December 6, 2010

Mazes and Spirituality.

Don’t Let your Ego Fool You.

To observe and draw the benefits of the full moon this past October, I participated in a nighttime labyrinth walk at a local retreat center this past weekend. I’ve been visiting the center weekly as part of my silent sitting meditation practice, and was excited to utilize this walking form of meditation. Although the bright moon was concealed by hazy clouds, we still had enough light to follow the winding path of the labyrinth, and the group was peaceful and prayerful. Sister Margaret, our leader and coordinator shared that the labyrinth can be a representation of one’s life path to the “center,” whatever that center means to a person. We so often look “up” for the Divine, but the labyrinth teaches us that our path with God is horizontal, and each step is really an opportunity to be in the center in that present moment. In the labyrinth, there are no dead ends, so one can truly focus on each step rather than looking ahead to plan which turn to take. The path of the labyrinth, like the path of life, does wind and change direction but our purpose is to keep walking it with faith.

Sister Margaret began with an invocation of the gifts of God in the four directions. East for new beginnings of the Divine light rising in our heart, Southern summer with its light heartedness and joy, courage from the West, and serenity and faith through the dark winter of the North. It was a beautiful invocation and brought me to a focus of these gifts each time I turned to face a new direction in the labyrinth. Since October claims the “harvest moon,” we were also invited to meditate on what that meant in our lives. “Fruits” of the harvest came to my mind and I used the fruits of the Spirit as my mantra.

Galatians 5:22, 23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

As we walked, we enjoyed the sounds of nature, trains in the distance, and the far-off voices of a group gathered around a bonfire on the grounds of the center. Later in our walk, the bonfire group began to disperse and their path back to the dorm building led them right past the labyrinth. The group was filled with children, and the joyful laughter of s’mores filled tweens and wailing of over-tired tots flooded our sound space. Adults talked loudly about the “meditators” and some spoke spiritedly in different languages. The “distractions” became less that and instead a part of the experience, and I prayed to be filled with the fruits of the Spirit to watch and guide my reactions.

The purpose of the experience of the passing people became very apparent to me when one child began screaming with excitement about “the maze.” “Are you doing the maze!?” She shouted to us. “I can do it! It’s easy to get to the center!” Although I kept my gaze focused down, I smiled as I imagined her running toward the labyrinth (as a panicked adult voice started yelling, “Stay away from there!”) As we had spoken earlier of the labyrinth representing the path of life, my first “thought” regarding this girl’s vocalization was, “Kid you are gonna get a rude awakening. The path isn’t so easy.”

Yuck ego, yuck!

Good thing God was right there to soften my egoic pessimism, and like a bolt of light through the darkness I remembered Jesus words in Matthew 18:3“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” And in Matthew 19:14“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” The little screamer had it right. It is easy to get to the center if we simply look through a clear lens—the purity of an unblemished ego and naïve inexperience of a child. Innocent childlike faith and the knowing hope of salvation fade so quickly via the lens fogging experiences of life and aging. The peace, the center we seek as “wise” adults is rooted in the fresh understanding of inner divinity that children are so close to.

While our little guru acknowledged the simplicity of the process, she also offered an example of “lens coloring,” naming the path as a maze vs. a labyrinth. The Creator isn’t out to trick us in a maze. Though it may twist and turn, our path is laid perfectly, with no dead ends, no forks in the road, no decisions…as long as we hold the pure faith, trust, and devotion of that truth. This perfect ease doesn’t sound like any life I’ve ever encountered! Life becomes a maze via the influences of sin, Satan, ego, attachments, aversions, and all of the positive and negative experiences and energies that fog our clarity. When our labyrinth becomes confused and cloudy, we bump against walls (over and over and over again…), trip and fall, stumble backwards, or get completely turned around. But the path is still there, laid out and marked and waiting until we are ready to see it. And in my life, that’s one of the purposes of a meditation practice: to clear the lens and trust the path.

With the fruits of the Spirit in my heart and a kid sized set of specs to see, I was pretty much fully enlightened as I walked back to my car in the dim moonlight….but as I pulled out of the parking lot I began to bump into the walls again as I started right into rumination about the next day’s food and exercise, and then that jackass cut me off at the stop sign, and UGH I have to empty the dishwasher when I get home…sigh. I pile up my rocks, trip and fall over them, and then cry at my skinned knees. And then I get up and start the mantra over. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fog clears for a bit and I steady myself…seing the path in front of me…moving one step at a time toward a center that really exists in each step itself and continuing the practice until the path is rock/fog/dishwasher free and I walk endlessly in bliss.

What’s your path today…a manic maze or a mindful labyrinth?

Thank you for Maniac World for the featured image.

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