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Circumambulation

Updated: Aug 10



During a recent trip in Hartford, Connecticut I came across a rather touching site. I was having breakfast at Starbucks and noticed that nearby, there was a mother and daughter standing in an open area awaiting their order. The mother was preoccupied with her cellphone. However, the daughter began to walk around her mother, at a distance the length of her arm, with her hand just barely glazing her mother’s dress at waist height. She continued to walk around her mother in this way, not slow or fast, just at a natural pace. It was as if the child was meditating, finding her own harmony with her mother. The mother stood still, allowing her daughter to circulate her.

This sight fascinated me since it began to remind me of a ritual practiced in several religious traditions known as circumambulation. These are practices of walking around a sacred place – such as the Kaaba in Mecca for Muslims, walking around the Buddha in Buddhism, or at the Eastern vigil in the Christian Orthodox Church.

This sight fascinated me since it began to remind me of a ritual practiced in several religious traditions known as circumambulation. These are practices of walking around a sacred place – such as the Kaaba in Mecca for Muslims, walking around the Buddha in Buddhism, or at the Eastern vigil in the Christian Orthodox Church.

It occurred to me that this circumambulation that I had become aware of in the world’s religions, was being performed by this child, not around a popular religious site but around her object of admiration – her mother. Circumambulation seems to be a natural human activity we perform to portray our admiration for someone or something. Circumambulation allows one to experience the special person or thing, from all perspectives in order to gain a more complete relationship with it.

What will I circumambulate today?

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