At first glance, this patch of grass looks like a creative mowing project. Like anything, how you approach it makes it either a frustrating walk in circles going nowhere or a transformative inner journey of self-awareness. For most of us, it may be both.
I crossed paths with this labyrinth courtesy of a recent Community Yoga Retreat. This was my first time. If you have never meditatively walked along a labyrinth let me try to describe my first experience.
We, about 16 of us, were asked to walk slowly in silent meditation through the labyrinth. As we walk in we were to consider all the things we are grateful for, after we reach the center indicated by a bowl of floating flowers and as we walk out of the labyrinth, we were to mindfully shed all the things we want to be free of. This walk, warned the retreat center director could last 45 minutes. Simple enough. Right?
I was the last to enter the labyrinth. I watched as everyone entered the labyrinth and walk slowly along the curves. My feet were bare. I could feel the cool grass below my feet. As I first entered the walk, I noticed my arms shivering and tingling. Maybe I was just cold, maybe I was feeling something. I don’t know. I felt calm and quiet. I also felt like I was walking with many others, in front and behind me (there was no one behind me). The labyrinth felt full. The first few moments of reverie soon dissolved into…why is it so hard to step slowly? is this ground uneven? Am I making the right turns? am I walking too closely behind? am I going to fast? oh, there’s a branch, gosh I’m cold….you get the point. It was a flood of how long is this going to take and am I lost? I can’t be if I can look up and step out at any time. My mind was playing weird games.
As I felt like I was spinning in circles becoming myself a labyrinth of confusion, I decided to enjoy the experience, to find a way to savor each step, each thought of gratitude, to send love to my friends walking with me. Magically, the craziness eased. I began to notice the journey, my unsteady steps, my worries, my fellow walkers, the sun, the warmth, the shadows, the trees. I began to move in and out of the labyrinth to find my horizon, feeling both lost and located at the same time. By the time I reached the bowl of floating flowers at the center, it felt like a long-delayed accomplishment. Joy and relief. Walking out of the circle as I allowed self-doubt drip down my fingertips I began to feel lighter. When I crossed paths with another, I felt a rise of self-judgment, am I going the right direction? Should we be crossing paths? Again, I reminded myself, it doesn’t matter, just walk, breathe and enjoy this morning.
Like life, there were rough patches, beautiful views, isolation, company, obstructive twigs, comforting sunshine, confusion, and clarity, ground and sky, turns and curves, crazy mind, calm mind, grateful heart, irritated heart. Maybe we are always in a labyrinth, either imprisoned and trapped or liberated and exploring.
There was a sense of relief after completing what felt like a long journey. As I stepped out, following a lady in front of me, also named Lisa, she said “Thanks for keeping me company.” I returned my gratitude for her company as well.
It was a trip, best, shared.
Last to exit, I joined the others, some resumed their conversations, some sat quietly, some shared their confusion about the labyrinth. We all survived and learned something about ourselves. I learned that I can make walking in circles bearable and even enjoyable, if I want. Maybe I can make anything bearable…….almost, with fellow walkers.
Happy Monday, everyone. Happy walking the week.