"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What Is It About Labyrinths?

     A labyrinth is not a maze; it is not a puzzle to be worked out. A labyrinth is a path which one walks, in silence, alone.  The goal is not to reach the center of the circle. The goal is to allow yourself  the journey and to be open to experiencing whatever happens to you while you are walking.  Maybe nothing will happen. You never know. There is no hurry, unless the person behind you is walking too quickly and you feel rushed to keep ahead. That doesn't usually happen; people  adjust their pace so no one feels rushed.  You walk and think, and eventually you walk and don't think. Your heart slows and your mind calms and suddenly you find yourself coming into alignment with more than the paths, more than that space and time. You are given the opportunity to be your true self, on the paths and then, in the center, for as long as you wish: until it is time to walk back out. You will know when it is time to leave.
       The first few times you walk, you may feel strange, as if you were pretending to be something you are not.  That's okay.  Keep walking. Give the process enough time to become familiar.  We are, by nature, uncomfortable with the unknown. Labyrinths do not do anything to us, they merely give us time and space in which to let our masks fall away. They are a tool to be used, if you so desire.
       I like walking in moonlight and starlight.  The sun hurts my eyes, burns my skin, stresses my body, but moonlight speaks to me. I can breath in the near darkness. I find it is easier to be more fully who I am. Maybe that is because in the darkness we rely less on our sight; we listen more, we are more sensitive.
     Last Friday the full moon was what is called a Blue Moon: the second full moon in any one month.  I traveled with a friend to Turtle Rock Farm, a retreat center for spirituality and sustainability run by sisters, Ann Denny and Pat Hoerth.  Pat is a longtime friend of mine; a dear friend. The night and the light were right, so we decided to walk, even though there was some cloud cover.
     The labyrinth at Turtle Rock is on an open hilltop, the pattern of turns mowed into native prairie grasses and flowers. This year, due to an unusually rainy May, and a few random rains in the following months, the paths were easily visible, the tall grasses catching the light. In the past few years of drought they have sometimes been difficult to follow.

     Before we reached the labyrinth we had to hike across the curve of the pond dam, down across a rocky waterway, and up the hill on the other side.  The hike gives you time to empty yourself of words, to ready yourself to be still and listen.  One of the things I love about walking labyrinths with others is that sometimes, early in the walk, everyone comes to be side by side for one step. When that happens I feel as if a tiny chime sings within me. I am tempted to gently flare my hands in that moment, to brush their fingers. But they are in their space, within themselves, it might be an intrusion.  
    There was no wind that night. The air was hot and heavy with moisture as we walked together, back and forth and around, again and again. Sweat ran out of my hair, down the back of my shirt. Once we reached the center, we sat or stretched out upon the ground, to better view the night sky.  We were alone together. The clouds had dissipated and below the full moon, with the starry universe beyond, bright white clouds striped the dome above.  A light breeze had kicked up, finally, feeling like a gift.
      The walk out of a labyrinth, through all the same turns, in reverse, feels very different.  I always feel lighter somehow, emptier, cleaner in mind and spirit; as if I had left a weight or a burden in the center. Sometimes people do leave things at the center: offerings, tokens, remembrance stones, call them what you will. 
     While I mowed Maggie's Wood this morning I couldn't help but notice the grasses there are almost established enough to allow me to mow my own labyrinth next spring. I hope so.  I have the plan drawn and measurements taken. I am ready, whenever the grass is. 

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