My Labyrinth Experience

Twelve years ago, when I was in treatment for alcoholism, I attended a workshop on the History and Meaning of the Labyrinth.  This was a half-day workshop organized by the Spiritual Advisor at the treatment center.  I was very depressed at that time and being at the workshop was a requirement, so I was there, in attendance, as I was expected to do.  I assumed, as many people do, that labyrinths and mazes were synonymous and before the workshop began, I was engaging in negative reflections, equating my entire life as being stuck and lost in a maze.  The Facilitator began by explaining the difference between a labyrinth and a maze.  She said that mazes have many entrances and exits, many paths with dead ends and cul de sacs but that labyrinths, although resembling mazes upon cursory observation, have only one path.  In spite of the winding nature of the labyrinth, there is no way to get lost if you follow the path.  When I heard this my interest was piqued and I listened with more interest.   

When our lecture about the history and meaning of labyrinths was finished, we were invited to walk a large labyrinth painted on canvas in an adjacent room.  I cleared my mind and set an intention of just being open-minded as I began my walk.  I found myself reflecting on my life and letting go.  When I reached the center, I was calm and able to receive an intuitive message that my life was not wasted and not a dead end.  The paths I had taken were the ones I needed to travel in order to be at the center of that very labyrinth, right then and there.  I felt the freedom of a release of psychic burdens that I had been carrying for a very long time.  I meditated, mindfully, in the center of the labyrinth and when I felt ready to leave, I experienced a mounting sense of energy, forgiveness and joy.  In the space of two hours, my whole perspective had changed from one of despair to hope.  I had experienced something transformative.

I recently attended a workshop in order to become a Trained Labyrinth Facilitator and the woman leading the workshop was The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, labyrinth scholar, Episcopalian Priest and Therapist. Dr. Artress is the person most responsible for renewing interest in the labyrinth as a meditative and spiritual tool in 1991. I’m certain that the labyrinth facilitators that put on the workshop that I attended in 2007 were influenced and inspired by Dr. Artress and her work and here I was attending her workshop! I felt as if I had come full circle – from someone in need of the transformative powers of the labyrinth to someone helping others along the way.

Mystery

By Gordon McKeeman, Unitarian Universalist Minister (1920-2013)

How does one address a mystery?

Cautiously – let us go cautiously, then, to the end of our certainty, to the boundary of all we know, to the rim of uncertainty, to the perimeter of the unknown which surrounds us.

Reverently – let us go with a sense of awe, a feeling of approaching the powerful holy whose lightning slashes the sky, whose persistence splits concrete with green sprouts, whose miracles are present in every place and moment.

Hopefully – out of our need for wholeness in our own lives, the reconciliation of mind and heart, the conjunction of reason and passion, the intersection of the timeless with time.

Quietly – for no words will explain the inarticulate or summon the presence that is always present even in our absence.

But what shall I say?

Anything – any anger, any hope, any fear, any joy, any request, any word that comes from the depth of being addressed to Being itself – or, perhaps, nothing, no complaint, no request, no entreaty, no thanksgiving, no praise, no blame, no pretense of knowing or of not knowing.

Simply be in the intimate presence of mystery, unashamed – unadorned – unafraid.

And at the end say – Amen.

FREEDOM FROM ……..

In 2007, as a newly self-identified alcoholic, I often heard the phrase, Freedom from the Bondage of Self.  How could I be in the bondage of self? I believed that I was enslaved only by alcohol.  I simply could not stop on my own, and I knew that once I could stop, all would be well again. At the time I did not understand that my alcohol consumption was only a symptom and that my addiction was the result of causes and conditions far deeper than I could ever imagine.

Physical sobriety came with relative ease and I willingly engaged in the type of self-exploration and analysis that I was told would lead me to the prize – emotional sobriety.  As I looked at my childhood and analyzed all its aspects – nature and nurture – I realized, with a sinking heart, that I had been doomed and fated for alcoholism! I began shaming myself with a vengeance and then began resenting everyone who had a hand in my rearing and ultimately those who were unfortunate enough to live with me.

It was so much easier to blame others for all my fears, insecurities, and my inability to cope with life.  I wouldn’t need to drink if only everyone else would just behave perfectly and have the same sensibilities as me. The thought that I could change the aspects of my nature that kept me feeling powerless, unworthy, incapable, ashamed, fearful, and unable to connect never entered my mind. I was so negatively wrapped up in “self” that I felt paralyzed.  Many of these behaviors and mind-sets were learned, certainly, but I kept them alive and well-nurtured because this was all I knew, and I believed that change was impossible. I felt imprisoned by all these manifestations of “self” and I was able to justify drinking to relieve the pain.

Slowly, and with lots of help, my “bondage of self” began to loosen and I began to change.  I had to practice, write, share, accept, and practice some more, over and over again.  And, I’ve learned, that this will be an ongoing practice for me – one that I consider to be spiritual in nature.  My spirit had been lost to all these varied forms of fear. Now my spirit feels free most of the time. Every now and then, I fall back into this type of negative thinking but, today, I’m able to cope with the challenges life presents me.  I’m able to work through my problems instead of hiding from them and because of this, I feel free!  I feel lighter, brighter, and I can breathe.

To me, this is FREEDOM.

Megan Moyer