Story is the song line of a person’s life. We need to sing it and we need someone to hear the singing. Story told, story heard, story written, story read, create the web of life in words.

Christina Baldwin

Storycatcher, 2005


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A Circle in Time

Sweet summer is rolling along. It is deep July, and I am into something new.

I have just started walking the labyrinth. I knew of the labyrinth at the Bethlehem Retreat Centre, in Nanaimo BC, but I had never walked it, nor even seen it, although I’ve visited the Centre many times.  Several people have spoken to me about the labyrinth, and out of the blue, one late Saturday afternoon, 
I drove up to the Centre.

The day was hot and still. Yet when I turned into the shady driveway at the Centre, the air was cool and welcoming. I parked the car and walked over to the entrance. There was no one about. Just as I arrived at the front door, a woman opened the door and warmly smiled at me. It was Mary Ann, the Director of the Centre. Although we had met some time before, I introduced myself and asked if it was possible to walk the labyrinth. She smiled and said: “Of course.” I told her this was my first visit and she walked with me.

“I am so pleased people are using the labyrinth,” she said. “Last week I was working late and left the Centre around 10:00pm. I met a woman right here at the entrance of the labyrinth. She told me she walked it every night after work, on her way home. She said it was a great way to transition from one part of her day to another. She also said the labyrinth was a vortex of energy. I believe that.”
Suddenly we stopped along the path.
“And here we are.,” she said. “Enjoy your walk.”   
And Mary Ann continued on her way. I stood there looking around.  The first thing that caught my eye was a small wooden trellis or arbor. Just beside it stood a slim, white wooden post with a black lettering: “May Peace Prevail On Earth.” I would later find out that this is one of the few peace poles in the province.
Then I saw the stone circle, the labyrinth, and I was mesmerized.
It was bigger than I imagined, with a large centre.
I have walked a few labyrinths before, but never one that is outdoors. The great stone path was in deep shadow surrounded by tall fir trees and a single, elegant birch. But it was the small arbor at the entrance that caught my attention. It was beaming brightly in the late afternoon sunshine.
Once again, no one was about. It was just me, the trees, and the stone path. To begin my walk, I needed to pass through the shining arbor.
I stood under the arbor, transfixed, basking in the sunlight, both excited and comforted at the same time.
It was quite magical.
I remembered to stop and breathe.
I set my intention, more a question really, and began my walk.

Labyrinths have been around for over four thousand years. They are ancient paths that continue to attract  travellers all over the world.
Local author Carol Matthews says that labyrinths have a simple straightforward path, are unicursal - the way in is also the way out. She believes that trust and intuition guide the labyrinth walker.

In her book “Labyrinths of British Columbia, A Guide for Your Journey,” Aryana Rayne beautifully states:
“Within the labyrinth, confused states of mind dissolve. Answers simply appear. The theatre dressing of everyday life falls away to reveal simplicity, order and solutions.”
I love that last statement.
“The theatre dressing of everyday life falls away to reveal simplicity, order and solutions.”
I surround myself with theatre dressing, daily, and convince myself how relevant and necessary it is for my comfort and appearance.
The labyrinth cuts through all this protective veneer.

And this is what happened to me that quiet July afternoon on my labyrinth walk. I was transformed. Not with a great shout, or a cloudburst, not with mystical appearances or alchemy.
By simply walking a stone path in a gentle circle, I came to a wonderful realisation.

I had no sooner started the walk, when I felt drawn, compelled even, to get to the centre. I needed to be in the centre of that circle. I could physically feel my body pulling me toward the energy of the centre. My eyes were also riveted on that middle space. I then started walking sideways along the path, the better to face the centre, of course! I looked like I was doing some elaborate grapevine sidestep. I was even speeding up my pace in the excitement to get to the middle!

But I caught myself. And I stopped.
“What on earth are you doing?”
I burst out laughing.
“This is so me!” I said out loud to the trees.

This is all about me wanting to quickly get to my destination, to finally see the result, the goal, the end product.
I don’t want to know where I’m going or how I got there. I want to know when I’ve arrived!
So much so that I was no longer walking the path I was on, but walking the path where I wanted to be.
What a revelation! I couldn’t believe it.
The sidestepping was the awakening.

I do this a lot. I see only the expected goal, the anticipated result, not the journey.
I don’t trust the journey.
No wonder I trip and fall along the way. I don’t see the path I’m on. Right here in front of me.
And I smiled. I couldn’t stop smiling.

What a gift for my first visit to the labyrinth in Nanaimo. And I knew it was to be the first of many visits. On my way out from the centre of the labyrinth, I made a pact with myself. I will walk the labyrinth every week for the rest of the summer. Once a week, every week. This I will do for myself. To slow down, to pay attention, to breathe and to be.

Once again my hand is extended in invitation.
Will you join me in your own discoveries this summer?
Will you walk the labyrinth?

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Summer Mystery

The Heat is On. Finally. On the West Coast we are in beautiful summer.
Today I washed blankets and duvet covers and put away the flannel sheets. Yes that's right!
June 29th, I washed and folded flannel sheets and put them away for the season.
So I now know it's official. The heat has arrived. This is summer.
We forget on the coast that the true heat comes later than many areas. Every year we forget.
And then again, the whole thing can change. In the blink of an eye.
I was sitting at a cafe table and a woman sitting beside me leaned over and quietly said:
"Isn't it amazing how it can all change in the blink of an eye." Then she got up and left.
I didn't know her story. I didn't know what might have precipitated the comment.
What had happened to her? What changed in the blink of an eye? A mystery.

The month of June is just about over.
When I talk about this with friends and family, the same questions keeps coming back:
"But where did it go?" "What happened to June?"
I ask myself these very same questions at the end of every June. June seems to slip away on a cloud.
Aunt Olive always smiled when she asked: "What is so rare as a day in June?"
When I was a child I thought that was the beginning of a story. I waited for the answer, for the explanation to what really happened to June. " What indeed," was all she would say.
Now what was I supposed to make of that? Another mystery!

I listened to the gentle and powerful wisdom of Rachel Naomi Remen last Thursday evening.
If you are familiar with her, great.
If not, please do yourself a huge favor and read, "Kitchen Table Wisdom."
Doctor Remen, a medical doctor, celebrates Not Knowing. She reminds us that in this world where Mastery and Knowing have become the ideal, we might re-awaken to Mystery, and to open to Possibility.

I thought about all this.
I realised how attracted I am to the safety of neat, organised stories. I like a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Oh the story can get messy and convoluted, that's ok.
But I want the beginning, middle and end clearly marked out. I want to see the path.
Well guess what? It isn't. Always clear I mean.

But this business of Mystery intrigues and appeals to me.
So at this tender time, at end of June, I am opening to the possibility.
I am opening to Mystery in these delicious days of summer.
What about you?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

It is the first day of 2013.
And I am full of yesterday, today and tomorrow thoughts on this first day of a very New Year.
But I had a chance to stop and think today, thanks to a young man in Ontario.
I watched a short clip on TV about Josh, a High School senior.
Josh is brave and he did a very brave thing.
He was being bullied and bothered at school and he decided to change things.
He decided he wanted to be seen in a new light. So he changed the way he was connecting with his peers.
He decided and he changed his actions. No blame. No pointing of fingers.
Josh did it gently and with kindness.
By holding a door open.
Yes, that's right. Every morning, Josh would hold a door open at school for his classmates, his peers, everyone. And he held it open. Not just for 10 or 20 seconds. I mean he stood there at the hall door and held it open for five, ten minutes. He greeted people, or nodded, or smiled, gently.
Soon, people were thanking him. Then they started to say hi to him at the door.
Then they started to greet him in the hall as they walked by.
They interviewed some of the other students about the "Doorman", as Josh was now nicknamed.
Some of the students said it made them smile, they felt welcomed when they walked through Josh's open door. Some of them said they found they were kinder to others now.

Risking with kindness. What a powerful, beautiful expression!
And it is a risk. To put yourself out there and meet and greet.
To open the door for others.
Thanks Josh.
Happy New Year. To all of you.