Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walking The Path

I have recently become an “empty nester.” My daughter moved to an apartment close to her college in Chicago – close enough for easy visiting but far enough to not be at home. My feelings about this are mixed. I feel loss and sadness that she is not in my everyday life, while at the same time excitement and anticipation of the freedom that being an empty nester implies. What will I do with my extra time? What is important to me? My first answer is “Finish The Book” – how long have I been working on this now? I’m not sure what comes after that.

Life gives us many opportunities for growth and change. With those opportunities comes finding our answers. Luna Sung, a master’s level practicum student from Northwestern University has written an article on one way to find our answers, “Walking the Path”. I hope it inspires you to seek out a quiet meditative way to find the answers to the questions in your life.

Amy Grabowski
Walking the Path

Have you ever walked through a labyrinth? I wasn’t quite sure myself what it was about until a month ago, when I had the opportunity to attend a training at a wellness center. In addition to the more “typical” and expected offerings (i.e., complementary therapy and meditation rooms, spa facilities, manmade waterfalls, bamboo gardens, gluten-free cookies), there was also a large outdoor labyrinth for guests to use during their stay. Sitting on a bench before it, I noted how visually soothing it was – curved paths of neutral-hued stones arranged in a harmonious circular shape. The sun was going down on a long, hot day and the trees were beginning to darken against the sky; all was quiet but for the evening hum of cicadas.

Though initially skeptical (a bit New Age-y for me?), I nevertheless felt drawn to this ancient symbol and meditation tool. It
looked mysterious and powerful, somehow, as if it might hold a secret or an answer. I had been struggling with a personal issue that seemed to have no resolution no matter how many times I turned it over in my mind. So it was with a curious but (admittedly) facetious attitude that I began this walk. What did I have to lose? Perhaps the ground would open up and this magical labyrinth would provide me with some much-needed guidance.

A labyrinth isn’t complicated in design – at least, this one wasn’t. There was one entrance, one exit, and the only task was to walk the path. I purposely did not look around me or try to guess where the path was leading; I focused on my breath and tried to stay as present and aware as possible. Normally a fast walker, I deliberately took slow, careful steps. I noticed the thoughts that almost immediately came up – and there were many – “what ifs,” “shoulds,” and feelings of doubt, guilt, fear, self-judgment, and confusion as I wondered for the 400th time what I should do.

But as I continued placing one foot in front of the other, I gradually began to notice the pleasure of silence (well, except for those cicadas) and solitude. I actually enjoyed moving slowly and concentrating on nothing but taking steps. I looked down and saw how pretty the rocks were in their infinite variety – not neutral at all, but some gray, pink, orange, burnt umber, ivory, white, yellow, and all shapes and sizes. I looked around and appreciated the chance to see and breathe in the magnificent woods. And while a labyrinth is perhaps an obvious metaphor for life’s journey, I was surprised by how suddenly it struck me as such. I started reflecting more deeply upon the last few years – my educational journey, which brought me to The Awakening Center, and my journey toward personal growth – to a greater understanding of heart and mind. It sounds trite on paper, doesn’t it? But the act of walking the path and focusing on the present moment more fully showed me that I had nowhere to go, nowhere to be, but exactly where I was. I suppose I could have cheated and stepped over those boundaries of stones, but even then, would I have found the exit so easily? (Not with my sense of direction, I’m afraid.)

During my week of training at the wellness center, I stayed at a small inn that provided shuttle service around the area. I became friendly with the driver, who casually said something I found very wise: “You’ve gotta get lost before you can find what you’re looking for.” And it seemed that the meandering path of the labyrinth was a pretty evocative metaphor for the desires, conflicts, and longing for answers that we all experience at some point. Life is not linear, after all; I cannot foresee the future, and I can only plan so much. We’re familiar with that John Lennon lyric:
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. And yet the path does lead to a definite place. As my thoughts became less gripped by anxiety and fear, I noticed that the rocks on the ground suddenly seemed to be larger, more colorful. The cicadas were growing louder. Was it always so, and I just hadn’t noticed? And then suddenly, without any warning at all, I had come to the center of the labyrinth. At the center was a large stone, upon which other “travelers” had placed smaller stones, almost like markers, or perhaps they were wishes. I placed my own stone on top. And then there was nothing more to do but slowly find my way back out.

Luna Sung

Luna leads the GO! Generating Opportunities for Successful Employment group on Tuesday afternoons at The Awakening Center. This group is for those who are job hunting and who want a supportive group setting to stay motivated. Call Luna at (773) 929-6262 x12 for more info.

1 comment:

  1. I had the opportunity to walk a Labyrinth while on vacation in Denver. What a beautiful experience! You would never know how peaceful such a simple activity could be!