Yesterday I put my own advice into action. I invited a colleague to join me to walk the labyrinth. Really, this is something I should be doing more of as it is an amazing path to mindfulness. When I work folks, we often include some form of meditation, mindfulness or centering to help manage anxiety, fear, stress, discord and just general feeling blah. There are many people who love meditation and find it to be an important part of their mental health. There are just as many who, try as they might, can seem to quiet their minds and bodies to be still. I am one of the latter. Quiet still meditation is hard for me – I can do it from time to time but it seems to take a great effort to get there. I do it whenever I can. However, when time is precious or being still just seems in possible, I try a moving meditation – like walking a labyrinth.
For the uninitiated, a labyrinth is a centuries old pattern on the ground that was used in spiritual and meditative practices. They come in different sizes and patterns. Essentially, they are circles with winding paths to the center. Some of have a separate path from the center out again, some retrace the same path. The pattern represents the longest path to the center. There are many twist, turns, and returns. To walk the labyrinth, you are to walk it slowly and mindfully. Be quiet and cast your eyes about four to six feet on the ground in front of you. Just follow your path. If someone is coming toward you, or you need to pass someone, just step to the side quietly and continue with your journey.
So, back to yesterday. My colleague agreed to join me and we started walking the labyrinth about 30 seconds apart. I went first. Here are the lessons from the labyrinth:
1. Sometimes we can figure out the path before we begin it.
Starting the labyrinth, you can a basic sense of the pattern and understand where you want to end up, but you really don’t know how you will get there. There are so many U-turns and back roads that just when you think you have the pattern, it changes. Isn’t this much like our lives? We know where we want to end up and we think we know the road until life gives us a U-turn. Keeping on our road will get us to our destination, even if we have to backtrack a little.
2. Boundaries are there for a reason.
There are times when you are on the path that is closest to the center, but if you respect the boundaries, you cannot just step over to the goal. You must continue the journey, which may (and in most labyrinths will) take you further from the center before you are granted access to it. Having patience, even when the goal seems so close will give us greater strength and insight if we follow the right path.
3. So close yet so far.
Being 30 seconds apart was an interesting experience. There were moments that my colleague seemed to be directly behind me. Instantly he was in front of me and we passed shoulder to shoulder. Seconds later, I was on the opposite side of the labyrinth and he seemed so distant. It was so indicative of much of the relationship work I do in my office. How many couples have described their relationship in the same way? “We had such a great time and now s/he feels so distant...I don’t know why”. Sometimes, it is because we have to follow our own path. Being able to understand the path and the journey will – just as in the labyrinth – have you passing together again.
4. Don’t rush!
For those that know me personally, you know that this is hard advice for me – I am always on the go! Walking the labyrinth reminded me that slowing down, doing less is sometimes doing more. I was able to walk the labyrinth with a quiet mind and felt free from stresses and anxieties of daily living. I even solved a few minor problems along the way!
Find a labyrinth near you! They are everywhere! If you don’t know where to find one visit www.labyrinthlocator.com. If you would like to work on your mindfulness, anxiety and relationships, contact Elliott at 617-834-4235 or at Elliott@insightbrookline.com.