Day 127 - The Labyrinth
I had a weird day yesterday...emotionally. I felt super raw and on the verge. Everything impacted me. I might have even cried at a movie clip sitting in the conference. Well, not really cried, but teared up. I also saw a young gay couple kissing on the street, pulling each other into each other’s orbit, and that made me tear up too. I am not sure what is going on.
I feel like I am on some sort of precipice. Teetering between the life I know and the one that is coming. I am not sure what that even means...but I feel it nonetheless.
I felt out of sorts and in need of some solitude so I decided to skip the formal lunch and take a walk. My friend had mentioned Grace Cathedral earlier that morning and it resonated. So I decided that is where I should walk.
It was a steep climb. Up hill the entire way. However, my body seemed to need the workout. Something inside me needing to be pushed forward and through difficulty. Grace sits atop a hill, the reward for the long walk. I am not religious so this was a somewhat odd destination for me. But I felt pulled towards. So I went.
I wandered around the grounds, choosing to take it all in before settling down to sit for awhile. I selected the interfaith Aids chapel for my respite. I allowed myself to feel the pain of all the loss. I lit a candle for all we lost to Aids. I sat quietly and breathed in the sadness, the loss, the loved ones gone too soon. I lit a candle for their families and loved ones who were left behind in this world.
I then lit a candle for us all. So that we may all be free of suffering and the root of suffering.
As I sat and watched the flames flicker, I prayed.
When I felt done, I found myself standing in front of the labyrinth, apprehensive. I felt weird and odd walking through the labyrinth. There were people sitting close by - they were going to look at me. I felt awkward that somehow walking the labyrinth would show everyone around me how much I was kind of a mess inside. I decided I didn’t care. It was more important to honor whatever force brought me there.
I took a breath and began.
I put one foot in front of the other and took decidedly careful steps so that each foot would land squarely on the path. I was methodical in my foot work so that I did not step out of line. I am not sure why now that was so important...it just was.
My head cleared a bit. I stepped my way toward the center. Contained within the maze, never lost within it but unable to maintain my footing and figure out my future steps. So I had to stay present. One foot in front of the other. My head down, carefully selecting each new step. I was there.
But minds are never quiet and things began to bubble up. My mind would push in and try to distract me with stopping and having my eyes find the route to the middle. Something within me desperate to know the destination long before arrival. I realized that that has been the whole of my life. Never content holding center and being present. Always trying to figure it all out in advance. The surprise and gift of uncertainty life brings, something to be feared and concerned about instead of amazed by.
As I neared the center, I could see that as the clearing came into view, I was relieved. Something within me needing a place to rest. Some brief respite from the heavy mantle of my mind. As I stepped into the center, I looked around. Carefully turning so that I could view my surroundings more carefully. I realized that this was also metaphorical. I was in fact in the middle of my life at 50. Being granted a point of reflection. An ability to surface from my life living process long enough to assess myself and my surroundings. Seemed that I lacked the proper evaluation tools. I felt like I was more like a turtle coming up for air than a person, being granted a reprieve. My surfacing in the middle chamber of the labyrinth more of a desperate breath than a reflective pause.
I looked back over my steps that lead me there. I realized how very much I had missed along the way, both on the labyrinth and in my life. How much I kept my head down and forgot to look around. So fearful to step out of line. So attentive to the path’s next destination that I forgot to enjoy the view.
I spent some time turning myself around, literally centered in myself as well as the labyrinth. I wondered how long my path back to the beginning would be. Would my steps carry me there more quickly, would I take the same amount of time to return? Would I take my time and delay?
I saw the maze as my life. Cognizant of the fact that I will begin and end from the same place. Before we are born, we come from some other place that, though many have tried, no one can really describe where the life force comes from, no more than we can describe where the life force goes when it leaves. However, I was very aware that my beginning and ending occurring from the same universal point.
My immediate next thought was how futile the journey to walk the path for years only to wind up back where you started. A hollowness took me over and I felt so lost. Lost within the life that I have, the one that I have wasted, and never really appreciated. The life that I almost threw away. The life that I often feel disconnected from, lost in its daily tasks, requests and demands.
But as thoughts always do, my mind shifted and so my thoughts did too. I realized that we were all walking our own personal labyrinth. Perhaps that is a perfect metaphor for life. We can stop on the path and not move forward because we are trying to figure it out. Delaying what comes next because we are only content with whatever comes if we can ascertain it before it arrives. Fear begetting fear as only the unknown can. Or we can allow our footsteps to guide us forward knowing that no matter how long we tarry on any section of the path, the conclusion never changed. We may be able to delay our return to the beginning, but never will we avoid it.
I was then overcome with a desperate desire to leave the path and just walk out of the entanglement. I could do that, there were no walls or obstacles keeping me in place. I stood in the center of myself and was overwhelmed with a desire to leave. The intensity of the desire made me take notice, being prone to strong desires to remove myself from my current circumstances. Instead, I chose to remain. Standing still in the center of the web. Noticing that the people were gone and I was alone.
I felt something. A feeling of ownership. A feeling of agency over myself that was new and budding. The life labyrinth mine and only mine. I noticed that we all walk a path that is ours alone. While many can join us for the journey, birth and death uniquely our own. What came to me next made perfect sense. Since the beginning and ending were the same and solitary sojourns, perhaps that is why we all feel such a strong desire to connect while we are here. The time spent inside the maze of life our best opportunity to love and care and connect with others before we return to the solitariness of stardust or whatever encompasses us before we arrive in our skin and after we take our leave from these bodily vessels.
I realized that all of the things that I was fearful of, it was connection most of all. As if being close to others was the most risky thing I could do. I saw that the whole of my life had been spent attempting a superficial link to what was really my life’s purpose. To walk the path towards myself daily and then return to the world where I am to do my good. The interconnectedness of us all the challenge and the gift. My participation optional only in my own mind. Any failure to be present and available to others an opportunity missed, a life shortened.
When it was time, I began my journey back out into the world. While nothing had really changed in my time within the coil, everything had changed. I did not fear my departure instead grateful for the time I spent within. No longer fearing to walk there, treading my interiority something to be appreciated and valued.
As I neared my beginning, I realized that my valuation of myself never right sized. Always too little or too much. Always a show for others, my interior structure dependent on exterior shoring up. I didn’t vow to change that, I just accepted it as true. Realizing that perhaps that is the purpose in one’s life, to walk a true path, with integrity, love and commitment. To walk a path with heart not to prove our worth to others, but to prove it to ourselves.
As I exited my circuitous path, I turned and reviewed where I had been. The noon time sun casting a shadow over one half of the maze. One part in full sun, the other in full shade. It made me laugh. Of course the light and dark were perfectly balanced. Could it really be any other way? The darkness needing the light as much as the lightness needs the black.
Somehow it all made sense to me, even though no answers were provided to the questions I contained. I just knew the method for resolution. To go within, not to hide from my life, or to avoid the dark, to wait it out until the light returns but to own it as my own and value the gift of the entire journey. Seeing that there is a balance without and also within. Knowing, that one day I will return to where I came from, wanting to ensure that whatever legacy I leave behind authentic, true and loving. The only way in which I can do that, to be willing to go within.