Monday, October 31, 2011

Labyrinth Mondays: Healing Tool

Labyrinth Monday:

Last week I started this series entitling it, Labyrinth Monday’s but realize I have so much excitement about this important topic and I have written so much that I may share it more often in smaller segments. Last Monday, we started with the topic, What is a Labyrinth. You can refer to the archives to read about it, but I will sum it up in one sentence for you. A Labyrinth is a circuitous path that takes you from the outside world of chaos and brain clutter and brings you to the center of your private world of hopes, desires, disappointments, pain, and most of all those things that you yearn for deep inside of yourself that you are not likely to share with others. The Labyrinth is a safe place that welcomes you home.

Safety and solidarity are two of many things a labyrinth can be to you. Today, I want to speak to you about how this important spiritual and mystical symbol can help you heal. From my perspective healing is something that is often misunderstood and often placed on “Other,” (using a capital O to represent God out there) to do something for us, to make us better through prayer or sometimes reduced to an act of begging Other to fix us, it, or others. Thinking about healing as something that happens or does not happen places us in that victim status of right or wrong, better or worse, two polar opposites without inviting us to look at all of the middle ground in between.

For instance, recently I had a conversation with someone who was struggling with a Scripture in Romans where it is insinuated that if we are depressed, given over to darkness and confusion, then it is because we are not worshipping God enough. As, she struggled to reconcile her depression with her faith and gratitude scale, she became more and more disillusioned and hopeless. As, I redirected to her attention back to the first thing she told me that she was learning, which was, “God, loves me just the way I am.” I asked her if she thought there was something contradictory about the teaching that God loves her just the way she is and God will give you over to darkness and confusion if you don’t worship God enough. As I watched the wheels turn in her brain, her facial expression changed from disillusionment to one of hope and joy as she repeated, “God loves me just the way I am.” The idea, that if God loved her just as she is, then it must meant that God would not be keeping count of her number of prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude. This thought brought her a sense of joy.

Something beyond ourselves happens to our mood as we walk the circuitous path to the inside of the labyrinth. We now know from studies on the brain that walking allows our left-brain and right brain to communicate with each other in ways that elevate our mood. EMDR also speaks to that phenomenon of the brain crossing back and forth frees us from horrific traumatic events and pictures in our past. During the labyrinth walk, the brain is not only going back and forth from the act of walking, but also the eyes have to follow the path in order to keep you focused on staying on the path. There are times when one might experience feeling lost or disorientated, but nonetheless the act of putting one foot in front of each other on the same path requires subtle and at times not so subtle concentration. The walker cannot look ahead or they will lose their orientation on the path. The walker must focus on where their feet are going. Staying focused for the sustained amount of time (15-20) minutes allows the brain to relax and let go. Worries and not so big by the time one arrives at the center. The center often appears much bigger than one ever imagined it being as just an on looker. The center can also represent many things, but for today’s purpose it represents the heart of the nurturing God that receives you fully, just as you are, listens to you completely as if you are the only person on earth, and holds you like a protective mother letting you know, “You are awesome, just the way you are.” In the center, you leave your concerns and worries and take out of the center the unconditional love of the nurturing God who is always there for you, waiting for you to follow the path to her heart.

The labyrinth is there for you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Take your heart to the heart of the Universe and experience the difference. Healing is an interactive process between you and Other.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Labyrinth Mondays

What is a Labyrinth?

First, it is important to establish that a labyrinth is different from a maze in a couple of ways. Sometimes a maze has many paths to choose from, often leading to dead ends. A Maze has no center. A labyrinth is a single path (albeit, cursive and windy) that goes toward a center and then exits out of that center on the same curvy and windy path.

The history of labyrinths dates back to the early Greeks and the classical seven-circuit Labyrinth was printed on a coin in Crete as early as 430 B.C. Labyrinths are found in the ancient history of most cultures and here in the South West of the United States we are most familiar with the Hopi Labyrinth, which is very similar to the Classical Labyrinth of Crete. The Franciscan Renewal Center has a beautiful classical labyrinth that you are welcome to walk at anytime. It is found to the back of their property in their beautiful desert.

My personal interest in the labyrinth arose in the early nineties when the spiritual mysteries of the labyrinth began to spring up in the United States. Dr. Lauren Artress, of Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco, was quite smitten with a passionate interest in the labyrinth and began to do research on the mysteries and history of the labyrinth, especially the eleven-circuit labyrinth in Chartres, France. She has written on of the most succinct and clear books on understanding the labyrinth, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Sacred Tool.

Early in 2000 and shortly after I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, an eleven circuit labyrinth was constructed at Trinity Cathedral, downtown Phoenix. The year after my diagnosis, I established a personal relationship with the labyrinth and walked it once every week that year. If I was out of town for some reason, I made a point to go before or right after I returned. I found my relationship with this powerful mystical symbol to be a relationship of hope, peace, empowerment and overwhelming nurturing. One of the ways I like to describe the labyrinth is like that of a womb, the birthing center of the universe, the lap of the mother of God, a maternal place of being swaddled in the loving arms of the feminine part of God. More about my journey with the Labyrinth and its healing power of hope during my journey with breast cancer can be found in my book, In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer. You can purchase your copy from my website: , or digitally download it to your Nook or Kindle.

This labyrinth is rich in history and it is my hope to introduce you to its power, beauty, and spiritual mysteries at a workshop on January 7, 2012. More on that workshop is soon to find its way to my blog. However, in the meantime, I will be writing about the labyrinth on my blog, especially on Mondays. Please join me for this new series, Labyrinth Monday’s. Please feel free to forward this to friends and family who might have an interest in this very sacred tool and go my blog to follow me on these Labyrinth Mondays.