One summer when I was in my early teens, to amuse myself while at the beach, I drew mazes. Not little labyrinths traced in the sand. No, I drew huge patterns at low tide, taking up hundreds of square footage on the hard damp sand.
I had no map or guide, I just started drawing out a maze. I figured out dead-ends and solutions as I went. As soon as I was done, random people walking by would stop and look. Then, as if suddenly enchanted, they begin walking the maze until they found the end. Other people would see those folks, and soon they too were walking the labyrinth in the sand.
When confronted with a puzzle, there’s a compulsion to explore, maybe get lost for a bit, and hopefully find our way out. Many labyrinths that we use for meditation have but one solution – a single winding path that leads us to the center, and back out again.
In college, I constructed a large lighted labyrinth that took place at Samhain for our open path group. It happened right in the middle of downtown Providence, along the waterfront. After our rite was complete, other people passing by would again be compelled to walk it. What was different about this labyrinth though was that I designed it to have a continuous flow. There was no doubling back. Instead, once the walker got to the middle, there was another similar yet separate path to walk that would lead them out.
It worked perfectly for large groups. There was no need to drastically stagger the walkers, or have the meditation interrupted by needing to navigate around someone else heading back. You enter at one end and exited out the opposite end – not unlike the journey from birth to death to birth again.
But rarely is life such a neat and tidy labyrinth to our eyes. Instead we tend to construct mazes for ourselves and become lost at dead ends we’re sure do lead somewhere besides where our path is leading us.
I’ve walked quite a few labyrinths in the past year. First a Yuletide labyrinth inside a church, made with the boughs of pine trees – their aroma filling the air. There was the mystical late evening labyrinth at Pagan Spirit Gathering, holding the hand of my beloved as we walked it together. In the heat of a summer day, I walked the permanent labyrinth on the grounds of the New Alexandrian Library in Delaware – a small yet amazingly lengthy working. Back in late August, in the early morning I walked the stone labyrinth on the grounds of the Trout Lake Abbey in Washington, as bees collected from lavender bushes and beautiful blooms.
As I walked each one, I pontificated about them, and what they would reveal – if anything at all. But labyrinths do not reveal their secrets all at once. They unwind in our minds, slowly – often one moment at a time.So it would have it that during the last new moon, I found myself fighting the usual head monkeys that make their appearance at that time. If I am feeling depressed, disheartened, or frustrated with myself or a perceived lack of progress – a quick look to the lunar calendar will often confirm it’s also the New Moon. Yes, I too get occasionally lost in the darkness.
I was in the midst of a river of doubts and questions: Why can’t I seem to connect with certain individuals? Why can’t I seem to get my art into certain galleries? Am I getting distracted from the work I should be doing? Am I missing opportunities? What am I doing wrong?
It was then that the labyrinthine energy of the Universe pushed back at me. It said, “What are you doing mucking about in these dead ends? When have we ever really led you astray? Have you stopped to think that perhaps these people are not the kind of people you want to be around, as attractive as they may seem? That these places may not be the best investment of your time and effort? Do you really want more on your plate?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. My cat Sam meowed loudly at me, as if to emphasize those words.
I did know better. There aren’t dead ends in this labyrinth – it flows, it moves, it guides, and it spirals with a purpose. We get stuck not because the labyrinth lets us down or tries to trick us, but we let ourselves down. We stop the flow, slamming on the brakes, scraping with our fingernails on the walls, thinking maybe we’re missing out. We stop ourselves and our own progress. We get distracted by the bees buzzing, or the sound of our own feet crunching on the stones. We sometimes allow those head monkeys to take us out of the moment. We fail to trust ourselves.
Yet when we take the time to look back on our paths, we can see where the labyrinth has guided us true again and again. When we succumb to its spiral, we can feel our hands on the threads of fate, being woven strong. There is no way to get lost in this labyrinth – all we have to do is keep moving forward – even in the dark.
Blessings on your labyrinth walk.