Some years ago, a dear friend gave me the gift of this bronze pendant. It’s one of the few pieces of jewelry that I own. Along with my wedding band, I wear it every day. I lift it over my head each morning as a ritual and tuck it inside my shirt. I don’t need other people to see it. It’s enough, knowing it’s there.
This is a peace pendant, cast from an alloy made from recycled nuclear weapon systems. (How’s that for upcycling?) Wearing it reminds me of my friend and the bond between us. Beyond that, it reminds me of the Peace from which I came and to which I’ll one day return. It further reminds me of my life’s purpose: to use my creative skills to help build a more harmonious world. Finally, this pendant reminds me to take up my life’s work anew each morning, starting within the realm of my own mind and heart. That’s where I most immediately contact the Peace that is my source.
I don’t have to stop and think about all these things as I hang the pendant around my neck. By now, they’re practically fused into the metal.
The pendant feels indestructible. It dangles over my heart, summoning my attention throughout the day and strengthening my aspirations. It’s a keepsake, amulet, symbol and seal, all rolled into one.
As you can tell, this pendant features a labyrinth, an ancient image representing a pilgrimage, a journey, a life of spiritual progression and growth. Many labyrinths are big enough to walk through. You can proceed without worry along the meandering path because, unlike in a maze, you can’t make a wrong turn or hit a dead end. This isn’t a puzzle to solve or a trap to escape but an experience through which to quiet your mind, center your spirit, and contemplate, meditate, pray, imagine … be. You can’t get lost in a labyrinth, though some people say that you lose yourself there. (I’d rather say that you learn to you live yourself there.)
At the center of this labyrinth is a dove of peace. The dove isn’t separate from the path, but very much of it. So, no matter where you are in the labyrinth, you’re still connected to peace. Once you reach the dove, you can abide there only so long before the noisy, chaotic world pulls you back onto its track. But even when you leave, peace remains with you. In this labyrinth (as in everyday life, with practice), peace is every step you take. Peace is the ground you walk on.
Yet this labyrinth isn’t untroubled. Look closely, and you’ll see that the path of light is surrounded by the dark. Indeed, darkness is what renders the pathway distinct. The hardships and heartaches of this world, which we so often resent, actually reveal the direction to go. Sometimes the way forward may seem straight, but in reality even the straightest stretches curve. This is likely for our benefit. The curves slow us down, putting us more in sync with the natural order and its cycles of life, so full of rounds. Indeed, the labyrinth sometimes leads us so far away from where we hope to get to that we begin to doubt we’ll ever arrive. Yet we can’t help but arrive, if only we proceed with faith along the ground we’re given.
See the waves swelling at the rim of the pendant? In my imagination they evoke the primordial waters from which all life emerges; the waters of the womb; the waters of initiations and cleansings and fresh starts and rising tides. But they also put me in mind of overwhelming floods and stormy seas, which we must all endure and navigate, more than we’d like.
These waves, here on the edge, are the only part of the pendant’s design not hemmed in by darkness. Here, in these waters, light has the upper hand, as if to say, “I contain everything within me.”
What is this “outermost” Light that contains everything else?
That question isn’t for me to answer. I’m content to let mysteries remain Mystery, without assigning a name to it or trying to expound on it. Powerful as words can be, when speaking about the Beyond, I prefer silence.
Yet I rejoice in the Light that contains every other thing. I know for a fact that it’s there, not because I believe in the idea of it but because I experience the fact of it, every day. Even in the pitch-black cave of the darkest dark, light is there, guiding me. It’s in my groping fingers and in my faltering feet. It’s in the eye of my intuition. But do I trust where the unseen walls and ground are taking me? Do I trust the labyrinth of life to lead me to the center?
I invite you to settle yourself for a few minutes in order to “walk” the labyrinth of my peace pendant. Prepare yourself to focus on what’s in front of you. Then, using a fingertip, slowly trace the path from start to end.
“But where’s the start?” you might be wondering. “Here at the edge, or there in the middle?”
The “start” is wherever you choose to begin. Head from the waves toward the dove, or from the dove toward the waves. Once you get where you’re going, rest in the silence of your soul a while before making your way back out into the world again.
Eventually the labyrinth teaches us that “beginnings” and “endings” exist mostly in our minds; that every start is also an ending, and every ending is also a start.
Here we are, speaking of circles again. Maybe that’s why this pendant is round?