Being married to a pilot gave our family lots of flying experience. For many years we had access to a small airplane (think Volkswagen of the sky), so we enjoyed planning trips using that form of transportation. How different the world looks when our view is broadened. As a college student, one of Curt’s ways of earning money was to fly in different size circles while taking aerial photos of resorts in northern Michigan and Wisconsin. The resorts would purchase his pictures.
Later, as a family, flying in circles was fun when we wanted to enjoy a few minutes looking at something especially interesting on the ground. While in the air we could easily see weather conditions, and threatening changes meant we would circle around and head back to the nearest airport until the storm passed. These circles did not represent being lost – they represented enjoyment, productivity, and safety.
Circles are everywhere. Our human experience is often called “the circle of life,” which is reflected in many ancient beliefs and spiritual traditions. In the circle of life, it’s comforting to know that nothing ends without something else beginning. We are cradled in that reassuring certainty. The Oglala Sioux leader Black Elk taught, “The power of the world always moves in circles.” The repetition of changing seasons influences our daily activities, and our journey from youth to old age contains the gift of lessons learned and wisdom earned. And, in those times when we feel lost in our circle of life, we can choose different people and paths to bring us home to ourselves.
Across the world there are historic and modern circular labyrinths. The labyrinth path takes walkers slowly back and forth into its center, and then returns them to the outside of the circle. This is a form of meditation that quiets the mind and calms the body so we can center ourselves. Inside the circle the labyrinth path wanders back and forth, but people do not get lost. Taking a different path does not necessarily mean we’re lost – we’re just exploring our options. People can skip around the borders of the pathways, creating their own individual route, but they are still inside the circle. There is more than one path available for us to arrive at where we want to go.
Birds flying in thermal wind currents ride the air in a steady, relaxed, spiral path. They can glide this way for hours. Their flight is easy and unlabored. When humans go in circles we immediately think we must be lost – and sometimes we are. When circumstances are difficult and life stress is high, our circles are needed the most, so we don’t lose our way. We need our family circle to embrace us, and our circle of friends to listen. We need our professional colleague circle to reach out, our school circle to understand, and our Friends After Diagnosis circle to support and encourage. We need our medical community circle to be compassionate. All of these circles carry the potential to surround us with safety, love, and belonging. With those three qualities we can, like the birds, glide in our spiral path resting unafraid in the currents of life that carry us.
One of my favorite circles is a hug. I don’t care if there are two or 20 people participating: A hug feels so nourishing that I’m immediately renewed. It melts tension and says “I care” in a very personal way. Any one of the circles mentioned is enough to keep us from getting lost in the unexpected events of our lives.
Sarah Ban Breathnach writes the following about how she behaves when she gets lost in circumstances: “I’ve been too busy to write in my gratitude journal; I’ve begun dropping in my tracks because I’m unable to say “no”; I’m cranky because my house is cluttered and I can’t find anything; I’m frazzled because I let myself forget that moments of solitude and meditation are necessary to center myself.” Any of that sound familiar? She then describes how she steps back and starts over again to change how she reacts to her circumstances, and therein finds a peaceful place in the circle of her day.
The spiral path to some is a philosophy, and to others is a spiritual journey that keeps us moving higher. From greater heights our view becomes broader and clearer. Yes, we’re going in circles, but we are not lost. May your circle be filled with love, belonging, support, and safety.
Until Next Time – Sylvia