by Megan McDonough
Life is not like taking a walk through a forest with an accurate compass, knowing exactly where you’re going and how you’ll get there. Life is more like walking through a long, high labyrinth. A labyrinth is a circular path that will, if you just keep walking, bring you to the center. While walking in a labyrinth you may feel disoriented, lost, and alone, but you’re not. Wherever you are leads you to the center. All you have to do is keep walking.
I walked in a labyrinth once. Not a tall, grand one, but a small, humble herb garden. As I walked, another person and I brushed shoulders. At the time we connected, I was looking down as my foot made contact with the earth. As my heel, then arch, then toes touched the path, I realized that this footprint was completely unique. Never before seen, never again to be experienced as it is, even by me. It was wholly, completely its own, created by the relationship of my foot to the ground.
Never before has anything interacted with the ground in this same manner; never again will it be repeated. Some might walk a similar, or even an identical path—I might even walk it again—but the experience was unique. It did not belong to me. It was a combination of interactions among pieces. The moment was a dance of parts creating a whole: the blade of grass, the dirt, my foot, the surrounding air, the sun that shone upon it. For me it was sacred, never to be again as it was then.
The realization held a responsibility: the footprint of each moment in my life was mine to value or not.
There’s a wonderful Buddhist story about how precious your human life is. Imagine a huge ocean that covers the expanse of the earth. On the surface of the ocean floats an insignificant hoop, tiny in comparison to the vast water. In the ocean lives a turtle that surfaces once every 100 years to take a breath. The chance of you being born is the same chance as that turtle surfacing through the hoop to take his 100-year breath. If you lived as though your life were that precious and special, how would you go about your day?
The documentary of Buckminster Fuller, Thinking Out Loud, tells the story of this genius who invented the geodesic dome (the engineering feat of his time). In his mid-twenties he went through an incredibly difficult period. His only daughter had died when she was still a toddler, and he was drinking heavily to deal with the pain. He was contemplating suicide near a lake one evening. As he looked out over the water, he realized he could not kill himself. He had collected certain knowledge that was wholly his own, his footprint in this world. As such, he could not kill himself, as it was his obligation to share it with others.
You have your own footprint that is being created right now. It’s being created every moment of your life. Your footprint in the world is being created every time you take a breath, every time you make a choice, every time you smile, and every time you frown.
Exploring your own footprint of life is not separate from the act of creation. Simply by exploring your life, you create it. By consciously creating your life, you explore possibilities. Exploration and creation are not mutually exclusive; they are co-conspirators of your reality.
Take comfort in the fact that even though you might not know where you’re going, or even how you got here, where you are contains your divine footprint.
Track your divine footprint in the WBI online course Living with Ease: A 30-Day Practice for Cultivating Mindfulness, with Megan McDonough. LINK course title to
This post is excerpted from Infinity in a Box: Using Yoga to Live With Ease, © 2003–2009, by Megan McDonough.
Megan McDonough is CEO of Wholebeing Institute, an educational organization co-founded with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. WBI is committed to spreading ideas and practices that can help individuals and groups live life to its fullest.
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