Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reflections on a Labyrinth

I had never walked a real labyrinth before. The closest I had come was one that friends had made in their field. It was a "real" labyrinth, to be sure. And a lovely experience. But one could never quite see the center through the tall grasses, nor could we see where we were or where we were going. So when I learned that New Harmony, Indiana, had a labyrinth modeled after the one in Chartres, I knew I had to go.

And I knew I had to go alone. I wanted to walk with no distractions, not worry whether I was slowing anyone down and be able to contemplate whatever came to mind during that time. So, on an early Saturday morning, I walked the few blocks down the street to have the experience.

Labyrinths have been used for more than four thousand years in many cultural traditions. The New Harmony "Cathedral Labyrinth and Sacred Garden" was completed "as the new millennium began with the hope that many will walk the ancient path well into the 21st century."

The accompanying brochure explains that as one walks the path, they purposefully enter a space where there is order and reason. There are no deceptions on the path or tricks or dead ends. One follows it in faith, having the opportunity to look within while moving toward the center, then retracing the way to the beginning.

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect. How hard is it to follow a path to the center and walk out again? What could possibly come to mind. But I'm game, and -- with shoes off, as suggested -- I set out, somewhat mindful of the suggestions for the walk that the brochure suggested -- essentially bringing one's self to a personal center or intent. One of the suggestions was to "think of the labyrinth as a methapor for your life with its many turns and winding nature."

But initially, all I could think of was how the granite felt under my feet, how it changed temperature from cool in the shade to warm in the spots kissed by the sun. I was incredibly aware of my senses -- the morning stillness, broken only by the birds trilling their early morning songs and the sound of the Orpheus Fountain at the edge of the labyrinth.

As I moved through, I was struck by the patterns, the sense of closing in on the rose center but then being pulled back into the perimeter. I was in awe of those who created this symmetrical pattern -- a puzzle without a trick.

But then I began to realize that this was not unlike life. We have a goal -- the center of the labyrinth, if you will. Perhaps that is happiness or peace of mind, perhaps something more tangible. We move forward toward the goal -- and yet for whatever reason, circumstances take us away from it, back to the perimeter, back to a maze that appears far from the desired end.

Consider the right professional path, for example -- studying to learn, applying for jobs, getting one, but -- perhaps the wrong one or having the wrong boss, perhaps you advance -- or are laid off. You may switch career paths to begin again. And if you are very lucky, you find the right thing.

It could apply to relationships as well. Actually, to just about anything in life. Getting closer, the challenge of being pulled back, coming forward again. Reaching the center.

But, it is only if you keep on the path, ever mindful to what is in your heart, what is around you and what centers you that you ultimately reach not only the center of the labyrinth but the center of your soul, of what gives you the greatest joy.

I've lived that walk every day. Many times I thought I was close to the rose center of my life and then things might happen to pull me off track, cause me to grieve, to rethink past choices, to evaluate. And ultimately, lead me toward a new center, the one of deepest happiness. That's where I am now. It is the greatest gift I've ever known.

Did I need a walk on the labyrinth to realize that? I don't think so. But it certainly helped clarify it. The experience was so profound and deep, it's been difficult to speak about and to share. And yet, now I can.

I don't know if the wedding couple Allison (Rick's niece) and Brennan walked this labyrinth during their wedding weekend. I suspect they had plenty of other things on their mind. But I hope they walk it someday, maybe even someday soon, as a reminder that their life will go in circles sometimes, that they may be far from the center, even though only shortly before they thought they were almost there. But to keep on the path, for it does lead home.

That's my wedding wish for Allison, that her joy be great and her heart fulfilled, that as years go by, she has found the rose center of her own labyrinth.


Mary M-S said...

So beautiful. Thank you for sharing :-)

Retired English Teacher said...

I loved this reflection and that you turned it into a wedding wish for the bride. Truly, this was a beautiful reflection.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I so enjoyed this! I have never walked a labyrinth, but would love to. I loved your description of your experience. It sounds like you were completely in the "now." And what a sweet wish for the bride.

Tracy said...

Living the path with heart... good directions for life. And so are your beauitful reflections here, Jeanie. "Getting closer, the challenge of being pulled back, coming forward again. Reaching the center." That is so much of life isn't it--we start, we're eager, we stumble sometimes, but we dust ourselves off and keeping going, keep leaning toward that rose center. I've never walked a labyrinth either. I wouldn't mind making in one in the garden. That might take up a lot of space--hey, less to mow. ;o) Best wishes to Allison & Brennan--wonderful, big group photo! Happy Days, my friend ((HUGS))

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

YOU have been having fun, haven't you, Jeanie! Let's extend this joy and endless summer even though for me, the first day of school is on MONDAY! EEEKKK!

I love that Black Elk statement. How true; poets remind us to look at things TWICE and more, to see patterns or other interesting things that make life incredibly interesting. Have a fabulous day dear Jeanie, Anita

Joanne Huffman said...

I have walked a couple of labyrinths, and each time it has centered me. It really is a beautiful experience. You have captured the experience perfectly with your photos and prose.

littleRamstudio said...

Jeanie, this is such a thoughtful, beautiful piece of writing.
And you made me think...happiness is the gosl.
Thank you for sharing your experience.
Heather :)

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

This is such a beautiful post and a good one for me to read right now as I am not feeling great about things at work which is making me question whether this area of finance is an area that I am cut out for. I feel fortunate that I have other aspects of my life that make me feel balanced as that offsets some of the unbalance I feel at work.

I love your wish for the newly married couple! I hope they read this post as it's so insightful and wise! I'm so happy you've found your 'center' and are oh so happy!

shoreacres said...

I smiled when I read your description of the granite changing - now warm, now cool - as you walked. Just yesterday afternoon, I experienced that, and thought about it, as I walked down a dock: hot in the sunlight, cool where the shadows fell. And, as I walked, I was listening to the sound of the first osprey to have arrived. He's early, but he's here, and his song lifts my heart.

Perhaps, in the end, that's the most important lesson of a labyrinth. We don't have to go "there" to experience the circle of life, or its heart. It's all "here". We need only notice.

Beth Leintz said...

I've never walked a labyrinth...I dont know if I've ever been close enough to one to have a chance...but I enjoyed reading about your walk and how much thought you put into it.

Anonymous said...

And this is why I subscribe to your blog! I'm glad you found the center in your own radiate peace and happiness now :)

Jeanie said...

A wonderful telling of a beautiful experience. This was my favorite line..."And ultimately, lead me toward a new center, the one of deepest happiness. That's where I am now. It is the greatest gift I've ever known."

Janet said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and it got me thinking...that's for sure! I've never walked a labyrinth but from your experience I think I know how it feels.

The Old Parsonage said...

I've got goosebumps sweet friend!


Barb said...

Jeanie, I read with tears in my eyes - we all walk the labyrinth of life. The idea of life as "a puzzle without a trick" is wonderful to contemplate. Thank you for reminding me! May the young couple know life's rich blessings.

Mary Rose's said...

Jeanie, this is some of your best writing (and the images you selected to pair with it) EVER.
Thank you so much for sharing the labyrinthine thoughts. I'm honored to have been with you in small ways on parts of yours -- and happy to have shared mine with you.

This is so GOOD, girl. I hope it gets re-published more widely.
XOXOXo, Maryanne in SC

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a beautiful, thought-provoking post, Jeanie! How fascinating that you knew that you needed to make this memorable walk alone -as, indeed, we all walk alone in the deepest essence of our lives -- and that it helped bring such insight and clarity and joy. Knowing when you're truly happy and celebrating that in real time is such a blessing!

Arti said...

I've never seen a labyrinth before, so have no real experience of walking through one. But your comparing it to life that I can understand, and an apt metaphor. Thanks for this meditative post, Jeanie. BTW, that's a beautiful wedding photo. Thanks for sharing with us your experience.

Bella Rum said...

How beautiful and inspiring this post is, Jeanie. So lovely. I immediately searched for a labyrinth near me. Who knew there was such a thing as a labyrinth locator.
I identify with your words:
" you ultimately reach not only the center of the labyrinth but the center of your soul, of what gives you the greatest joy"

gigihawaii said...

Lovely, inspiring post!
I, too, wish the best for the bride and groom.

Jennifer Richardson said...

I love circles.
Love the images you share
and the process you describe.
Love the quote....lovely words
of wisdom.
Thanks for sharing the beauty
of your days,

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

Lovely wedding wishes for the lucky couple!

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Oh Jeanie... You are such a dear.
Thank you so much for your most encouraging words... I am so happy you enjoyed Mrs. Miniver.
Wishing you a beautiful week.

Jenny Woolf said...

That is so interesting, Jeanie. I am going to be writing about a labyrinth we saw on our trip, it's known to be hundreds of years old but thought to be older still. I think part of it was to reflect on religious matters as you walked.

Vagabonde said...

Such an inspiring post, Jeanie! Your post is lovely and the thoughts expressed very profound. Life is indeed a circle. The Sanskrit word for circle is “Mandala.” In Buddhism the mandala represents the universe, and we also use them for meditation – some paintings of mandalas have intricate designs, deep and brilliant colors. Your wedding wish for Allison is very loving – I hope she will have a great life.

Nat Palaskas said...

You write beautifully Jeanie! That family wedding photo is a treasure. Happiness to you and the wedding couple - Hugs Nat

Roses, Lace and Brocante said...

I haven't ever walked a labyrinth Jeanie but I can see the similarity to life, I've never thought of it like this before.
Love the family wedding photo.

The Artful Diva said...

i've never seen a "real" labyrinth either - pretty cool!

Betsy@My Salvaged Treasures said...

Thank you for sharing this, a real inspiration and beautiful pictures.

Marilyn said...

Oh Jeanie, This is so perfectly stated. Walking a labyrinth is such an emotion, heart opening experience. Each time I have walked one I am in awe of the response to my soul and end up with a few tears as I approach the center. Thank you so much for your words.

~*~Patty S said...

I had opened this post last night but decided to visit again this morning fresh from sleep.
Thank you for sharing your profound experience in this thought provoking post Jeanie.
That Black Elk quote is a favorite...
Happy beginning of the weekend!

I need orange said...

I've wondered what it would be like to walk a labyrinth. How interesting that they suggested barefoot....

Thanks for taking us along and for sharing your insights!

Popular Posts