The Labyrinth

February 3, 2016

 

Feeling like you're going in circles? What if going in circles wasn't such a bad thing?
What you might need is the right kind of circle to set you straight.

I took an art class in high school in which I learned to design a labyrinth. Our teacher, Mrs. Charles, told us that labyrinths were like finger prints of a sacred journey with lots of twists and turns. She told us that we were creating release and freedom. Of course we all thought she was a little bit nuts, but we went with it. On a large sheet of paper, she had us design a focal image in the middle, anything that inspired us. She said that the main road would lead to it. We then drew a large circle around the focal image. We picked a starting point and threaded the longest path to the middle without having the line cross itself. "Lots of turns people!" she would say, "you're creating opportunities here." Later I would find out just how much Mrs. Charles' riddle talk made sense.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of talking a walk through a labyrinth with a women's group. It was a quiet walk that took me to a place in my sense of self that I didn't know was missing in my experience 'til then.

Before the journey began, we discussed and journaled about unworkable relationships and circumstances and disruptive people in our lives with the goal of releasing ourselves from the blocks associated with these pent up thoughts and emotions. The walk was designed as a practice of forgiveness. It's an exercise in free-will. No one enters the labyrinth without fully committing to forgiving one's self and others. We were told that every turn was an opportunity to release 'the unworkables', to forgive and to let go. At each turn we were to pause and bring to mind an 'unworkable' and say: "Forgive me, I've used your words against myself and I will no longer use your words in this way." It was first to be directed at the other, then self.

It seemed simple enough. I understood the process intellectually, but didn't really get it until I did it.  As you might imagine, I started with the easy ones. Quite quickly, my experience of the statement directed at my people and my concerns was one of acceptance and release. I felt myself claiming my power and drawing strength from owning the circumstances. I saw that the only reason I was upset was because of what I was saying the circumstances meant about me. I saw that though they may have provided a stick, I was the one who was choosing to use it to beat myself up. I saw that the 'big ones' were big because I was insisting on the other being wrong and the more I resisted their opinions the bigger they got. What cleared it up for me was a flash of insight that they had a right to their opinion which really had nothing to do with me. Their opinion may have shaped their view of me, but not the actual me. The only person who had rights to define me is me. I saw that the more I resisted, the more I made them right. In the release, I was freed to be me and unleashed from a fight to prove me. I got the absurdity of it all. A tree doesn't have to prove itself to anyone who walked up to it and call it a shoe. It just does it's tree thing. It was a new concept for me at the time: have my being do the talking.

With that insight, all remaining concerns simply disappeared. I saw that if this insight was right, I really didn't have any concerns. From that moment, my steps were sure and intentional and I quickly reached the center of the labyrinth. At that point I was instructed to pause, imagine a mirror and say: "forgive me, I've used your words most of all to go against myself and I will no longer use them in this way." With that promise I stepped into center. I was so aware of a new sense of joy, peace satisfaction and grounding that I'd never allowed myself to savor before.

I chose to look at those concerns again on my walk out of the labyrinth and I noticed that I really had a new perspective of them and had really let it all go. I read through my list and noticed that some of them were so far removed from my experience that I hardly remembered them ever happening.

I learned many things that day, first of which is get the big thing done first, everything else will be such a breeze. Second, I am the only one who ever gets to say who I am. Have my being do the talking. Third, the opinions of others are their to keep. The biggest insight of the day hit me when I stepped out of the labyrinth. It was as if fog had cleared from my eyes. I realized that at every pause on the way to the middle, I made my concerns new and real for myself by intentionally bringing it to mind. All my emotions were real and very present in the moment though nothing was actually happening in the moment. I was struck that when the event actually happened, I wasn't nearly as upset as I was after I rehashed it over and over again adding on new thoughts and opinions until it became the mess it was. This walk was a walk to get responsible for my patterns of thinking.

This insight initiated an appreciation for the now. I'm committed to fully experience this moment. I give myself permission to feel my elations and my upsets in the moment. They don't get to linger past that point unless I allow it. I am fully responsible for my thinking. I'm now on the watch for rehashing and stick collecting and I release. Since I'm the only one who gets to say who I am, and I promised not to use my words against myself, I compliment myself now. Not as a boast, but as an acknowledgement to a friend. I've learned to love myself, and it really is the greatest love of all. Thank you Michael Masser, Linda Creed and Whitney Houston.

Going around in that circle certainly straightened out my path. A new path is available and I'm walking. Understanding this story isn't enough, you need to take this walk and get it for yourself experientially. You don't need a labyrinth to take this walk. Walk around the block, the park, the grocery store, wherever, but you do need to walk. You're likely to end up rehashing if you're just sitting there. Spend a week interrupting those thoughts about yourself that you absolutely wouldn't tolerate from anyone else. Compliment yourself just for the heck of it and watch for the changes in your experience.
 

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