The quiet of peace floats through the air. A beautiful labyrinth before me. Bare feet on the cold ground. A deep inhale and a gentle closing of the eyes. Where there was once mind chatter, there is now a settling. As the eyes slowly open, a deep inhale starts pulling up the energy from the Earth to settle in the gut. One thing rises to the mind.
As we enter into the month of November, this is the beginning of the hectic holiday season. Amidst the chaos of seeing family members, going to social events, we extend ourselves outward in order to connect with others. Some may feel drained, others may thrive on this chaos. In the Chinese culture, the written symbol for chaos means both danger and opportunity. There is a danger of extending ourselves too far outward, and depleting ourselves in order to make others happy. But there is also an opportunity to thrive in this same situation as well. Going to labyrinth walks is how I find my center, it’s how I “refill the cup” so to speak. It’s for my quiet and my peace of mind that empowers me to want to do a walking meditation. For me, since I find this opportunity to find peace, I choose to focus on the gratitude this holiday season brings up. The family (both blood and chosen) I have not seen in a long time, the food I get to eat, the good memories shared – all of this mulls through my mind as I walk through the labyrinth. I may not always have the opportunity to go, but sometimes I find myself slipping back to the labyrinth in my mind whenever I need a break to recharge.
What is a labyrinth walk, you say? For more information about labyrinths (in case this concept is new) then visit this wonderful and beautifully written blog post by my friend Irene Glasse who hosts once monthly labyrinth walks in Frederick, MD at the UU Church. One of the reasons why I love labyrinths is because it’s a simple walking meditation to get me out of my head. I admit I tend to have a lot of things going on in my head at once, but it’s good practice to empty them. Emptying/Releasing them helps clear the pressure, because thoughts carry energetic weight. There is only one path in and one path out with a labyrinth. Unlike a maze, I can just let my feet follow the path, and allow myself to be in my body and appreciate the thoughts of gratitude that surface. If there is a bad thought or a negative thought, I slide it aside and replace it with something I am grateful for. This helps empty my head, and it helps fill my heart with joy.
I tend to bring my son to labyrinth walks because he gets so much enjoyment out of them. I have taught him how to walk labyrinths as well as polite etiquette while walking the narrow rings (see post if unfamiliar) at an early age. Now that he is older and more connected with his spiritual guidance, the insight he comes out of the labyrinth with is very powerful. There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Often times when walking with Little Bear, I find myself either being an airplane or a dinosaur stomping the labyrinth. It works for him because I spend that time being on his level and we laugh together. This brings forth more gratitude. Gratitude that I can raise him in a way that does not squish his curiosity. He is allowed to be himself in these situations, and I’m not trying to force him into a mold.
If I happen to go to a labyrinth walk by myself, and I have trouble connecting because of a particularly stressful day, or stressful month (which has happened before) then I turn to the help of aromatherapy. I don’t need as much help as I did when I first started, but it still helps shift my thinking from my head to my heart. When we breathe in different scents, they connect to the olfactory nerve, which is connected to the amygdala. The amygdala is the control center in the brain that’s responsible for emotions. It can control things such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and so many other autonomic body functions. I tend to use essential oils more frequently, but nothing beats labyrinth walk with a garland freshly made of picked flowers or pine branches. I tend to go more for the “grounding” scents. When I don’t have the time to go pick flowers or grab a fresh branch off a cedar tree, I tend to go for cinnamon, cypress, cassia, arborvitae, paolo santo, white fir, or douglas fir. I love speaking to the spirit that is behind the essence of these scents, and I love the way putting a drop in your hands and inhaling deeply can change your focus within seconds so you can get a deeper experience. Working with plants has been a passion of mine, and I love being able to share the therapeutic benefits whenever I can.
For now, I breathe this crisp autumn air and await the next time I get to enact on walking the labyrinth again. For now I walk it in my head filling myself with gratitude for the blessings in my life, but I long for my feet to walk it in order to solidify my practice.
If you are interested in coming to the next labyrinth walk in Frederick, MD – follow this link and I will see you there 🙂