Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Search for Help and Truth in the Wild

One of my most favorite places is the labyrinth at Florida School of Massage in Gainesville.  Tucked in the back of the school's grounds, it is a special spot with an entrance flanked by two Buddhist monk looking statues.  It is my usual practice to gaze softly upon these two statues in search of the "message" for this trip into the labyrinth.  Today the words were "Search for help and truth".

And so I stepped under the arch, and began making my way toward the center.

But, as is often the case in summer time, the labyrinth path was overgrown with long grass, and weeds, and remnants of a thunderstorm or two having dropped small branches.  There was nothing impeding my progress along the path... except for my noticing its unkempt nature.

Odd to think of an "unkempt nature" in a natural setting such as this labyrinth! 

It seemed appropriate that the path would be a bit wild, especially as I heard the squeals of peacocks over the cicadas in the neighboring Paynes Prairie.   It also was fitting that the more I sensed myself moving toward the center, the sooner I saw myself traveling in what seemed like a distance away from the heart of the labyrinth and my ultimate destination.

As I walked, carefully minding my steps, I considered how much this journey felt like a parallel to my present walk with God.   Things have been feeling wild.  The path has seemed crowded.  And the more I feel myself traveling toward God, the farther I seem to be from that heart center.

I know this is a common experience for many who have walked this walk.  Doesn't make it any more pleasant or easier for me!

When I finally reached the center, I stood still and took in the sky above me.  Clouds were gathering, though it didn't seem as though it was going to rain any time soon.  I waited.  Certainly the answer to "search for help and truth" would now become clear to me.

Instead, what became clear was that I had ants gathering on my sandals and they were biting my feet!

So, out I went, journeying back out of the labyrinth and wondering,
"What the heck was that about?"   And an answer started forming with each footstep.
I had been feeling very comfortable being back in Gainesville.  The purpose of my trip was PFLAG business, and I met two of the people attempting to start a PFLAG chapter in their city.  We had a great luncheon meeting, and I have high hopes for that chapter succeeding!  Being with these folks, having been back on the grounds of FSM, seeing some of my old familiar haunts gave me a very warm and homey feeling.  It was how I imagine a baby must feel in the womb.  I felt cradled in the comfort of memories of the profound personal changes that occurred during my months living there in Gainesville, going to massage therapy school.  If I had had my way, I would have hung out in the center of that labyrinth and refused to leave.

So the ants made sure I didn't do that!

Which brought me back to what feels like the answer to my meditation with the statues.   I can seek help from going to the heart of the labyrinth, and the truth requires me to not hang out too long there but to keep moving.  The same with God.  The help and the truth is both near to me and far removed.   I am allowed time to take it in.  As long as I don't stand still but keep moving, I will be OK.
 To punctuate the moment at the end of this trip through the labyrinth, I felt the wind pick up as I stood before the statues.  The phrase "the wind is at your back" immediately surfaced.  It's part of an Irish blessing:

May the road rise to meet you

May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall softly upon your fields.

And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Another informative trip through that amazing labyrinth!


NM+ said...

At one time in my ministry i was intent on providing the labyrinth experience to as many as possible. It is an amazingly useful tool to help us open to God. There is something about giving our bodies something to do that allows our heart to open in spite of ourselves. Glad you had an encounter with your wisdom within.

frdougal said...

I find the labyrinth very good as a meditation tool. I 1st walked the one in Grace Cathedral San Francisco and there is a wonderful one on the Edinburgh University campus in George Square. come Saturday, we'll have one in the back garden here at Emmaus house!

SCG said...

NM+: Thanks! It's Centering Prayer in motion.

frdougal: That is wonderful news about Emmaus house! The labyrinth at FSM in Gainesville has been very helpful to me many, many times and I imagine the one at Emmaus will be as helpful to others on whatever journey they're traveling.

Anonymous said...

We have a labyrinth at Christ Church, Exeter. I should walk it some time, after reading your piece Susan and the replies from your friends.