanblecheyapi, the vision quest stands out as one of the primary rites of passage among members of the Lakota community. The purpose of a vision quest is for the seeker to receive guidance from the spirit world. Depending on the dream and the images presented within it, the seeker is guided to make important life choices. In many cases, the person experiencing a vision will receive guidance from their particular animal spirit. However, relatives and friends, as well as cultural figures from Lakota mythology, may also appear. As with all aspects of indigenous rituals, the vision quest is highly formalized.

The seeker must first perform the Hanble’ceya, a fasting ritual that is shrouded in mystery. According to Lakota mythology, the Hanble’ceya was introduced by the spirit Whope’(also known as Falling Star), the daughter of a spirit called Sky. Appearing before the village council, she instructed the tribe on the proper rituals to learn in order that they may serve a higher purpose. As a vision quest is a means through which one can gain enlightenment, the fasting ritual has become an essential aspect of the journey. After having completed the Hanble’ceya, the participant in the vision quest must then embark on a journey into the wilderness.
Taking only a personal medicine bag, the individual must find a quiet place in the midst of  natures expansive grandeur. Since no specific place is outlined in the ritual itself, the location of this particular place is up to the seeker. In most cases, the selected site has a personal or spiritual significance to the seeker. Once the seeker has selected the location, he or she must then begin the meditation. Sitting in quiet reflection for up to four days, theseeker is called to look deep into his or her soul. This self reflection amidst the peace and solitude provided by the wilderness can also have an adverse effect on the seekers psyche. In some cases, slight bouts of madness have accompanied a vision quest.

It is at this stage when the actual vision occurs. After having fasted and remained alone in quite reflection,
the seeker in the vision quest sees a series of images that at first can be confusing. In order to fully understand
the dreams and what they portend the participant must return to his or her village and seek counsel from an
honored elder who truly understands dreams. It is the individual’s reaction to the dreams and what they may
portend that determines his or her future success. The vision quest remains among the most enduring symbols
of Lakota spirituality. It is not uncommon for modern day Lakota to embark on a vision quest in order to gain
a clear perspective on important life choices.

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