Listening in a Labyrinth

IMG_0034I’m re-builidng a labyrinth at our lake cabin; the one that held this ground before was being overgrown by alders. This time I would lay the ground cloth and find bigger stones. This time I will bring in sand for a softer walk. I will take more care. I will take more time.

A labyrinth has always reflected back to me what is turning and twisting, hoping to come to center in my own soul, not just what is evident in the arrangement of the path. I am taking more care internally as well these days.  Taking more time to pay attention to the details of each moment.

I have built 7 labyrinths and what surprises me every time, no matter how I plan, make a diagram, and get the pattern in my mind, I get lost somewhere in the actual laying down of stones or rope or whatever I use to form the labyrinth. After measuring and measuring again and again, I was sure I had found the center of the pattern on the ground cloth. And yet as the double spiral emerged, I lost my confidence. Wait.  I became confused.  It looked like the lines would cross not run parallel. I lost the sense of the path. I heard myself say, “This happens every time. You know the pattern is here, but you assume you made a mistake.”

I listen to labyrinths and what they teach me. My 25 years of seeking them out, walking them, creating them, drawing them, and learning about them have built a trust in how this geometric form holds the holy. As I knelt in the center, confused, I also knew that what I wanted to create was right before me if I just would breathe in my belly and trust the form. I called to my husband who was working close by and who perceives in the way a builder does. We looked at it together and the path was teaching me of the bond we have. I got out the tape measure. And just with a little adjustment of the arc of the stones, it all suddenly was clear again. The two spirals naturally emerged again. And I felt held in that knowing that it was right there all the time.

That is the grounding of the labyrinth for me. No matter how confusing my life or the world in general may appear, underlying all the superficial chaos is a path, for me and for all creation. It is an intelligent and beautiful path that spirals out with logic, and yet with an inherent mystery. There is always a center I can trust and always a wandering path that will take me in to my deepest self and then take me back with that knowing to live in the world with a new perspective.

When I am restless walking the labyrinth, I notice. What am I restless about? When I get to the center and don’t really remember walking the path, I question my distraction. When the path feels timeless, I let my cells alter. When I come to the center and feel my feet pulled into the ground and become roots, I notice what comes to my awareness. The message is always one of hope and of compassion and assurance. It does not judge or doubt or confuse me. That feels like God.

I love the fact that moose  spend a lot of time in the labyrinth, testified by the number of moose “nuggets” on the path. I trust their inner way of knowing also senses the gifts of  the labyrinth. They bed down there, resting. And although lifting hundreds of stones, hasn’t felt like rest exactly, I know this will be a place of repose for my soul, here by the lake. A place of rebuilding confidence that I do know, that I will be held, that the world is turning as it should and that I have a place in it. In its many turns, the labyrinth returns me to my truest self, where I feel my inherent value. Knowing my value simply in being who I am, not by doing anything at all, I return to wholeness,  walking confidently.

The Ongoing Awakening

IMG_0119I’ve been on a writers’ retreat these past few days, staying with an old friend on the hill above Homer. And I’ve also felt like the guest of a flock of Sandhill cranes who migrate here for summers. These tall, elegant, rust-colored birds have delighted me as they stalked the yard, flew past the large plate glass windows that face Kachemak Bay, and wobbled in for a landing in the clearing in front of the house. I’ve listened to their garbly call to one another and watched them take off with a odd beat of their wings. When they stop, they sometimes balance on one leg, standing motionless and serene. But most often, they move deliberately, looking down in the grass, craning their necks to find food, stepping carefully forward as if placing each foot upon sacred ground.

Sandhill cranes have long been venerated in the realm of spirit. They call forth a regal sense of mystery and in some traditions, they are thought to be the guardian between this world and the next. They are also associated with intuition, creativity and a sense of balance. One source describes their message to us as, “You know what is best for you–do it.”

In February, I had known what was best for me was to take a rest for my soul. I’ve come on this sabbatical seeking  a balance between listening and speaking my voice. This meant in part to return to my writing. I know I need to do this as well. Not out of obligation, but in the free sense of birds flying, testing the air, looking for new territory– and also with some wobbly landings. Perfection never saved anyone in the end. It mires the journey with impossible expectations and predetermined endings. I think I have often sacrificed being true to being perfect in my writing–perfect in the sense that somehow my writing will please everyone who reads it. I see the insanity in setting that bar and yet I allowed it to block me from going forward.

The cranes have been true companions with me as I dedicate myself to writing in an unencumbered way. Words are a a mystery in the way that, although they are what they are, they can be perceived in so many ways beyond what I may have meant. They are vehicles to opening the door to the inner world of our unique way of perceiving the world…and why.  I place words carefully on the page, like the birds stepping along on the grass, realizing they are sacred in what they may invoke, And I struggle with the balance of saying what is true for me without harm to another. Yet I can’t determine that outcome. As the writer, Anthony Doerr said, “Once the text is out, the author is dead.” The words are no longer mine. They go as fodder for the world.

I leave tomorrow to return home where I have different wild creatures that walk in my yard, but the sandhill cranes will stay with me. Reminding me of persistence, of trusting my intuition and of guarding what is sacred in my writing.

It’s raining but the house is in sunshine and a rainbow arcs across the window to the east. In seeming impossibility, there is also potential to listen deeply within for the words that want to be spoken.