Cairns help reflect about balance, simplicity, spirituality, peace, prayer, patience, direction, priority, and play
Cairns are simple rock formations, created by stacking stones on top of one another. From the arctic territories of the Inuit to temples in Korea, cairns can be found all over the world.
Built for thousands of years, they’ve been used to mark sacred spaces, to guide travelers along paths, or to notify others of danger.
A cairn is an impermanent human-made pile of stones. The word “cairn” comes from a Gaelic term meaning “heap of stones.” A search on the Internet reveals that cairns have also been referred to as “trail ducks”; in Hawaii they are called “ahu” and by Native Americans, “Wa-wa-na-quas-sick” (place of many good stones).
Through their sheer simplicity, cairns offer so much wisdom. Read on to see what these beautifully symbolic towers can teach us.
Cairns date back to ancient times as mentioned in the Bible. Rocks and piles of rock are mentioned in the Bible as well. Genesis 31:45-52 describes how a rock pile was used as a boundary. “And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made a heap….And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee; This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shall not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.”
Historically, cairns were built by one person or by many people who contributed by adding a rock as they passed by the site. Other times, perhaps more recently rocks have been carefully balanced one on another.
Be Solid, Not Rigid
A cairn’s rock-solid elements are what keep it steady. But that doesn’t make it stiff or unyielding. If need be, a cairn be disassembled and moved to another location. Be like a cairn: be strong, but not immutable.
Regardless of its size, a cairn always seems to tower majestically above the ground. Be proud and reach towards the sky like a cairn. Stand tall, no matter your height.
Find Your Balance
The key to a cairn’s miraculous formation is its ability to maintain balance. Even as it defies gravity, it holds its own. You too can defy the odds as long you maintain balance in your life.
What’s the key to the cairn’s balance? All its elements are stacked along the same reference point. In other words, it’s properly centered. You needn’t worry about falling as long as you have a reference point to center yourself around.
A cairn would never be able to support itself if it wasn’t secure in the ground. Similarly, you can’t grow and ascend if you don’t have a firm foundation. Find stability where you are: get grounded.
A cairn is able to stay grounded because all its elements are aligned. We can take a lesson from the cairn’s configuration. Like the cairn, we find stability when all different aspects of our lives line up: when our actions support our goals and vice versa!
Cairns have been used throughout history as landmarks. Many were built and left behind as direction markers for other travelers. Be a signpost: take what you’ve learned and use it to guide others on their journeys.
Leave Your Mark
Standing out amidst the landscape, cairns are literal markers. Be like a cairn: whether through your actions or in your relationships, leave your mark on the landscape of others lives.
If You Fall, Rebuild
What happens if a cairn falls? Easy: we simply put it back together again. Like a cairn, your life isn’t over if you take a tumble. You just have to start again. Remember that it’s never too late to rebuild.