“The irony is this: if you don’t go in, you can’t find out” are words on a very old t-shirt I own. This has been a guiding mantra in my life for many years. I am forever going within myself, searching for answers to questions I sometimes don’t even know I have, or don’t know how to ask.
Do you do this too? Do you too seek illumination in your life, finding answers to be elusive? Below are some things I’ve found helpful, and that may help you.
- Be still. As I wrote these words, I paused to look out at naked trees silhouetted black against a flashing red sunset. No wind moves the branches. No birds fly. No squirrels skitter across the yard. I am enveloped in a winter landscape that is peaceful and serene. Involuntarily, I draw a deep breath.
- Breathe deeply. See your breath as a circle of energy, flowing into and out of you. When we breathe deeply, we give ourselves time to think, to question, to hear guidance that comes in the stillness.
- Write with a pen on paper. Something magical happens in our brains when we write this way. Nobody has to read it. No one can grade it. But writing gives us a vehicle for storing our thoughts and feelings, so that we can examine them later, and reflect on changes we are making as we spiral inward.
- A client recently asked me in exasperation, “Please tell me why I have to meditate. I hate it!” Calming “monkey mind” is so difficult for many of us. Sometimes we don’t make time to meditate because we don’t want to hear the messages that may come through. Sometimes we don’t meditate because nothing comes through except the chatter about our grocery list and cleaning the bathroom. I can only tell you this: without my daily meditation practice (usually just a few minutes a couple of times each day), I would be so off-kilter and unfocused! There is, fortunately, more than one way meditate, and I describe a walking meditation exercise below.
“All my life’s a circle….” wrote Harry Chapin. I find this true in my life. I spiral closer and closer to a center-point of understanding, and then seem to be catapulted back to the edge of the abyss with more lessons to be learned. Is this true for you too? What can we do differently to walk with awareness into our center, and to bring back out to the edge an understanding of ourselves and the world around us?
Each New Year’s Eve, I walk a labyrinth etched in the stone floor of a local church’s sanctuary. This 13-circuit labyrinth is identical to the ancient one at Chartres Cathedral in France. Unlike a maze, there is only one path to the center, and one path back out. There are no false turns or dead ends.
According to Dr. Lauren Artress in Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, our journey inward to the center of the labyrinth is a time of “purgation,” or releasing, empting and quieting. It’s about shedding those thoughts, emotions, and connections that separate us from our Higher Selves and our Higher Power.
“Illumination,” the second phase of the walk, occurs when we reach the center of the labyrinth. We are often surprised when we get to the center because the paths that lead us there are circuitous and seemingly illogical. It is here, in the stillness of the center, that we gain insight if we come to the center with an open heart and mind.
As we wend our way out from center, retracing the same path we took to the center, we reach “Union.” This union occurs both within and without ourselves. We feel grounded and insightful, able to let go of that which no longer serves us. Often we are charged with an energy to go forth in perfect love and perfect trust. We have confidence to take risks and to be our authentic selves.The 13-circuit labyrinth I describe above isn’t the oldest style of labyrinths. The seven-circuit labyrinth is older, dating back thousands of years. It’s actually easy to make one, and I’ve added a link below to guide you. Try it – alone or with friends.
Top and center images from Google; bottom image from FreePics.