The arrival of a grandchild certainly has made life richer, fuller, busier, and definitely grand. I now often think on a grander scale, on into the future that now will have my children’s children in it. Suddenly my children’s lives will extend another century, and my thoughts travel there often, that world that will present them with pleasures and perils that I will never know and can not help them with. But I look at my two-month-old granddaughter and already see such strength and determination, and I know she will be worthy of the challenge.
Winnie had her first vaccinations this week, and for the first time, something painful was purposely done to her, albeit for a greater good, but caused her pain just the same. Oh, the insult of it! Her reaction was a wailing cry that her mother had never heard from her before, a cry that lasted a full minute. Nursing soothed her somewhat but was interrupted by cries. She settled down on the walk home, but I could not help but wonder what she was thinking. What did she learn from the unexpected shock? What does she think about now that she did not before that afternoon? How did she file away this new experience? By the next morning, Winnie was all smiles, woke up smiling, and spent a lovely day taking in the world.
Back to the grand scale. This episode in my granddaughter’s life made me wonder once again about other babies, and what they are experiencing in parts of the world where there is no safe place, not even for them. How are they processing the noise and pain and lack of things babies need to thrive? What life lessons are they taking away? Do they have days when they smile too, wake up smiling?
Thinking on a grand scale has become unavoidable for me now. I have never felt as challenged, or as privileged.
When you enter the labyrinth there is an immediate sense of flow. The path starts to spiral and your steps change pace. You know this is a novel place. You feel ready to surrender to the design. You immediately give up any idea of making something happen here. You release your will to control the walk. In fact, you are aware that there is no longer the need to decide anything about the walk. An easy acceptance settles over you. Things will flow as they will and you will flow with them.
How does this flow experience connect with faith? How is faith strengthened by letting go and letting flow do its work in the labyrinth?
Faith flows naturally out of love for your relationship with God. A sense of security and centeredness is present because God is always there in your thoughts and feelings. You’re in a state of perpetual trust in God’s sight. Vulnerabilities and imperfections and life’s painful experiences are balanced by the significance of your faith.
I’m suggesting that the experience in the labyrinth and the experience of faith are linked. Flow leads to learning and to exchange and to relating in both instances.
People thrive through a strong faith. They value and respect each other. They give and receive trust. They serve one another from a genuine love and concern. Walk the labyrinth with other people sometimes. I’ll guarantee your faith will be affected and strengthened.
After considering the unique American labyrinth in which people ride, perhaps it’s a good idea to look at some guidelines for walking a labyrinth. Don’t think, first of all, that there is a right way or a wrong way. There are guidelines not requirements and the only purpose in following those is that one wants to walk the labyrinth. People need not walk perfectly, nor are they expected to perform in exact ways. To walk freely is the point and the first guideline.
The patterns that make a labyrinth require that people do what comes naturally when they meet in the labyrinth. They step aside or around each other with or without acknowledgement. This casualness comes easily to most people because it mimics walking on trails or on roads and sidewalks. When people know each other and are walking together they greet each other in whatever way seems appropriate at the time. People are always allowed to be alone on their walks. Therefore, spontaneity is the second guideline.
Walking the labyrinth is self paced, not prescribed by others or dictated by the forms and shapes of the patterns. Walkers follow the pace that suits their own inward and outward needs. Some people walk very slowly, even stop at various points. Others prefer dance-like movements through different parts of the labyrinth. At various ages, people often show distinct styles of movement during a walk. The third guideline is to be ourselves. Following a personal flow enhances the experience of metaphor and imagination.
Think of the labyrinth as a tool to help people nurture the spirit, the body and the mind. All of us know instinctively how to use the tool. No need for self-conscious poses and attitudes. Just go for the walk and be encouraged.
September 19, 2013
When I was about four years old, my mother would put the Nutcracker Ballet record on the Victrola, and my little sister and I would spin ourselves silly to “Waltz of the Flowers” in our tiny living room in an apartment I think of often, over my grandmother’s liquor store. Usually, as we reached the point of dizziness close to collapsing on the rug in giggles, my uncle would call from downstairs to tell us that “the bottles are doing the rumba” and begging us to stop. My grandmother would be laughing in the background.
This memory, at this point in my life, reminds me how important it is for Winnie’s family and extended family to welcome her into our nest with love and laughter. Whether it’s traveling over a bridge or two, or Skyping, or using FaceTime, Winnie will know I’m there, and that she makes me smile, and that her smile is important to me.
This memory also reminds me how much fun it will be to enjoy a performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet” alongside Winnie, giving her a memory not only of beautiful music and dance, but of music that her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother enjoyed.
No clue what her opinion of the music will be. But I look forward to hearing it.
There are numerous labyrinth designs. History shows us designs on the ground, on rock walls, in buildings and on objects. It took America, however, to devise a labyrinth that takes the design from the ground to the sky. I’m talking about the roller coaster. Yes the labyrinth that we see and experience at amusement parks all over the world originated in the late 19th century in the United States. One design was developed in Russia at about the same time. It was called in Russian “American Mountains” Later in the 20th century, the American space agency, NASA, used a roller coaster as a means of escape from a rocket that might fail to launch.
Think about it for a minute. The roller coaster consists of a track that rises and falls with many inversions in a pattern that begins and returns to the same place. It’s not a maze because it has a single path. It also may not be viewed by some as a true labyrinth because people ride it at breakneck speed rather than gently walking it. It is however, a spiraling pathway that directs the visitor to follow. It transforms time and experience although briefly. It takes our breath away and some find it genuinely enjoyable.
What does it mean that this unique labyrinth design requires that we sit in a locked seat as we speed around the pathway? What does it mean that we think of this labyrinth experience as a thrilling ride?
It may not mean anything in particular but the roller coaster labyrinth certainly peaks our imaginations.
What if every time you walked the labyrinth you accepted a sense of power to change the world for the better? What if I told you that your imagination could be so stimulated by the experience of walking the labyrinth that you could make change happen? Would you believe me?
Bear with me, for miracles large and small do abound and people are often the catalysts. The imaginative process released while walking the labyrinth is real. It comes as a truly luxurious experience. It grows like magic as you practice. The more you do it the more progress is made in hope and ideals and wisdom. That result alone is enough to change the world for the better. What would the world be like if many people believed in this consequential change and began in earnest walking the labyrinth?
Let’s imagine that we want to change the way our culture encourages us to degrade our environment or promote health crises through poor nutrition decisions. Suppose we take the time to center these ideas in our mind. Then let us take them into the labyrinth and walk with them. Enjoy the luxury of quietly thinking during a rhythmical and slow walk on a single pathway. Try to feel the importance of unspoiled nature. Try to aspire to healing, health and happiness in your own life. Espouse to the community the possibility for positive change in interacting with the environment. Unleash the wonder of dynamic healthy behaviors. When you step out at the end of your walk breathe deeply and exhale luxuriously.
Enjoying the luxury of walking the labyrinth we embrace the age-old human skill of freeing our imaginations. We bring poetry to life and that’s a change from the ordinary.