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?

No comments:

Post a Comment