My parents and I walked through Chartres Cathedral during a tour of the French countryside in the summer of my fifteenth year. It was a part of a month-long vacation that would take us through England and Scotland, as well. I was terribly homesick at times, but certain that I would later appreciate this opportunity I’d been given.
Indeed, that first introduction to the world of my ancestors left an indelible mark, and it would be revealed to me, again and again, over the decades that followed. At the unfolding of my spiritual journey, it would rise to the surface like blue woad on the skin of ancient warriors.
A labyrinth is sometimes imagined to be a scary place, like the final challenge in Harry Potter’s Goblet of Fire tournament, but in truth, it can be a tool to assist you on a mindful journey within. These challenging mazes of film, like the scary winter scene in Steven King’s The Shining are encapsulated by high walls that create a sense of isolation and sometimes panic, as you become the player on a board game, taking each turn in hope to find freedom. The version to which I refer, is a labyrinth that is simply marked upon the ground, as a diagram through which your feet will carry you.
If we were witness to the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral all those years ago, I have no memory of it. My first introduction to the concept was when a replica was painted on canvas and rolled out in an open space at my local Unitarian Church.
As I stood barefoot at the edge of this sacred cloth, I was informed that this was a tool for healing. Into the path we could carry our woes, and out of it we could carry a sense of hope. There is a single entrance, and the path before us is wide enough to safely hold our footfalls, but there are many curves and turns which require our focus and attention. For this reason, when we carry an intention onto the path, we are entering into a walking meditation.
It was the early 90s, and I had only recently been introduced to the art of meditation, so quieting my mind and finding clarity or focus was not yet one of my strengths. Walking the labyrinth at that time was an experience that I enjoyed and longed to do again, though its magick would grow stronger with time, as the metaphor of the journey took shape in my life.
The next labyrinth I found was marked in stone in the yard of a retreat center in Asheville, North Carolina. Members of my Tribe and I stepped onto the path, one by one, and moved forward and back, round and round. We were focused on the path for fear of tripping over the rocks of containment, and so it felt as if we were walking alone. But as we moved in circles, our paths would sometimes meet, and we would suddenly be walking side by side – sharing the journey.
This is how our lives have been. At times, we feel alone with our personal struggles or daily dramas and then we are delighted to look up and realize that we were never really alone at all. Members of our Tribe may be at different edges of this winding road, but when we need them, or they need us… we need only stop for a moment to look up from the obstacles that threaten our stability and find their reassuring smiles surrounding us. From here, we know that we can keep moving forward.
For a long time, the art of the labyrinth was elusive. It was something found on travel, or special occasion. But today they may be easier to find. For example, the Unitarian Church which hosted the traveling canvas labyrinth twenty-five years ago, now has a permanent one paved on the grounds beneath a beloved oak tree. And another was recently placed nearby, as a walking memorial to the 49 sacred souls we lost in the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting. Each name, never to be forgotten, as we are encircled by their love is illuminated by the light we send back to them.
One of the ways that I like to use this tool is for manifestation. Into the labyrinth I carry my fears, my sorrows, my sense of the barriers that hold me back. Then, out of the labyrinth I lift the vision of a new path forward, free from such obstacles and limiting belief.
I journey in considering what I need to release, and when I reach the center I offer my gratitude for where I have been which delivered me to this moment of awareness. I give thanks for the hardship which showed me my strength, and for the goodness that shall manifest for the blessing of my fortitude.
From that central focus on gratitude, I choose to leave behind that which no longer serves me, and return to the path unhindered. As I walk out on the same path that brought me here, I am lighter and open to receiving. I envision a future that brings new joy and different lessons that will further my evolution. Knowing that the path in was unknown but safe, I can venture out with that knowledge. Wherever this path leads, I am safe, I am grateful, and I am never alone.
Another way that I have used the labyrinth was for a sort of past life regression. My soul daughter is a medium. Earlier this year, she revealed to me a piece of a past life with my father. She offered me a morsel of that distant lifetime which might reveal a deeper message for the one we now share. Her instruction was to meditate on it to see if healing could be found.
That weekend, I went away for a workshop on voice and sound healing, and there I found on the grounds a replica of the labyrinth from Chartres Cathedral. See what I mean about that indelible mark? Once again, the path falls back on itself, and we are carried once more past where we have already been.
So, once again, I stepped onto that familiar path. This time, I carried the seeds of a story and as I walked a vision was revealed to me. It was a lifetime of loss, sacrifice, blame, and regret. I don’t consider myself to be all that creative or clever, when it comes to writing fiction, so the unfolding of this story felt very real to me. A father and daughter who survived a natural disaster, and the survivor’s guilt that followed. The father had rescued the daughter, but failed to save others. She blamed him for his failure, but never considered that it was not for his fear of dying, but for the unwillingness to leave her alone. She was his priority.
What did I carry out with me? In this lifetime, I can see that my father may not have rescued me from certain personal disaster (not that any have been so great), but that he has never left me alone. When my heart was first broken, he sat at my bedside and shed tears as he shared his loss of love, when his sister died of cancer at 40. When my mom and I had issues in our relationship, he helped me to understand the wounds from her childhood, enabling me to love her more through the struggle and back to wholeness.
At this moment, my father is in the hospital. At age 81, he has had a few struggles with his health, and now he is dealing with an infection for which we are still awaiting illumination. I called him to let him know that I needed to finish writing this piece, but that I would be there to see him soon. He assured me that he would be fine and that I didn’t have to rush. What I know for sure is that I may not be able to rescue him from the natural disaster of aging, but I will be sure that he never feels alone.
When I sat down to write today, I had no idea that this path would lead me back to where I am right now. Like the sacred geometry of the labyrinth I hoped to share with you, the beauty was revealed to me only when I came back around to this particular place on the path. Each time I come this way, I can see it from a new perspective and with greater insight. This is how the metaphor for life is mirrored.
So, if you ever have the opportunity to step into the welcoming embrace of a labyrinth, be it on a church floor or in a field of flowers – made of canvas and paint, or water-smoothed river rock… I hope that you will accept the challenge to go within. Spiraling in, carry your worries to be honored and left behind. Spiraling out, be lifted by light and hope. There is so much beauty that surrounds you. All you have to do to find it, is stop for a moment and look up.
Thank you for walking this sacred path with me. I just looked up to see you, and I am so glad you are here.
Melissa Baker, Elephant Academy Apprentice
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Beautiful writing. Many prayers for your father.
Thank you so much, Kat!
I so enjoyed reading this piece! The value of mindfully honoring the signs and synchronicities we’re gifted with as we journey through life can’t be overstated. Oftentimes, we want the signs to be obvious, unmistakable, or grand. You so beautifully illuminate the value of the simple and “ordinary” moments in our lives, the holiness found in everyday living, if we just look for it – a much needed reminder in this age of social media. Thank you!
Thank you so much for taking a moment to walk this path with me. It is an honor to share this part of the path with you.