Newsletter #7

It’s been a while since the last Forest Labyrinth dispatch. I have a very personal labyrinth story to share below, but first a few updates:

Today, Sep 21, is the United Nations International Day of Peace, established in 1981 to provide a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace. What action, large or small, can you take today to promote peace in some way?

Tomorrow, Sep 22, is the Autumnal Equinox, when the sun is exactly above the equator and length of day and night equal as the earth progresses its march around the sun and the northern hemisphere begins tilting away from our star. Here, near Owen Sound, the time of Equinox will be 3:22PM

Why not combine the two and walk a labyrinth near you sometime this week in the name of peace? Peace really needs your help more than ever. Where to find one: use the Ontario or Worldwide labyrinth locator web sites. If you might like a mantra for your labyrinth walk, here’s one suggestion:

Sarveshaam Svaastir Bhavatu

Saveshaam Poornam Bhavatu

Sarveshaam Mangalam Bhavatu

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanteeh

You can find a literal translation (and more on pronunciation guidance) by doing a search but essentially the mantra means: may there be happiness, peace, success, and completeness in all. A pretty fine notion at this particular time.

I’ve recently updated the labyrinth centre to integrate a rosette, as a nod to the Medieval Chartres origins of the Forest Labyrinth pattern. The six petals of the Chartres-style rosette have several interpretations. A common one is the six realms/kingdoms of existence: mineral, plant, animal, human, angelic, divine. For more see Tony Christie’s book Labyrinth: Your Path to Self-Discovery.

You will also notice a new spherical in the centre of the Centre.  I won’t attempt to describe or label it other than to say I find it intriguing and contemplative, and when I came across it I knew immediately the Forest Labyrinth Centre was the right home for it.

There is no one way to walk a labyrinth but a general guide is sometimes said to be the 4 R’s:

  • RECALL what brought you to the labyrinth on this particular visit
  • As you walk in, RELEASE the details and distractions of the day
  • At centre, pause and RECEIVE whatever there is to find, learn or unfold
  • On the way out, RECONNECT with the outer world to integrate your experience

I hope the additions will cultivate curiosity and awareness at Centre. Eventually, I’ll add cedar wood chips outside the rosette and (thanks to suggestion from a frequent user) some sort of stump stools in the 4 corners for those who wish to rest or linger before walking back out.

Why the Labyrinth Feeds (and Unites) my Soul

My daughter turned 25 at the end of August. That kind of milestone birthday sneaks up on you as a parent and, along with her moving from Halifax to Vancouver a couple days later, reminds me she has fully launched on to her own life, and into her own being. I smile at the pieces of me, and us, she takes along on her journey.

I also took it as occasion to update what I plainly refer to as the “Death Docs”, a collection of instructions and lists to help her know what actions to take when I die or if I become critically disabled by illness or injury. I have seen and known of people who had to navigate the loss of a loved one with nothing to go on, and didn’t want Meredith to find herself in that situation. I pulled together a basic first version after she turned 18 and it has had a couple further iterations, plus the addition of a proper will, etc, in the years since.

It’s not just a collection of pragmatic guidance and information sitting in computer files. In 2018 I started what I call a “Master Journal”. Written in my own hand, it’s my attempt to distill some of the more notable insights and learning that have offered themselves to me thus far in life (at least those I was aware enough to take note of, no doubt many I have missed but such as these things are they’ll likely recycle to present themselves in another form). It is a humbling exercise to go through one’s journals, musings, workshop notes, etc, and assess what in all those many ponderings actually “counts”; what has endured vs what has escaped application. And to see how many themes repeat themselves.

A part of the Death Docs I never got to until this year’s update was to create a list of “valued items”. I mean, of course, not monetary value but of value to my soul. I try not to accumulate a lot of things (living in a small home is helpful for that!) but, for what Meredith would find after I have dropped the physical body, I wanted to tell some of the stories and provide context so she could make informed choices about what to do with these things.

One of those items is this beautiful dual finger labyrinth, an 11 circuit Chartres pattern carved into solid maple. Let me share with you some of what I wrote to her about it:

Labyrinths have been an important part of my life since first encountering one in Burlington in the late 1990s (eventually that temporary installation was replaced by the permanent one now in Central Park near Guelph Line). Labyrinths were my first experience which tied the left “rational” and right “intuitive” sides of my brain. Without encountering labyrinths I might have never have ventured onwards to explore notions and practices “out there”, which have become rich and meaningful parts of my life. Like becoming a parent, my experience with labyrinths transformed and stretched me in dimensions and directions I never would have otherwise.

I am deeply grateful that I found labyrinths (I know, I know, or did they find me?) and for their teachings. I sure never would have guessed, walking that first one in the late ‘90s, that I would find myself in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral in 2012 doing Labyrinth Facilitator Training, or that in 2019 I would spend much of my summer building one of my own in the forest.

One the entries in my Master Journal is recounting a late-found realization that it seems my path is to move through life as a “straddler”—one of those people who tend to find themselves bridging between the poles of contrasting lifestyles, notions, values, interests and such… kind of one foot here, one foot there, but rarely both feet at the far end of anything. It’s especially true when it comes to the notion of “left brain” (concrete, detail, linear, hands-on) people and “right brain” (conceptual, intuitive, possibilities, creative) people: at the far ends of the spectrum, it’s the difference between folks we describe as “feet on the ground” and those we say are “out there”. Well I’m a bit of both, and the extreme of neither. Sometimes that feels like a curse. It can also be lonely because you’re never fully part of this group or that group. But only in the past year have I come to realize it is a gift to be grateful for rather than to question.

Labyrinths tie together the pragmatic and the esoteric, and are accessible and useful to anyone regardless of where they tend to find themselves on that left-right brain spectrum. And, as a result, they also help us extend ourselves, and our souls, more broadly along that spectrum.

Warm regards from here to there,

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