The Bridge of Smiles
The Bridge of Sighs is a famous viaduct located in Venice, in northern Italy. Passing over the Rio di Palazzo, the enclosed bridge connects the interrogation rooms in the old government palace at one end with prison cells at the other. The bridge’s name, given by Lord Byron, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh as they took in their final view of beautiful Venice before being imprisoned.
Within us is a bridge functioning in quite the opposite way. Let’s call it the Bridge of Smiles. You can guess, I hope, that this is our simran. These five holy names, repeated patiently,one after the other, take us from imprisonment within the dark confines of ego and the domination of the mind to the other side where freedom awaits – the shining light of the Master’s love.
Even more than us, the Master longs for our soul to reach the other side of the bridge. Moreover, he likes us to be brave soldiers, to smile and remain positive. Our only guarantee of making it across is to tread that bridge, one step at a time, and repeat the process over and over again. It’s true that we don’t move very quickly and, without any glimpse of the other side, our already long and arduous journey seems impossible to complete. But at least we’re on the bridge; so many aren’t.
As you walk along the bridge, if you look through the gaps in the floor, you’ll notice the gremlins trying to catch your feet. Some come dressed as worries, others as remorse and still others as pain. If you ever make the mistake of stopping, they’ll soon take that smile off your face. The same is true at the windows. The most alluring winged creatures are trying to get in, but don’t let them! These lovely fairies are the thoughts that charm you – plans, schemes and fond memories built from a multi-coloured tissue of desire. They’ll entwine themselves around you so tightly and intricately that you’ll be rooted to the spot.
So just enjoy the experience of being on the bridge. Enjoy the fact that you are enclosed within; enjoy the lack of view. Just be there. Forget where you came from. Don’t think about what may lie ahead. Give your complete attention to one name at a time and, without calculating where it has brought you, move to the next. When you reach the last one, start again.
As you emerge from the bridge after your daily walk, you’ll smile, ready to face the ups and downs of the day. Before long, your entire being – body, mind and soul – will smile from the peace you feel within; all down to your slow but consistent walks along the bridge.
Unlike the Bridge of Sighs, which is built of solid limestone, our bridge is made of something subtle; we might call it ‘mind over matter’ or ‘mind control’. This astounding substance, once activated, has the power to deliver us to a destination beyond all imagination.
The poor prisoners in Venice sighed when leaving behind their loved ones. One day we will smile as the door at the end of our bridge opens and we glimpse our beloved Master waiting for us.