Spiraling Staircase Anxiety Keeps MovingMichelle Balaun
Where is your anxiety taking you?
Anxiety can feel like falling through a rabbit hole of thoughts. One hypothetical situation leads to another and before you know it, you’ve planned out a grimly future five years from now. Two years ago, I visited Lisbon, Portugal. This trip was symbolic for me. It was my first time traveling alone and the first time I missed Mother’s Day. It was one of the many steps I took to overcome limiting beliefs that held me back from living life outside motherhood because it went against what I thought society expected from me. Anxiety was an emotion that visited me quite often throughout that year.
While doing my research for the trip, I came across the stunningly romantic town, Sintra. Sintra is dotted with gloriously colorful palaces and archeological sites. If anyone wants an architectural depiction of anxiety, The Masonic Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira is it. The Initiation Well contains nine platforms, which refer to Dante’s Divine Comedy. The nine platforms symbolize the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory, and the nine skies of Paradise.
To walk down the slippery, winding, and narrow steps of the Well was an informed decision because once you started to walk down, you could not leave. The spiraling staircase made me dizzy. The echoes from other tourists’ voices disoriented me for a bit. I paused often and questioned if I could make it down without slipping and falling on my face. Before I knew it, I managed to reach the bottom of the well, where I realized that there was nowhere else to go but out. Looking up, I saw the bright light beaming down from the sunny blue sky.
The path out of the well is through a dark and cold cave. You can follow a dim light on the bottom of the cave’s walls, or use your senses to get through. After meandering through the cave, I found that the exit leads to a waterfall and a lake. The air quality changes from chilly and muggy to fresh. The sounds exuding from the waterfall are pure serenity.
When we are anxious and feeling like we can spiral out of control, we have to remember that we have choices. We can stay in the anxiety, feeling paralyzed and afraid that if we go deeper to understand it, we can slip and fall into a worse situation. We can run away from it and leave it there. We can impulsively dive in to get to the bottom of it simultaneously breaking some bones or relationship bonds along the way. Or, we can mindfully take one step at a time and acknowledge the slippery slopes. We can pause and readjust, and take our time to reach to the core. We can use our senses (our intuition) and our strength to be greeted by a waterfall that springs us back to reality.
What an experience. I don’t know what these knights were being initiated into back then- but what an experience to live out in the real world what many of us experience in our mind.