Day 2 I awoke with anticipation. My plan: to rent a car and drive to famous Mary Magdalene pilgrim site, Rennes-le-Chateau.
Well, that didn’t happen. I couldn’t get a car, so decided to postpone for the following day. Annoyed, but not defeated, I decided to take a day trip by bus to nearby town, Alet-Les-Bains. After much difficulty trying to figure out how to get there, how to buy the bus ticket, and where to catch the bus, I arrived in the peaceful hamlet of Alet-Les-Bains. Reminiscent of a village straight out of a Grimm’s fairy-tale, Alet-Les-Bains lay at the foot of the Pyrenees and was once a destination for its natural springs and healing waters, perfect for the skin and digestion. Excellent! I mean, who couldn’t use some special healing water after 7 years swimming in the bowels of the world, also known as NYC.
Enchanted by its picturesque perfection, I crossed over the ancient stone bridge set high above the gushing waters below. I made my way to an “island” between the town and the road where I ate my “picnic” lunch. Meandering down to the river, I ran my hand along its waters, ceremoniously dipping my feet in its fresh stream.
Happiness filled my heart. I crossed the little pedestrian path back into town and came face-to-face with The Angel Sanctuary. The sign in English, I wondered what could be beyond its gates. Cautiously, I walked through its gardens and up the steps. A few people sat in chairs sipping tea and coffee as I looked around for where to go next.
I entered through a non-descript door and was welcomed by various colorful paintings and an Irishman named Eugene. Suddenly I felt as if I had come home, fully at ease and welcomed in this calming space. Eugene and I spoke for some time about the Angel Sanctuary: How it came to be and why he and his companion Lorrie were there. The Angel Sanctuary was at one time a natural spring and spa. Cultivated by the Romans centuries ago, the spring had been used to remedy many physical conditions, most notably for digestion.
Lorrie and Eugene had come on vacation to Alet-Les-Bains 7 years ago and never left. They took over the spring grounds, which had stopped functioning as a spa a few years prior, and transformed it into The Angel Sanctuary, home to Lorrie’s visionary paintings.
Overcome with emotion, I began to cry as I told Eugene why I was in France and what a miracle it was that I “accidentally” showed up on their doorstep. As some as you know, I don’t believe in coincidence, especially in a case such as this.
His soothing voice once again encouraged me to step next door so I could experience the heart of the Angel Sanctuary. He lead me there and pointed to a tiny covered space at the center of the room. It was in fact an alter, with a spout functioning as the mouth for the special healing waters. He warned me, “You’ll see. The water runs off and on at its own discretion.”
I slowly peaked around the corner and respectfully entered the alter space, as not to disrupt the divine flow. I stood before the water spout, in awe of its simple yet awesome abilities to bring about renewed life, when suddenly the water spout sputtered and sacred water sprang forth from its mouth. In my fragile state, tears of gratitude fell from my already moist eyes, as I gladly took part in its healing waters.
Taking my leave from the alter, the first painting which caught my eye was Angels of Love:
“When one calls deep from one’s
and deep from one’s soul,
to meet one’s eternal Love,
The Heavens Sing.
For not only has a true Love been
but a great Love,
to grace the earth.
At that moment the heavenly Angels
are sent forth
to unite the eternal ties of Love,
where two truly become one.
And the link from heaven and earth
are bound together
To give birth to the true essence of
Entranced by the subtle and divine flow, I methodically sat before each painting, reading its inscription, receiving the Grace imparted by the Angels. Immense Love, like I have never known before, filled my heart. Deep-rooted pain dislodged itself from the darkest corners of my psyche as I felt completely free and taken care of in the Angels’ embrace. “This must be what Heaven feels like,” I thought to myself.
After some time, I withdrew myself from the inner sanctuary and returned to the gift shop next door. It was difficult; “I never wanted to leave this place. Never.” I thought to myself. Over and over I tried to figure how I could stay, how I could remain there in the sanctuary immersed in the deep Love and Self-acceptance for the rest of my life.
I thanked Eugene and promised to stay in touch. For me, a bond had been forged. He told me many return through their doors year after year. Some of which are on the Magdalene quest, just like myself.
He directed me to the community fountain, a five minute walk from the sanctuary, directly past the gardens. There, he informed me, is another water outlet direct from the Pyrenees. People once washed their clothes and bathed in those waters. And, to my delight, I discovered people came by the arm-full with empty bottles to be filled with the fresh healing waters. “How pure and simple,” I thought to myself. “This is how it is meant to be, direct from nature herself, without human intervention.”
Later, I realized it was the Sancturay, the sacred space facilitated by Lorrie and Eugene, that I craved. Not necessarily Alet-Les-Bains. The truth is that I can not live the rest of my days only in the House of Angels. So the question became, (and still lingers), how do I bring that same feeling, that sense of ease and love and wholeness with me into the world wherever I am and whomever I am with.
This is my challenge. For I am not meant to meditate it a cave high above the world. Not this time. Now it is time to bring the message of Love and Grace and Light outward into the world.
During a recent conversation with my dear friend and sage Hippie Lou, I began to realize that all of the books I’ve read, the lectures I’ve listened to, and the never-ending philosophical conversations I’ve been a part of hold little weight until I transform that wisdom into action.
I finally understand the meaning of Yogi as described by my dear Indian teacher. A Yogi is a person who puts her words in to action, who lives just as she speaks. Words are not mere concepts to a Yogi, but an actual moment-to-moment daily practice. And this is when life becomes a meditation.
And my mode of action is The Play itself. It IS the Pilgrimage. The transformation comes in how I choose to actualize this wisdom I’ve gathered.
With a sadness in my heart, I left Alet-Les-Bains. I could not forsake the remainder of my journey and that which I had come so far to see. In the morning, I would head for the infamous Rennes-le-Chateau to uncover the secrets left behind by Sauniere.