Do you wonder why I love labyrinths? Or are you confused about what a labyrinth is? This blog is a personal story and an introduction to the labyrinth. Sit back, enjoy the read and then go out and discover a labyrinth near you by going to http://www.labyrinthlocator.com and entering your zip code.
Personally, I relate better to things that I do not understand when I have a story about why something is important. Stories make things come to life for me, by bringing things into context. My desire is that you fall in love with the labyrinth as much as I have, but regardless, you will learn a little-bit more about each of us, the labyrinth and me.
The Divine, as I like to refer to my God has an amazing way of reaching out to us and bringing to us what we need. In my case, it was as early as 1991-1992 when I was on a spiritual pilgrimage in Wales, that I first heard the word, “labyrinth.” My roommate was a woman from the East Coast and she told me she was traveling from Wales to Iona, because there was an ancient labyrinth there that she wanted to experience for herself. She mentioned she was involved in a Labyrinth group in her home town and that there was this new book, Walking A Sacred Path by Lauren Artress, if I wanted to learn more.
After my Wales Pilgrimage and back in Phoenix, full of wonderful spiritual lessons, I had many new resources to explore. But, first on my list was to order Walking a Sacred Path, from a brick and mortar bookstore. In the early 90’s, not everything was just a click away. I found myself pulled, drawn, and mesmerized by what I read, but was specifically struck with the fact there had to be something very special about this thing called a Labyrinth. One of Dr. Actresses quotes intrigued me: “You walk to the center of the labyrinth and there at the center, you meet the Divine. The labyrinth is a large, complex spiral circle which is an ancient symbol for the Divine Mother, the God within, the Goddess, the Holy in all of creation. For many of us the feminine aspect of the Divine has been painfully absent from our lives, our spirituality, and our Western culture.”
The book speaks of Dr. Artress intrigue and curiosity about the 12th century labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France. The book tells the beginning story about how she and her group had to manually pull the chairs off of the church floor in order to walk this ancient Labyrinth. Dr. Artress’s trip was the beginning of the now labyrinth awakening all over the world. If you want to learn all about the Labyrinth and the many stories around it I highly recommend you start with her book. It will give you the context, history, and the many reasons the Labyrinth is so important to us in the current situation we are now living.
Back in the early 90’s, I could never imagine going to Chartres and still have not been. But when Dr. Artress returned to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco her goal was to build a replica of Chartres Cathedral there. That traveling goal was clearly a doable one.
In 1997, I took advantage of a San Francisco continuing education opportunity for psychologists working with the LGBTQ clients. Luckily, the workshop and Grace Cathedral were in close proximity. I admit that I chose the CE opportunity to experience Grace Cathedral’s Labyrinth. As I entered the Cathedral to walk the wool floor labyrinth in the beauty of Grace Cathedral’s walls with music playing, I remember tearing up. I knew something was breaking free inside of me and I was experiencing something that I would not be able to describe. It was clearly one of the most amazing moments with my Divine.
Then 1999 happened and I was diagnosed with stage II, estrogen positive breast cancer. You can read my whole story in my book, In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer. I was shaken to my core. I was only forty-five and the average age for breast cancer was sixty-four at that time. I had worked with several cancer patients as part of my practice of psychotherapy. As a result, I knew I would use the powerful tool of guided imagery (My Tiger) to help me fight this disease. However, in the beginning of my cancer journey I had no idea to what extent the Labyrinth would play in my recovery.
It just so happened that Trinity Cathedral, downtown Phoenix was in the process of building their own Chartres replica labyrinth in their beautiful courtyard. That labyrinth was being dedicated on New Yea’s eve, bringing in the 21st century. I went to the dedication. I walked the new labyrinth. By that time, I had finished my harsh treatments of chemotherapy, radiation, as well as a cancer preventive hysterectomy. I was on the drug Tamoxifen. I needed something to do to help me not feel afraid and powerless. As, I put one foot in front of the other that night I heard the still small voice inside of me speak and say, “Make a commitment to walk me once a week this next year.” I eagerly accepted the challenge and for the next year I made my way to the Cathedral and went through the ritual of the three R’s which structure the walk.
The three R’s are Release, Receive, Return. Some labyrinth folks use the four R’s, the 4th R is Remember. As you stand at the entrance of the Labyrinth, allow yourself to focus on what you need to Release. It may be a worry, a fear, a hurt, or someone you care about that you need to forgive. It can be anything. Or, as easily it can be nothing. The labyrinth has a presence of her own (yes often identified as female) and you can just walk the labyrinth to get to know her.
Just allow yourself to let your thoughts unfold as you mindfully put one foot in front of the other. If you look too far ahead of where your feet are, you may get a sense of being lost or disorientated especially when you are walking the 11 circuit labyrinth, Chartres labyrinth. When you reach the center, spend as much time there as you need. This is the center, the heart, the womb that holds us and there we receive what we need at the moment, asking for hope, strength, courage, wisdom, love, physical and emotional healing. From that space, imagine carrying from the center what you received. The return out of the labyrinth is the same path as you entered. Now, by putting one foot in front of the other allow yourself to be grateful and imagine yourself taking your new gift out into the world in which you live. You are bringing back to the world the resources that you received and are now able to sustain yourself and others with your gifts.
There is so much that I could share about the Labyrinth here, but what I want you to take away with you, is that during that year that I walked the Labyrinth once a week, I fell in love with her and developed a very strong relationship to her. As the years have evolved, my love and work with the Labyrinth has also evolved. I have been back to Grace Cathedral and walked their two new labyrinths and while there, received my Labyrinth Facilitator’s Training . I have yet to make it to Chartres but will be happy to let you know when that happens. As an advanced Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator, I offer a variety of Labyrinth walks here in the Phoenix area, and travel to where you are to design and facilitate a walk that meets the purposes of your group. I never know where the synchronicity of this story will take me. If I had not gone to Wales or if I had not had the curious labyrinth room-mate, I would have not known about this powerful and amazing tool for healing and walking meditation! If you had not been drawn to this blog would you know? Maybe not. Life is full of mystery, opportunities, and surprising events that feed out souls. As you embrace your life’s journey may you discover the magic, mystery, and synchronicity of your path.
Below are some directions for walking a finger labyrinth, in case there is not a labyrinth near you.
Directions for Using the Finger Labyrinths:
You can google finger labyrinths and discover many different ones. I am including a Chartres finger labyrinth at the end of this blog because I believe there is something special about his ancient pattern and regardless of all of the beautiful art that other labyrinth patterns provide us, I believe it is best to start with the Divine Mother of them all and then let yourself explore from that center.
1. Allow yourself to sit with a word, thought, or concern for a bit and reflect on these questions:
How does this word, reflections and thoughts help me right now?
What does this labyrinth want me to know?
2. Turn your attention to the Labyrinth and your current intention.
3. Place your finger on the labyrinth’s entrance.
4. Take a breath or two and begin to mindfully move your finger down the path. Release your concerns that you are holding in your heart.
5. When you arrive at the center (some of these finger labyrinths have a small center) just place your burden down and in your mind’s eye imagine picking up what you need right now, whatever it might be.
6. Say a little prayer or whisper a sentence of gratitude for what you are receiving and then move your finger and retrace the path out of the labyrinth the same way you went in.
7. On your return focus on your gift.
8. I believe you find it most helpful to journal your experience of this walk.
9. Keep doing this exercise with each labyrinth. If you find one labyrinth you like more than the other’s return to it often. Feel free to make a copy of it to color or walk often.
11. There is also a wonderful APP called Labyrinth Journey that you can download for a small fee and walk a virtual labyrinth that is set to inspirational music.
12. Want to know more or have a Facilitator come to a group of yours, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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