Life can take us in many directions, and often on paths we never thought we’d choose. Sometimes the way ahead is clear. Other times, (and for me, more often than not,) the path ahead is a bit hazy…I can’t quite see the images…and when I get to that intersection I am really not sure where I’m supposed to go.
It’s like hiking, which has always been my favorite thing though these days my feet don’t want to cooperate. I hike a trail. I can tell where it’s going. Then I come to a point where it seems to split into many options. Obviously only one is “really” the trail. But the others look kind of okay…are they options?
If I choose one I’ve never done before, will it bring me back to where I am right now?
Or will I get lost and never find my way back?
The movies want you to think that it’s easy to figure out moments like this. There’s a sudden vision. Or the music changes and the sun comes out and you just know. More likely is you are tired, distracted and you’d just like someone to come along and tell you which way is which.
When my mind won’t settle enough for me to figure out what’s next, or there’s just no peace because it feels like I’ve backtracked and messed up and soon I’ll even up living under a bridge, I try to find experiences that quiet it all. Meditation is good. Tai chi is restorative. Nature is always a balm.
And then there’s the labyrinth.
According to The Labyrinth Society, a “labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological or spiritual transformation. Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity.” Labyrinths are considered walking meditations, where your psyche meets your spirit.
Labyrinth enthusiasts believe that as you enter the labyrinth, you release. When you enter the center, you receive. Then as you leave, you give back to the world what you have received.
One of the most famous labyrinths is that found at Chartres Cathedral in France. This labyrinth is 42 feet in diameter and is thought to have been constructed in the early 13th century, though no one is sure. What is known is that up to 1,000 people have walked the path and the numbers continue to grow.
What is it that pulls so many people to walk this design? Does it really have a power all its own?
Many years ago I was at a point in my life where I could not figure out what was my inner self giving me direction, or what were the messages I’d absorbed for years from well-meaning but negative people I was around. I just wanted to clear my mind and get a feel for what my path should be. I had heard of a large labyrinth laid out at a church near me, and I decided to try it. A friend had suggested that before I walk the labyrinth, I say a prayer or meditation of what I hoped to find…what answer I was looking for. And be sure to enter the design with as clear a mind as possible.
Easier said than done, but I followed her advice. And it was, for me, an amazing feeling. As I entered the labyrinth, I felt what I can best describe as a force field…an energy that seemed very real and very strong. I took my time and let thoughts come and go. What most impressed me was how just as you think you’re about to reach the center, the labyrinth takes you back out to the outer edges, slowing you down, making you revisit where you have come from, not allowing you to just quickly find that golden egg.
In other words, you can’t get where you going without circling back to where you’ve been.
I find that to be a huge lesson. We don’t just come out of the rodeo shoot and never look back. We make progress, we accomplish things, we lead our lives…but we’re always calling upon where we’ve come from.
Some reject this idea, as they have come from places or environments that were abusive or so negative they never want to look back. I understand that. But I think even that pain has something to teach us and if we boomers ignore it, it’s just going to keep popping up and block our forward motion.
I also noted how once I reached the center of the labyrinth, I felt peace. I could just breathe and be for a bit. (How often do we do that??) Then as I was ready to leave the center, I once again had to follow a path that picked up speed, then slowed, and again, took me literally full circle…to the outer edges and back.
Maybe this all sounds weird. But lately, I’m in a place again where my inner self is a bit off-balance, where it is easy to give in to the notion that because I’ve returned to an earlier address, I’ve failed or walked backwards. Yet my conscious mind knows that’s not the case; I’ve just taken one of those spur trails to see where it will take me.
I’ll still get where I was going, but I will take an unexpected route. And it might be one that for a while doesn’t feel quite right, like putting on shoes that don’t fit or a sweater that itches. But if I trust a higher force to get me through the dark parts, then surely there’s a vista at the end of this trail that’s far more beautiful than I could have imagined.
I let go. I receive. I give back. And maybe in the process, I return to who I am so I can be even more.
“Methinks the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
Henry David Thoreau