I’ve been thinking about “bringing life to the labyrinth” as a theme for facilitating people’s meditative walks. This week it occurred to me that the labyrinth is particularly suited for pondering where we are in our lives and how we got to this place. All of us have found our lives to “be” far from where they should have been. We all have experienced the realization that our lives are not exactly what we wanted them to be. Most of us, however, give little time and attention to what decisions or circumstances led us to the place we find ourselves now. Often, even less attention is given to growth and change, as we are busy with the demands of simply living our lives as they have turned out.
Entering the labyrinth we sense a “place-less-ness” that clears our way to take a fresh look at life. In the labyrinth it doesn’t matter how much money we have, how healthy a body we have, how nice a home we own, or how intelligent and clever we are. Status and many of the identifying characteristics we possess are left at the gate. In this place for a period of time, we are spontaneously let loose to create new perspectives. We may not be able to fully transform our lives but we surely can discover the means to reform choices and behaviors for our own benefit.
Walking the labyrinth we also have the opportunity to acknowledge the important connections we have to other people on our life’s journey. For some of us, our relationships are a big part of why we are where we are in our lives. None of us lives life alone. Whether we see ourselves as rugged individuals who control our destinies or we are compliant followers in families and communities, in the labyrinth our views of ourselves can be reshaped, if we desire.
Margaret Rappaport, Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator
Walking the labyrinth with a point of reference such as prayer makes a sacred space for meditation and pious contemplation. The time intentionally set aside for praying creates a yearning for an opportunity to connect with the divine while traversing a human space. Encountering the magic and mystery of personal existence leads to joy, meaning, hope and peace as we walk in and out of the labyrinth absorbed by prayer.
When the focus is prayer, walking the labyrinth is a significant statement of faith in God. The walking becomes a journey in Christian symbolism in anticipation of meeting God on the spiraling path of the labyrinth and of life. Walking acts as a meditative service equal to reciting the psalms, canticles and the reading of scripture. Meditation highlights the continuity in time between finite, human experiences and the infinity of God.
It is not unusual to experience encouragement, gratitude for blessings, even startling inspiration while walking the labyrinth. There is frequently increased calm, clarifying insight, release, and rejuvenation and healing. Combining walking and praying yields both dark and light moments just as living does. Being perplexed is followed by joyfulness, confusion follows hope, and sometimes hurt and hope tumble over each other until there is simply curiosity at the power of God’s spirit.
Walking the labyrinth in prayer is like planting a fairy garden with seeds collected from other spiritual events in life. As with any garden venture, at first the garden sleeps, then it creeps and later, God willing, it leaps. That’s is precisely why some people walking the labyrinth start to dance, some get up on tip toes and some are apt to skip. The spirit moves everything: plants and flowers, wind and water, human minds and hearts. All that people have to do is walk and pray.
Margaret Rappaport Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator
There isn’t a more necessary modern skill than resiliency. We live with challenges that in the best circumstances require courage and risk tolerance. In more traumatic circumstances, we must come to terms with our feelings and behaviors even when we haven’t yet absorbed them. Modern living is hard and complicated.
I’m thinking particularly of the information we get from political and social situations in war zones. A report or story about horrific events such as school shootings or the slaying of zoo animals calls forth thoughts and feelings that must be managed. Even the awareness that our technological heroism may be mistaken, such as the “Jade Rabbit” “dying on the moon, may cause us consternation and concern. Add to the situation the fact that some of this information isn’t even personal but we know about it in detail anyway. Things are simply just out of our control.
It may be hard to believe, at first, that regularly walking the labyrinth can help us manage our reactions to the sensations and perceptions that bombard us in our information saturated environments. Believe me, it can, because walking the labyrinth builds resiliency.
Resiliency guides and protects us. It makes us feisty; it helps us have confidence in our abilities to lead self-sufficient lives full of puzzles we can attempt to solve, to use insight and spiritual strength to live stable and rewarding lives. Often it is our personal resiliency that encourages us and allows us to ask for support and help. This is especially true when we ask God, through prayer, for perseverance.
Walking the labyrinth we may find in its spatial patterns and its time demands a successful response to the matters we wrestle with in our hectic and distracting lives.
Margaret Rappaport, Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator
One day soon, I know, Winnie will call me by the first syllables of a name. It might be “Gram,” which is what I’d signed up for before she was even born.
And then The Winter of 2014 descended upon us. This grandmother hoisted a shovel, albeit an ergonomically designed one, and hasn’t put it down yet. It’s become an appendage. I’m thinking of buying it a bracelet.
More than a few times Winnie has been here as I cleared the walks in my slightly obsessive (but actually ice-preventing) way, and she’s heard her parents rename me; “Gramboni” has become my seasonal name.
Will Winnie repeat this name bestowed upon her strong and determined, ice-phobic and salt-pellet- dispersing grandmother?
No matter what she eventually calls me, she will know that I am undaunted by weather, shovels, and a foot of snow. And when she skates at her first ice skating rink, she will smile and perhaps even giggle at the machine whose name she’s always known, and think of me.
Personally, I don’t entirely endorse the never-ending quest to try something new or exciting or even creative. Living a rewarding life in a busy world is difficult enough without an over- load of choices and activities that demand time and energy, in my view. So, it’s exceptional that I would ask others to consider walking the labyrinth on a regular basis. Let me, however, assure you of the benefits.
There is a spirit of active, imaginative adventure that derives from a walk in the labyrinth. The adventure may be internal but it is deeply exciting. It is a kind of ingenuity that motivates new outlooks and new goals. It is ingenious play that spontaneously explores novelty in the corners of living. It is an alternative form of exercise that engages mind and body in fresh ways. It is magically habit forming!
Without a doubt walking the labyrinth opens doors to more robust wellness. It alters attitude. It uplifts mood. It clarifies perspective. It calms feelings. It stretches the muscles and soothes the nervous system. There is some recent research that suggests that this type of walking meditation results in positive changes in gene expression. All of this may help explain the sudden popularity of labyrinths and the practice of walking in them.
Trying something new is not always successful, as we all know. Trying out the labyrinth, however, doesn’t require an investment in equipment. Walking the labyrinth usually occurs in relative privacy. Silence often prevails so critical comments of others are at a minimum. Manuals and lesson books are nonexistent. Abundance, enthusiasm and self-love are plentiful and available on-demand in the labyrinth. Wisdom, both secular and sacred, is accessed as we encounter the challenges and risks of our personal experiences in walking the labyrinth. Well in this case, new may be better.
Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator
Unless you were completely risk adverse, 2013 turned out to be a fantastic year for many of you stock market investors. Gains of +20 to +30% were made in stand-alone or retirement accounts. Congratulations. But as we all know, past performance is no guarantee of future success, so we must turn the page.
2014 has started out very differently from the end of last year. Much more volatility, bigger swings up and down for major stock market averages. The FEDERAL RESERVE’s recent policy move to begin tapering its bond buying has indeed begun to impact capital flows in the emerging markets. Countries from Turkey, Argentina, South Africa, along with Venezuela and the Ukraine are having difficulties. This has caused a surge in the major currencies such as the Dollar, Yen and Euro, and a rally in major bond markets.
When all is said and done, 2014 may be lucky to record anything above a +2% growth rate. This will play out at a time when the FED is mostly likely to continue its tapering policy. While the impact on the domestic economy is likely to be small, if it in anyway contributes to problems in global markets, then our exports will be impacted which would be a negative for growth.
Consequently, January ended up as the first down month for equities in almost a half-year. Without sugar coating it, this will be a tougher year for all asset classes, but stocks remain the best alternative. Bonds, emerging markets, commodities all have much higher risk profiles. The good news, is that we have the advantage of hindsight. We have seen gyrations in capital markets before. The key is to stay calm and ride out the volatility. As my mentor at Morgan Stanley once told me, “time, not timing is what wins for investors”.