Labyrinth and the Ocean
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The labyrinth always teaches a new lesson.
The "Chain Gang for God."
I practiced drawing the labyrinth on the beach.
The waves were washing the labyrinth away.
The "Guardians of the Labyrinth" were needed.
Introducing people to the labyrinth is exciting. The labyrinth is an intriguing tool for understanding our psychological and spiritual journey. Whenever I walk a labyrinth there is possibility of a new insight. Every time I help build a labyrinth I learn something new about myself and about the labyrinth.
The first time I walked a labyrinth the lesson was very simple. I learned something I already knew. The labyrinth just taught me the same lesson one more time.
With only a few minutes remaining before I was to be in a workshop, I decided to walk the labyrinth. It had been painted on the grounds of the retreat center I was attending. I soon discovered that walking the labyrinth took more time than I thought. Here I was once again rushing through life with a plan and an agenda that was too full. I could have decided to miss the workshop but I would not change the plans I had made. I rushed through the labyrinth only later to regret that I had not slowed down and made another choice. The labyrinth held up a mirror to the way I live life and gave me a challenge to change that pattern.
After this brief introduction I was intrigued by the labyrinth. As I learned more I began to teach others and to help them build labyrinths of their own.
Once when teaching a class on the labyrinth at a church, I had three tons of granite stone delivered to construct the labyrinth. I had visited a quarry, talked to the delivery people and carefully chosen stone of a size and weight that class participants could easily carry. The stone was delivered to the church in my absence. When I arrived to survey the stone I found the pieces were huge. Some weighted 60-75 pounds - much too heavy to move.
Here was another lesson about planning and preparation. I had to use a sledge hammer and break the stone into smaller pieces. My sense was that I was serving on the "Chain Gang for God." Other helpers were recruited and the stone was prepared. The best laid plans went awry but the process and experience was meaningful. I learned that plans do not always work but can be salvaged with enough energy and effort. The labyrinth was built and no one was injured carrying stone that was too heavy.
One of my most powerful "labyrinth lessons" came through the experience of sharing the labyrinth on a beach.
I had agreed to meet with some of my daughter's friends in St. Augustine, Florida. Our plan was to draw the labyrinth on the sand and to walk it as a group. I was staying in Jacksonville Beach some 30 miles to the North. As I wanted to be sure that everything would go well, I practiced drawing the labyrinth at Jacksonville. The tide was low. The beach was long and flat with soft, wet sand. The labyrinth was easy to draw and was clearly visible.
The next day I traveled South to St. Augustine. High Tide was still hours away. I met with my daughter and her friends. We briefly discussed the labyrinth and the various lessons it could teach and then drove a short distance to the beach.
I quickly learned that 30 miles can make a big difference. This was not the long, flat beach of Jacksonville. This beach was short and steep. It had coarse, dry sand. And, even though high tide was hours away the beach was almost covered by the rushing waves.
Hastily I tried to draw the labyrinth but the dry sand would not hold the pattern. Particles of sand would flow into the groove I was making and the pattern would be lost. I recruited others to help create the labyrinth. We found that the group effort of repeatedly tracing the pattern would make it hold.
The labyrinth was becoming visible but the ocean was rushing in. With waves crashing we began to walk the labyrinth. Just as the first person entered the path the waves reached the outer ring of the labyrinth and washed it away. Those not walking the labyrinth were stationed near the ocean and given the task of redrawing the labyrinth as the waves obliterated it. This task became more and more demanding as the tide continued to advance.
Those walking the labyrinth were having an unusual experience. As they neared the ocean side of the labyrinth the path would suddenly disappear. The "Guardians of the Labyrinth" would rush in to redraw it. The disappearing path had to be walked on faith that it existed even if not seen and that it would reappear. Protective forces (the Guardians) were at work to protect the labyrinth and ensure the process.
Upon exiting the labyrinth the walkers now became the "Guardians" who protected the path for others. With a group effort we did hold the tide at bay at least long enough for all to walk the labyrinth and to take away valuable lessons.
After the experience we all sat and talked about the many metaphors of the labyrinth.
The most outstanding lesson of this day was of needing faith that the spiritual path existed and that it was being protected. Some times in life the tides of darkness rush in and threaten. It may become difficult to see the path you are on and you may feel lost and alone. You must travel in faith that the path is being maintained. The good news is that there are real Guardians to help you. Meeting others who are returning from the center provides some assurance that the journey can be made. Reaching out to others is necessary on this spiritual journey.
Above all, God's Grace remains the primary protector of the labyrinthine spiritual journey through life. This journey is taking you to your center for true insight and to prepare you to bring your gifts back out into the world. The fundamental teaching remains, "To love your neighbor as yourself." You must first find your true nature so as to love yourself and then go forth into the world empowered to love your neighbor.
The labyrinth has many more lessons to teach. Let the labyrinth teach you. Find one nearby and begin walking it.
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