wayfindingI had occasion yesterday to revisit Hershey Medical Center. It is a beautifully and thoughtfully constructed facility with inner courtyards abloom with all manner of springtime color. All buildings are connected, so getting to the five-star cafeteria for a delicious salad after our appointments was easy. On the return, I found myself face-to-face with a sign I had missed on the way to lunch: “Wayfinding Map.”

Now I do appreciate good directions. Had I been unfamiliar with the layout of the buildings – which is mostly true of anyone visiting a hospital complex – I would have been most grateful for the clarity of this invitation. And, as a writer, I was struck by the underlying implications of ‘way-finding.’

For one thing, as the Cheshire Cat noted, the way you choose depends on where you want to go. So much of our lives are thusly directed. Goals abound in our culture – time, score, age, honor, place – all kinds of numbers, destinations and status toward which we are guided by all kinds of maps – curricula, degree programs, directions, advertisements, testimonials …

And yet, I couldn’t help musing, so much of our wayfinding is really far less laid out before us. AFTER the fact, we may look back and see a path or thread that pulls it all together, makes us realize the why and wherefore of one step or another choice. But a wayfinding MAP? Rarely is our life’s path so clearcut. In fact, it is often the unexpected, the detour, the mis-step that teaches and that opens the way to something we might never have imagined otherwise.

While I retain my great appreciation to Hershey Medical Center for its thoughtful and useful Wayfinding Map – and indeed many other helpful guides like well-marked street signs and exits and Google maps – for life’s general wayfinding I remain a fan of the mind and heart open to receive what comes.  Rumi says it beautifully in his wonderful poem:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

not normal – what a relief

visual journey

credit – grosenberg

I’ll admit it – I’ve been feeling a bit down and struggling to get my ‘stuff’ together. Especially my writing stuff. Here, on my blog. Remember how I wanted to post on a regular basis?

This morning I made one of my random forays onto Facebook. And LO! there were Elizabeth Lesser’s wonder-full words of wisdom. So with unabashed gratitude for the wholesale borrowing of her words (highlighted by me), here they are:

It’s that time of year again: the modern miracle known as The Holidays, when into the dark little month of December, we squeeze Hanukkah, Christmas, and a myriad of other celebrations, from ancient Solstice rituals to the more contemporary rites of school plays, office parties, and community gatherings. Throw into that mix a generous dose of unrealistic expectations, budget-busting shopping, dysfunctional family feasts, airplane flights, darker days, colder weather, excess eating and drinking, and no wonder that along with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” come seasonal stress, exhaustion, and depression.
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open secret

credit - naturalmindfulness

credit – naturalmindfulness

Learn the alchemy
true human beings know.
The moment you accept
what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.


Elizabeth Lesser is co-founder of the Omega Institute and author of 2004 book, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help us Grow. In an excerpt titled Open Secret, she writes:

How do we use the forces of a difficult time to help us grow? There are many ways, but the first way, the gateway, is to know that we are not alone in these endeavors. One of the greatest enigmas of human behavior is the way we isolate ourselves from each other.

I am struck, all these years later, by the relevance of her words – especially in the aftershock of last week’s Newtown horror. She goes on to say:

We imagine that we are unique in our eccentricities or failures or longings. And so . . . we feel shame when we stumble and fall. When difficulties come our way, we don’t readily seek out help and compassion because we think others might not understand, or they would judge us harshly, or take advantage of our weakness. And so we hide out, and we miss out.

Rumi addresses this idea as the ‘open secret.’ In her words:

When we don’t share the secret ache in our hearts – the normal bewilderment of being human – it turns into something else. Our pain, and fear, and longing, in the absence of company, become alienation, and envy, and competition.

The irony of hiding the dark side of our humanness is that our secret is not really a secret at all. How can it be when we’re all safeguarding the very same story? That’s why Rumi calls it an Open Secret. It’s almost a joke – a laughable admission that each one of us has a shadow self-a bumbling, bad-tempered twin.

Rumi claims that the moment we acknowledge our troubles, a door opens. An undefended heart shared encourages a second heart to open. And so on. Such important wisdom, as applicable today as ever. Might this be one step toward dialogue, toward breaking down barriers, toward healing??