Every time I introduce someone to the labyrinth I have both anticipation and anxiety. I have been walking a labyrinth for meditation for over 10 years. The labyrinth I walk is in the Anglican Church around the corner from me.
The first person I introduced to it was my sister, 10 years ago, and she still attends. She introduced her friend Aryana. Aryana was so taken with the process of a walking meditation through the labyrinth that she started to visit labyrinths all over our province, and all over the world. My sister and Aryana recently returned from Chartres, France which has a famous 12th century labyrinth in the cathedral there. Our labyrinth in Vancouver was patterned after the very same one. Aryana loved the labyrinth experience so much that she wrote a unique guidebook of labyrinths all over the West Coast which she sells in bookstores and at the labyrinths themselves.
I introduced a group of writers to the labyrinth as part of a course I was running about connecting to your Muse. One writer was so enamored she started a project of leading the blind through the labyrinth. Another writer made a self-discovery that she had a hard time stepping outside the lines that society had drawn for her. She discovered this because she did not know what to do when someone was coming towards her in the labyrinth (there is not enough room for two to pass within the lines). We asked her why she did not just step aside? As there are no walls, just lines. This observation helped her realize that she was overly concerned what others thought, and this kept her creativity in a box.
The labyrinth has a knack of reflecting back to you who you are and what you believe. When I took my joyful friend who loves children, and has a childlike innocence of her own, she was less comfortable with the adult quietness and reverent solitude of it. But, it was during this visit that something happened that had never happened before or since. A few minutes after she entered the labyrinth, a whole group of young children came in the door. Normally, the labyrinth is reserved for adults. I had never seen any young children there before. To me, it was the energy of my friend who brought them. Or that’s what I prefer to think. She had fun with their playful energy, even if others found it disquieting. I was completely amused.
Today, I introduced another good friend to the labyrinth. I started walking it myself with one eye on my friend. I always hope people will gain something and have a positive experience, but my anxiety is they will not. My anticipation is that they will and I will witness or learn something new through them. It took me a few moments to drop the anxiety, to drop the anticipation, and focus on my own journey through the labyrinth.
My own journey often starts in a place of gratitude. Thank you’s to the universe for all that I have. Then, I usually end up asking for either guidance or healing. Far too often, as I grow older, I am asking for some physical healing of my complaints that come with an aging body. However, I remember in my first years of walking the labyrinth asking for psychic healing often. Today, I wondered if my younger friend was asking for psychic healing while I was asking for physical healing. And I started to reflect on our need as humans, for healing. When did we start asking for healing? When do we stop? Was there ever a time when we were whole? Is the process of life a process where we are continually incurring psychic, physical or spiritual wounds that require healing? Can you remember a time in which you had never experienced a hurt feeling? Or, lately, when my body is not experiencing some hurt? Do we not start out crying shortly after we enter this world? It seems we start to accumulate wounds as soon as we start the path. All of us have a need at some moment to pause and ask for healing in order to restore ourselves.
An interesting note, approximately at the age of six to 12 weeks old all babies inherently start laughing. Some research says that they do not need to see others laugh to learn how to laugh. It is as if we were put on this world to experience both joy and pain. But we often put our focus on the pain and ask for healing. This is not our fault. Pain is hard to ignore. We have only three choices other than to drug ourselves. The first is to seek healing. The second is to accept. The third is to distract oneself. These are all great lessons in themselves.
To seek healing takes effort. Currently, I am dealing with the condition known as frozen shoulder. It is a very frustrating condition and I have put in a great deal of effort towards healing it. Yet, the progress, has been excruciatingly slow. At this point, you must concede to a certain amount of acceptance. Acceptance is probably the hardest lesson that all of us must face in one form or another. Pain is very difficult to accept, in whatever form you are dealing with it. That is where distraction comes in. That is where laughter comes in. Rumi said that when laughter rises from the body it is glad to be gone. There is a lightness of being that is achievable only in joy, and distraction from our worries and pain. Meditation asks this of us too. Still your mind from worry, and painful thoughts and allow joy to enter the void.
When do we stop asking for healing? Perhaps never, if we, “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” as Dylan Thomas said, and do not want to give up. But perhaps we could put more effort towards finding joy, finding laughter, in small things and feel blessed in distraction. Now that science has amply confirmed the healing power of laughter, perhaps in distraction is where most healing is truly found. The best distractions are either immersions into things that demand total focus, or they are things that give us of joy and laughter that is “glad to be gone.”
My friend, who I introduced to the labyrinth today, said thank you, but I did not ask her if it was “good for her” or not. I did not want to intrude or make her feel like she should have received something if she did not. I accepted whatever was there for me and for her. Fortunately, while there, I did become distracted by my own reflections and have been distracted again chronicling them here. I do make an effort towards healing, and I ask for it, but I accept that I do not always have total control over it. Now, I am ready to go into the world and seek joy and laughter.
PS – My friend later shared her experience in the Labyrinth where she became confused and thought she might have stepped across a line and gotten
on the wrong path. She was very upset until she realized the parallel to her own life where she was questioning, perhaps too much, whether she was on the “right” path and thus making herself unhappy. She realized that like being in the labyrinth itself, it doesn’t matter. There is one path in, and one path out,
and no such thing as a “right” path. Another labyrinth lesson.
Kathrin Lake is the author of From Survival to Thrival and conducts writing and presentation excellence events in Vancouver and a writing retreat in Mexico. See www.survivaltothrival.com/services/retreats