Friday, April 16, 2010

How Do I Get There From Here?

This past weekend, we had our monthly chapter meeting at the local mental health center. (Yeah, I know...) No therapy, actually. We attended a workshop on labyrinths. They have one built there that is used theraputically. She discussed how some people use a mantra as they walk and how some leave items representative of their burdens in the center to walk out free. At our workshop we also talked about how we could use it for creativity. Some great ideas come while we're in the shower or driving our car. Walking the labyrinth is supposed to be a similar situation. The experience, good, bad or indifferent, is supposed to be like a metaphor for life. How you approach the labyrinth will be a lot like how you approach everything. I had no idea how true this would be until we walked out there to give it a try.

The one at the center looks like this. In reality, it was actually smaller than I anticipated. Just one person wide. There's only one way in and one way out. There was a whole group of us, so a big bunch of them headed straight in. I did not. I didn't want all those people ruining my zen experience. They might represent the 'noise' in my life, but I was willing to hang back until I could walk freely most of the time. Angel and her sister did the same. Instigator and PM jumped right in, no problem.

Personally, I found walking the labyrinth to be a challenge to focus. I chanted a mantra to myself with each step, but it was hard. There were still people coming out as I went in, so I had to step aside a few times. No one was directly ahead of me, but they were all around. I had to force myself to just stare at the ground immediately in front of me. When I reached the center, I sat, let go of my burden and stayed long enough that when I left, I was alone and free on my path. All this says a lot about my life and my writing. Here's what I learned:

1 - If you don't pay attention to where you're going, you'll get off track.
2 - I don't need to worry about what everyone else around me is doing.
3 - I am allergic to grass, yet I walked it barefoot as recommended. Most of the time, my feet were irritatingly itchy and distracting. Just like the rest of my life when I'm trying to write.
4 - Looking over at the center (my goal) and who's already reached it is not helpful.
5 - Its a long and ridiculously winding journey, but I'll never get there if I stop. I might be close, but there's no close in publishing. The only way to get there is to focus on where I am and keep taking one step after the other. That's the only way to make progress.
6 - Achieving your goal is just the beginning of the journey. You've still got a long way to go from there.

Others had good insights. PM found herself stuck in traffic and couldn't move as quickly as she wanted to because of other people. She'd think she was close to being done, then found she still had a long way to go. She ended up hurting herself while trying to accomodate others. Says more than you would ever believe about her life journey, but she learned that you just have to put one foot in front of the other because sometimes any progress is progress. PC said she realized that sometimes you do stuff, even though you don’t fully understand why, and eventually the understanding will come. Instigator learned she doesn't like having a path set out for her. She preferred walking on the stone barriers instead of the grass.

Watching the others walk was certainly educational. I saw some people practically race through it and others jump over to another row in an attempt to get done faster. (Something that could seriously backfire depending on where you are. You could set yourself backward just by being impatient. Another lesson.) What's the point of rushing through it, I ask? I heard a few of them say they realized that they have to work at their own speed, even if its different from everyone else, and without the restrictions of a pre-set course. Pantsters. :)

I heard someone else say that they were surrounded by people, yet utterly alone. Wow. Some people got frustrated and quit. Other people were a distraction to some, but welcome noise to others. Some reached their goal and walked straight out, skipping the winding path to the end. Patience is apparently not a virtue of a writer. Angel mentioned that she saw the others 'cheating' and really wanted to, but couldn't make herself bend the rules and stayed on path. Who knew you could learn so much about people just from watching them walk on grass?

Here's the five of us, having reached the center and achieved our goal! :)

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? What did you get out of it?

SP

14 comments:

Linda Winstead Jones said...

I loved walking the labyrinth! Still haven't convinced the DH that I need one of my own in the back yard.

The oddest thing for me is that we all got so quiet. We're not a quiet bunch.

Instigator said...

No, we're not a quiet bunch. But I felt the urge to talk to the people around me - passing me, behind me, in front of me. I fought the urge though because I didn't want to mess up their experience.

I really enjoyed the exercise and think I'd probably have gotten more out of it if I'd been alone. I get distracted easily. I really wish I knew of one closer to home so I could use it during the nice weather.

Instigator

Playground Monitor said...

I'd done this before -- who do you think suggested this as the HOD program :-) -- so I knew what to expect as far as the physical act of walking. I got nothing spiritually/emotionally from that first time last summer. But this time -- wow! I want to go back and walk it alone but I'm going to be more careful about those rocks along the side. They have sharp edges and my poor foot is still a smidge sore from the cut I got.

Kathy said...

Everyone around me was so serious as I was going in. I thought it was stupid to be so focused because surely this wasn't going to do anything for me. I did not take off my shoes either. But I wanted to give this a try. I wanted to get to the center so much that I rushed through making myself very dizzy (didn't help I had a horrible headache that day). In my rush, I caught up to people and couldn't get around them, because I didn't want to interrupt their mojo. I could hear cars racing down the parkway. Finally, distracted by the narrow path, the stop and go, everyone and everything else, and seeing how close others were to the center, how many had already made it out, I crossed over the lanes and walked out, extremely frustrated.

Quite a metaphor of life, don't you think? Says a lot about my non-conformist spirit, but my desire to follow the rules. Must ponder on this...

Kathy said...

Well, what I'd already written got deleted. Here goes again...

I'm a non-conformist. I liked the idea of channeling my spirit within the narrow confines of the labryinth but when I went in I discovered something hideous. I did not like walking around in circles so I tried to get the experience over with as quickly as possible. Looking up, I saw cars racing down the parkway, heard birds chirping, noticed many of my fellow writers had already reached the center and were on the way out, some were already done, some walked in and out without shoes, some took their time, and many of them got in my way. Getting dizzy (I had a horrible headache), I fought the desire to step over the lanes until I couldn't resist the sensation any longer. I retreated. Couldn't get out of there fast enough. It was as if I felt like my head was going to explode.

In the end I was angry at myself. Very frustrated that I had failed to experience the Labryinth. What does this say about me? I'm not sure. Was this a metaphor for how I live my life? How I write or view this career I want so badly? Or was I just having an off day because of my headache?

Kathy said...

And, embarrassingly enough, yahoo posted both my efforts to explain my experience. (red in face) As if one retelling wasn't frustrating enough. :(

Smarty Pants said...

Kathy - perhaps you should go back alone one afternoon and give yourself another shot. Either way, don't beat yourself up over it. Sounds like your experience was reflective of your life, just like everyone else. Perhaps that's what you should've gotten out of it...

Jean said...

I think what I learned was, if something isn't right for me, I will quit--and I don't think quitting is always a bad thing. I quite drinking sugared drinks. I quit my 8-5 job. I quit on some wedding plans that would have probably ruined my life. While walking the labyrinth, I became disoriented and frustrated. That said, it seemed to be very therapeutic for others. I think if you are looking for enlightenment or to leave behind a burden, you will find a vehicle with which to do it. I have a friend who says, in connection with her faith, "If you go to the table you will be fed." I think the labyrinth is as good a vehicle--or table--as any.

Kathy said...

I do seem to run around in circles a lot, somewhat like a dog chasing its tail. Hmmmm....

Though I'd like to think I'm not a dog...

Kathy said...

And then I looked at my post and saw the dog bone...

Sherry Werth said...

The Labyrinth was great! I didn't know what to expect so I tried to go in with an open mind. It worked. The sounds changed at different points during the walk. On one side I could hear the traffic, the other side laughter and camaraderie. The middle was quieter and I could hear the sounds of the birds and I was more conscious of my own breathing. I didn't talk..kept my head down, walked slowly, followed the path and enjoyed the experience. I'm pretty good at blocking things out, so the others rushing around didn't bother me much. The older I get the less I rush. Why rush through life? I want to enjoy every minute of it. And if I take it slow and follow the path, I will eventually get to where I want to go. :-D
Nice blog SP.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

It was an interesting experience. I blogged about mine on Monday. It's great that everybody got something out of it, even if they didn't think so at the time. Maybe at the next regular meeting, we should take a few moments to talk about the experience if we have time. :)

Maven Linda said...

I didn't notice the traffic, or any noise. I did notice how quiet we were. And I noticed, a we snaked around, how I met the same people over and over, but in different places, as if we re-connect even in different lives or different circumstances. I walked into the labyrinth with my shoes on, and walked out barefoot -- and it was much easier without my shoes, as if I had a better connection with earth and life, which told me to notice the things that were between me and what I needed to see, so I could get them out of the way. I thought that happiness isn't a big dramatic thing, it's the small, quiet things. I thought how beautiful the day was.

I'm with LJ. I want a labyrinth.

Problem Child said...

Ah, what does it say about me, though, that I go through the motions and hope for enlightenment...

~sigh~