By Margaret-Anne Enders –
I have had some challenging experiences in the last little while and my mind, which thankfully has been quite calm for a number of months, was spinning, ruminating, and endlessly strategizing—basically, going in circles. And so it was that on May 6, I found myself literally walking in circles. However, instead of contributing to a downward spiral, the action offered me a clarity and peace of mind that was unexpected and welcome. Just to be clear, I was not aimlessly wandering, disheveled and broken. I had joined with others in the parking lot of St. Andrew’s United Church to participate in a walk for peace on World Labyrinth Day.
One of the best kept secrets in Williams Lake is the painted labyrinth behind the church. The project of Maureen Margetts and Mary Trott, it has been holding space there for three years and is open for anyone to use. Labyrinths are uniquely sacred spaces, used from ancient times by spiritual seekers of many faith traditions in places as diverse as India, Russia, Greece, Peru, and pre-colonial North America. There are many different patterns, but the unifying concept is that there is but one path. Labyrinths are not mazes, with choices to make and possibilities of dead ends. Rather, participants follow one path to the centre and then follow the same path out again.
I have walked many labyrinths over the years. Some might call it projection or anticipation, but I know for certain that there is holiness within these lines. Inevitably I receive some wisdom that helps to make sense of whatever challenges I am confronting. My attention is directed to details overlooked by the habits of creating and sustaining a fast pace of living or by the tendency to sleepwalk through the days.
Thus, it was on May 6 that I again was graced by flashes of insight that pulled my fractured and disorganized thinking into a grounded whole.
Flash #1: In a labyrinth, there appear to be many concentric circle or sometimes quadrants. The St. Andrew’s labyrinth is a Chartres style with 11 circles. However, the path is not simply a circular route. The path leads me back and forth, in and out, giving tantalizing views of the centre, but taking a long time to get there. I’m tempted to focus on getting to the centre, but notice that my impatience disrupts the peaceful aura of this sacred space. Ah yes. Be here, now, right at the place where I am. Stop pushing for the centre; it will come in its own time, and only after I have travelled the path. No short-cuts here.
Flash #2: Each turn of the path gives a different perspective. One of my spiritual tasks at this time in my life is to broaden my scope, bust open right and wrong, black and white, dualistic thinking, and appreciate the greys. I notice the air appears crisp and clear, distortion limited. As I move around the path, I see the same view from many different angles, each one true in its own way, each valid, each inviting me to peer closer with curiosity, not judgment.
Flash #3: There is no penalty for stepping outside the lines. For the importance of this insight, see Flash #2.
Flash #4: The path is about relationships. I have walked many times, when I am the only one; however, it is most interesting to walk with others. At the start, I quickly catch up to the woman in front of me. Aha, an invitation to slow down (see Flash #1). There is no need to rush. And then there are the people going the other way. I pass all sorts of people on the path—ages, creeds, cultures, abilities. I must make room. The path is narrow, yet when needed I make room for two. There is always room for two. They are going a different direction, their views will be different, but we are still on the same path and I can make room.
Flash #5: There are some children playing nearby and at times they are quite loud. I am conscious of their behaviour because they are my children. I struggle to keep focused, keep on the path, and to not feel responsible for their actions. I check my urge to over-correct their quite acceptable behaviour. The labyrinth is all about noticing what comes up and learning from that awareness. I make the choice to let other people have that experience for themselves. If they are annoyed, they can learn from their own reaction. The labyrinth will offer them wisdom as well.
Flash #6: The centre is the mid-point of the labyrinth, but it is not the goal. Sometimes an answer or an insight is revealed in the centre, but not always. I stand simply waiting, listening. There is no great “aha” moment here today. But no matter, half of the experience is still to come and it is best not to rush it, but to continue to be open to the possibility of insights. The valuable nuggets are contained in the process of walking, of being intentional and aware, of spending the time.
It was with a sense of gratitude that I finished my journey that day. When I beheld the insights that I was offered, I realized that the feeling I had when I entered the labyrinth, the feeling of going in circles, was just a symptom of trying to get through those challenges too quickly and too simply. Taking time to enter into the circles showed me—well, circles are not so bad. I just need a different perspective, to slow down, to be curious about the grey areas, and to appreciate the experience of being right where I am, at this time, in this place.
In her work with the Multicultural Program at Cariboo Mental Health Association, as well as in her life as a parent, partner, faithful seeker, left-leaning Christian, paddler, and gardener, Margaret-Anne Enders is thrilled to catch glimpses of the Divine in both the ordinary and the extraordinary. To find out more about the Women’s Spirituality Circle, call her at (250) 305-4426 or visit www.womenspiritualitycircle.wordpress.com or on Facebook at Women’s Spirituality Circle in Williams Lake.