Labyrinths and Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road

Keep Putting One Foot in Foot in Front of the Other

Labyrinth work is perfect for the story, Wizard of Oz, because the Labyrinth is one meandering path to the center and back out again. It is not a maze with dead-ends. As long as one keeps putting one foot in front of the other, eventually you arrive at the center. The center is a metaphor for so many things but one thing it can represent in this story is the getting the witches broom.

The Labyrinth has a total of 34 turns with 28 of those turns being 180 degrees, which sends the walker back in the same direction they came from.  Some of the circuits are short and some are long.  At times the walker may feel as if they have lost their way, become confused or a bit disoriented.  Such is life.  Carl Whitaker, one of my family systems mentors use to say that without confusion one cannot change.  And then there is this:

“Chaos does not mean total disorder. Chaos means a multiplicity of possibilities. Chaos is from the ancient Greek words that means a thing that is birthed from the void. And it was about that which is possible, not about disorder.” Jok Church cartoonist.

Baum’s book on the Wizard of Oz and MGM’s rendition differ in some respects but MGM kept the integrity of the book and cut scenes that were perhaps redundant.

Once Dorothy and her friends get to OZ, they are hopeful they will be magically taken care of, blessed and granted the desires of their heart. This pie in the sky or often a “mushy” Christianity or other spiritual path can cause us severe depression and confusion when we hang on to early stages of faith, pretending God is Santa Claus. The direct result of that early belief system is shame.

What if we re-arranged our thinking to reframe every obstacle, illness, difficulty as just a part of our path to self-agency on our journey home . Yes it is paradoxical that Dorothy had to leave home to go home. And yes we could walk right to the center of the Labyrinth but then miss the entire experience. Joseph Campbell tells us life is more about the experience of being alive rather than attaching meaning to being alive.

Dorothy dutifully follows the yellow brick road with her heart’s desire to return to home. Dorothy believed Glinda when Glinda told her that the Wizard could help her find her way back to Kansas. Glinda also told her to hang on to her red shoes. Glinda gifted Dorothy the red shoes from the witch of East. The East represents new beginnings. Dorothy is on her way to learn self-agency, how to navigate her life from her core. She has Toto which represents her intuition. On her journey she made friends with her internal parts, the Scarecrow, TinMan, and Lion.

The Answer is Within…Be still and listen

As we walk the Labyrinth as a spiritual practice, it is important to pay attention to what comes up on our walk. Maybe a frightening thought or a painful memory of years gone by floats into our awareness on our walk. It is important to note what images, feeling, thoughts come up and to ask the question, “what am I to do, learn or receive from this thought?”

Some labyrinth walks are intentional and we enter the labyrinth with a question. For example, we might ask the Labyrinth to help us get clear about a difficult decision we are contemplating or for help in a job situation. Sometimes we walk the labyrinth because we want to experience a connection to ourself or the Divine. One helpful template in walking the labyrinth is Release, Receive, Return. Release your worry, receive courage, return ready for your next step. Dorothy’s journey is the hero’s journey. The labyrinth walk is a metaphor of the hero’s journey.

When Dorthy arrives at Oz she discovers that the Wizard wants her to get the witches broom in order for him to help her return home.   This is a challenge, the final step of her journey.  She must face her final fear.  Keeping with the theme of the Hero’s Journey, Dorothy must make friends with this internal witch that has frightened her since childhood. The wicked witch of the West, originally appears as Mrs. Gulch who threatens Dorothy to the very core by taking Toto away.  Toto is the only attachment Dorothy has and Dorothy is willing to go the distance to protect her Toto. Nothing else matters.

Face Your Fears

In the final challenge she must get her broom. This will give her the freedom to overcome her future obstacles because she will remember that she has overcome the witch in her past. But really how did she overcome witch?  Dorthy melted the witch with water. Water has the power to transform something into something else.  It is not that the witch is inherently bad, it is that this witch is a fragment of fear from Kansas.  We must transform our childhood fears by facing them, using rituals and stories to heal them. 

In one aspect, Dorothy’s journey is about healing her childhood and abandonment wounds.    We must heal our childhood wounds and our abandonment issues to walk into our self-agency and become a high functioning fearless adult.   Take your trauma to the Labyrinth and let it unfold in a healing way.


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