Monday, November 28, 2011

Labyrinth Monday's -All Cultures Share the Mystery of the Spirit


Spirituality in one form or another has always been with us. The more awake and aware we are, the more we are able to see it. The Burden Basket was part of many Native American’s way of life. A Burden Basket was used to gather sticks for fire, seeds, herbs, and tubers. The basket was worn on the back leaving hands free for gathering of daily needs. When the basket was emptied, it was hung on the outside of the tipi or dwelling and used by visitors to announce their presence at the door. If no one came to the door, no feelings were hurt, as it was understood that the home is a sacred space. Also, the burden basket was symbolic, in that its presence invited guest to leave their personal burdens outside of the tipi and not bring them in to the sacred space of the home. It was considered rude and disrespectful to take your burdens to the neighbor’s house and douse their sacred space with unhappiness and negativity. If a person in the village had a problem, they were to take a gift of tobacco, a blanket, or some other gift to the medicine person in the village, and there share their burden. After sharing, the person had to wait three days for the medicine person to share a solution to the problem. During those three days, the medicine person was seeking guidance in a dream or vision from his/her spiritual guides and allies. Also, during the same three days the burden bearer was building self-reliance, knowing that they needed to responsible to act on the advice given to them by the medicine person. Thus, the village was able to live in peace and inter-confidence that their friends and neighbors could handle their own problems and learn the art of self-reliance. If we go back to original use of the burden basket, which was to collect enough of the necessities just for today, then we realize part of the solution to life is to stay in the present and focus on the here and now moment.

In reflection, I see the Labyrinth as a symbol of the burden basket. It is rich in symbolism of the self-reliance. The person entering the Labyrinth, often referred to as “pilgrim” is doing the work of walking. The pilgrim is responsible for taking the journey to the center of the Labyrinth. As a burden bearer, the pilgrim take his/her burden into the center of the Labyrinth and there lets it go, releases the burden to the womb or heart of the universe. The pilgrim needs to have a grateful heart when entering the mystery of womb, knowing that it is a sacred place that he/she can come any time of day or night and find that center of the Labyrinth is there to receive him/her and the burden on his/her heart. The joining of the two, the pilgrim and the heart of the universe is completely sacred and confidential between the two. No one else is invited into that sacred space.

By taking the journey to the center of the Labyrinth, the pilgrim is initiating responsibility for his/her burden and taking the first steps to release the burden to the care of the mysterious other that will take that burden and share wisdom, understanding, and clarity with the pilgrim. It is then up to the pilgrim to follow the direction that comes from the Center. Perhaps direction and wisdom will not come during the walk (as it often does not) but several days later, clarity and peace begin to settle in the soul of the pilgrim. It is hard to explain the mysterious; one has to experience it to become a “knower of mysteries.”

CYBER MONDAY... Novvember 28th. Last Day for Early Bird Registration



Saturday January 7, 2012

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Trinity Cathedral 100 W. Roosevelt Phoenix, AZ.

Cost: $50.00 if registered by November 28, 2011

The characters in the Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man will be our guides for the day. What makes us feel afraid, stupid, and un-loveable?

The labyrinth is a powerful tool for healing in so many ways. Its rich history and bountiful symbolism brings to us so many opportunities to present our self for healing. It allows us to come as we are with whatever hurts and seek comfort and care from the center of its being.

This Saturday morning we will be exploring the symbolism of the labyrinth and using tools of self-discovery such as journaling, music, and art to explore our inner most need. During our time together, you will have an opportunity to present that need to the mystery of the Labyrinth and come away with a renewed sense of hope.

To learn more about the labyrinth and why it is such an important tool for your personal and spiritual growth please follow my blog at

To register go to and click on workshops. Follow the prompts. Or email or Call Dr. Dilley at 602-564-1919 for more information.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Labyrinth: Key to Inner Hunger-Outward Change

Are you hungry for change? Do you feel like something is missing in your life? Perhaps, you have become so busy that you do not notice the still small voice inside of you that is calling out to be heard. January 2012 is around the corner. Each year we are inundated with Holiday buying and chaos that takes us away from our center and each year we promise ourselves that we will do better next year. We make promises to ourselves and sometime to others that we will change, spend less, become thinner, get into shape and by November of 2012, it is possible that we will be feeling guilty for not achieving last year’s goals, and wonder what happened to our good intentions.

Walking meditation is a simple and easy way to keep us in contact with that still small voice within. By the time that we are forced to be mindful, placing one foot in front of the other, we have calmed the voice of fear, negativity, and aloneness. Those three voices are representative of the characters in the Wizard of Oz, the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man.

From a psychological perspective, Dorothy’s three friends are projections of her inner critics that keep her blind to the truth that she can return home at any time by just clicking her red shoes. However, it takes a village of support to help her navigate her way through the dark forest, and down the yellow brick road. It is through this journey, becoming friends with her fear, critic, and broken heart that she harvests her one inner wisdom and gains the confidence to click the red shoes.

One paradox in this story (and there are many) is that we remain unsettled, upset and in search of something outside of ourselves until we go home. One metaphor of going home is finding our spiritual center and one key that will help us to do that is walking the Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth provides us with a way of finding ourselves and our power within. It is hard to define for you what you will experience by walking the Labyrinth, because each person’s experience is different than other pilgrims walking the Labyrinth. Each time I walk it, I have a different experience. Come on January 7, 2012 and start your year off with a walking meditation that can be first step in making 2012 an extraordinary vs. ordinary year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Breast Cancer Journey and the Labyrinth

With October being breast cancer awareness month,  I personally did alot of reflecting on my journey as a survivor.  In honor of that journey and my spiritual relationship with the Labyrinth I have decided to share the entire chapter about my Labyrinth relationship on Labyrinth Mondays.  Here is that Chapter.  To read more about my journey you can purchase my book at or directly from me at



My life has always been a mixed tapestry of spirituality. Spirituality is a part of who I am and not something that I do. I deeply believe that we are spiritual beings and it is our job to attend to our spiritual garden. The spiritual garden is within each of us and we can let it grow weeds, let it dry up and die, or we can gently tend to it throughout all of the days of our lives. When we face a storm our garden can become overwhelmed with waves and wind damage and we must use our resources to repair it and re-establish it. When there is a drought, we must carry water to our spiritual garden. In the next few chapters, I want to share some of the spiritual practices that I used during and after my journey with breast cancer. It was natural for me to turn to my spiritual resources during this time. The Labyrinth, the Healing Power of a Native Sweat, and a Vision Quest are three key components of my journey.
During the Nineties, the spiritual significance of the labyrinth began pouring into print. It seemed that everywhere I turned someone was writing or talking about his or her experience of God as he or she walked the labyrinth. I began to read about this spiritual practice and discovered its ancient history. A labyrinth is not a maze. In the English language, the words “labyrinth” and “maze” are often used interchangeably. A maze contains dead ends and often has many entrances. A labyrinth has one entrance and one exit. It is a path from the outside in and then from the inside out. It has a sacred sense of journey about it; perhaps the eleven-circuit labyrinth began as a spiritual practice for those who could not make the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. No one really knows the reason labyrinths were created but there are eleven-circuit and seven-circuit labyrinths. Seven-circuit labyrinths date back four to five thousand years and are seen in Hopi, Cretan, and Celtic spiritual practices. The most famous eleven-circuit labyrinth is in Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France, and dates back to the twelfth century. The number of circuits simply means the number of times the pilgrim passes the center of the labyrinth during his or her walk.

My interest in the labyrinth grew. I responded to that interest by making a special pilgrimage to San Francisco to walk the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral. There, I, too, experienced a peaceful sense of purpose. I felt a sense of holiness about the journey in and out and around the path that brings us into the center of God, and back out to the world again. Grace Cathedral has an indoor and an outdoor eleven-circuit labyrinth. The indoor one provides the pilgrim with quite an intense experience because sacred music is playing during the labyrinth walk. It was easy for me as I walked it to become lost in the music, feeling as if I was transcending consciousness. The outdoor labyrinth overlooked the busy San Francisco streets. Walking it created a sense of purpose, with a special connection to the world. The two labyrinths provided me with an experience and a picture of God inside of me and outside of me at the same time.

When I left San Francisco, I wanted desperately to have a local labyrinth. I felt a strange loneliness for it. I felt connected, sort of called to it as a way of worship. There was something about this walking meditation that provided me with an experience of God that fed my hungry soul. That journey to San Francisco was in 1997.

In 1998 our Episcopal Cathedral, Trinity, was under reconstruction. Trinity is a local historical landmark for Phoenix as well as the headquarters for the Episcopal bishop and church administration. The Dean of the cathedral at the time, Rev. Rebecca McClain, was in charge of the reconstruction. Lo and behold, she was having a beautiful eleven-circuit labyrinth built in the center of the courtyard. I felt like God had answered my prayers. I was ecstatic about the plans. I couldn’t wait for it to be finished. Trinity finished the labyrinth in December 2000. One of my New Year’s resolutions of 2001 was to walk the labyrinth once a week for the entire year.

I walked it every Wednesday. If I was out of town for some reason, I made arrangements to walk it at some other time. The experience of that commitment created a sacred space inside of me and I developed a personal relationship with this sacred art form that allowed me to be touched and touch God in unique ways. I was very aware during my labyrinth walks of the gift of life. It seemed that each week my gratitude for my life and my recovery became deeper. I was aware on these walks with God that my life was meaningful and that I needed to be awake to all God had in store for me. During this time my gratitude for being alive grew.

I definitely have an attention problem that becomes a bother in times of prayer, but the motion of walking, following a path, and making a pilgrimage to the center where all is well and perfect is a powerful and unifying experience. I used this time with God to refocus my life, to pull close to the spiritual world, recommitting to a life of meaningful experience with God. I not only re-dedicated my life to one of service and ministry but also used the time to refocus on the art of prayer and watched as my prayer life transformed from a dead stick in the ground to a beautiful lush green plant.

The story of the dead stick is significant because when I was a student of spiritual direction during my master’s program, I had a director who told me to plant a stick in the ground and to water and care for it as if it were alive. Of course, I thought this was a silly exercise, but part of being a student of spiritual direction is learning to follow direction. I learned so much from this exercise that it still empowers my consciousness in my psychotherapy practice. For example, many times I think to myself, we are not getting anywhere in therapy. Nothing is ever going to change in this person’s life; it is just the same old thing. In my discouragement it would be easy to give up, but I remember the exercise of watering the stick. This mutually powerful and silly exercise taught me to stay with a project even though it seems fruitless.

The stick did not change, but I did. I learned just how much water the earth was able to absorb in order for the stick not to get too wet and rot. I also had to learn just how much water was sufficient to keep the ground closed around the stick in order that it remained erect. I practiced caring for it daily while acknowledging that I got nothing back in return. I had to live through my own embarrassment about the craziness of watering a stick, thinking horribly judgmental thoughts at times. Sometimes, those judgmental thoughts were directed at me and my stupidity for participating in such a ridiculous exercise and at other times those criticisms were directed at my spiritual director.

In my head, I accused her of being mean and manipulative. Walking the labyrinth on a weekly basis sometimes was like watering the stick. Sometimes I felt silly, as if I were going nowhere. At other times, it was a soul-ripping experience that shook me to my core. I was able to unravel complexities in my life during that time. I was able to pick up pieces of my life that I had laid aside, such as my writing. I was able to focus again on the alpha and omega of God. At the same time that I started my relationship with the labyrinth, I also started a professional relationship with a teacher and healer.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Walking the Labyrinth Helps Quiet the Busy Mind

I hope labyrinth Mondays have begun to tweak your interest in the experience of the labyrinth. We live such stressful lives full of demands, deadlines, and responsibilities. As a result, even the word spirituality becomes something we do or fit into our schedules, rather than something we are. Being a spiritual person is the essence of which we are and how we carve that out for ourselves is up to us and our proclivities toward different spiritual paths. Diversity is the spice of life and I do not believe there is a one spirituality that fits all. We are all different. We have different likes and dislikes, different taste in food, music, culture, and enjoy different places to visit more so than other tourist destination. We also find that we enjoy some spiritual practices more so than other spiritual practices. For instance, if you are and adult that struggles with attention deficit disorder, contemplative prayer is not going to work very well for you. Matter of fact, if you have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity or Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD) and try contemplative prayer or meditation it is possible that you will feel like a failure because it is next to impossible for you to focus or you will end up hating it and throw out all prayer as a result. The labyrinth is a perfect prayer tool for people with ADD or ADHD because the labyrinth gives you something to do while praying. It allows you to walk, to follow a simple path into the center and the same simple path out again. Because the path crosses back and forth and you have to focus on where you are walking it becomes easy for those with ADD, ADHD, high anxiety and stress to relax and let go of their brain’s demands and chatter. If the walker does not let go it is possible to misstep and lose one’s orientation and not be sure if you are coming or going which is a great metaphor for life. The nice part about using the labyrinth as a walking meditation is that the labyrinth is very forgiving. If the walker feels too disorientated, he or she can just exit and start all over again.

The ability to exit and start over again is a very graceful gift that we do not give ourselves permission to do very often in our daily life. Often we are taught once we start something we must finish it, not matter what. As a result, as we age we start less and less because we don’t want to waste our time doing something in case we don’t like it. I find it strange how we box ourselves in like that. It would be more gracious, if we gave our self permission to quit something that we don’t like or that makes us feel lost or overwhelmed. The labyrinth is always gracious, always forgiving, and always permission giving. It invites you to bring YOU just as you are to the center and experience the path as YOU experience it without expectations, demands, or formulas.