Many years ago, when my husband and I were preparing to take our first long trip together (which happened to be our honeymoon), I (re)discovered that not everyone prepares for travel the same way. At the time, he operated on the theory that there was no need to start packing until a half-hour before we got in the car to drive to the airport. Since security was pretty much a non-issue in those days – remember?, that was pretty close to the actual moment of taxiing down the runway and lifting off. I, on the other hand, began the process at least three weeks in advance, being sure I had everything on my list that I might possibly need, all washed and carefully rolled with tissue, having sorted and matched outfits so that everything went with everything else. I suspect we were closer to a divorce than I realized by the time we actually got to the airport because – for those same three weeks – I had been reminding my soon-to-be spouse pretty close to every hour on the hour that he wasn’t packed yet.
We got married at the end of July and I had planned accordingly…unfortunately. Because we flew into the coldest summer in French memory. Fortunately, my newly-minted husband had (in spite of my rolled eyes at his last minute grabbing of an assortment of clothes from the closet — just any old clothes that happened to be there) packed two sweaters. One of which I wore – even to bed some nights – for the first three weeks of the trip.
We are journeying (always). At the moment, we are getting closer to the threshold of the new season, to a place of passing through, of crossing over, of entering a new space. At the same time, I am starting to pack my bags for a literal journey. Anticipating what I might need – especially passing from one geographical weather pattern into another – is a challenge. My guess is that a thoughtful look at how we pack for our journey(s) – inner and outer – provides an intriguing insight into our fears and our willingness to take risks.
Walking meditation is a particularly fruitful practice of being present to where we are right now. Each step is a chance to focus on ‘here’ as in, “I am here.”
As we take this symbolic journey, we often open to the baggage we are carrying. Sometimes this is a load of burdens. Sometimes it is a precious awareness. Sometimes we travel lightly, able to dance across the ground; other times each step is an exercise in finding the energy to shuffle (or crawl, or scramble) one more inch.
This week, I invite you to notice how you journey right now in this particular moment of time. If you know where there is a labyrinth near you, you may want to walk that path (or roll it in a wheelchair). If you don’t have access to a labyrinth, I invite you to use a finger labyrinth. You can find two different labyrinths at http://labyrinthsociety.org/download-a-labyrinth One is a classical, seven-circuit labyrinth (similar to the one pictured to the left); the second is the labyrinth from Chartres Cathedral. The labyrinth society also has a virtual labyrinth walk (http://labyrinthsociety.org/virtual-labyrinth-walk) if you prefer that.
The use of labyrinths has a long sacred history in many different religious traditions, but if you would prefer not to use a labyrinth at all, you can simply (although it is anything but simple in practice –) walk mindfully for 15 minutes.
Here are some suggestions that might help:
Labyrinths are paths for walking meditation. They are not a maze; there is only one path in and the same path out, so you will begin and end in the same place. It is customary to walk them in silence. There may be others in the labyrinth when you arrive. You do not need to wait for them to finish. However, since you will likely be moving at difference paces, and one of you may be moving toward the center as the other(s) are returning from the center, it will be necessary for one person to step off the path to allow the other to pass.
It is traditional to pause before entering and say a prayer of intention or form a question or concern in your own mind and heart. At the center, you may want to pause again and say a prayer for enlightenment, or leave your concern, or receive a blessing or a commission; you may stay in the center as long as you wish. As you exit, you may want to say a brief word of thanksgiving.
If you are not using a labyrinth:
Walking meditation is a common practice in most religious traditions. It is a way of tapping into the body’s inherent wisdom and helps us be intentionally present in each moment. Simply walk whatever patterns through the space feel right to you. It is helpful to choose a location that is not hyper-active or noisy.
As you walk, simply be attentive to the feel of the floor or earth under your feet, the shift of your weight as you place your heel down and then roll through your foot and push off with your toes to take the next step. It takes a little practice to get used to thinking about walking again because, as adults, we tend to do it automatically. Carry your question or intention and allow enlightenment to rise as it will from deep within your body.
Before you begin, pause and allow yourself to focus:
Close your eyes for a moment, or use the flame of the candle as a focus point to help your mind be still. Become aware of your breathing and allow it to be slow and deep. When you feel centered and calm, open your heart to the threshold you are crossing in your own life right now.
Invite clarity and direction for your next steps. Allow the labyrinth or pattern you walk to offer you wisdom about the nature of your crossing – which may be straight or may take on the contours of the landscape you are in. Invite your body to reveal to you what you need to feel or know about this moment and the geography in which you move.
If you are not currently at a threshold, consider carrying the needs or hopes of someone close to you who is in transition. Or, if you have a deep intention or concern of your own, feel free to use that instead, seeking healing or hope or wisdom as you walk mindfully.
May your journey be revealing.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2013, 2011 Immram Chara, LLC
NOTE: The labyrinth is a detail from Matrix which can be seen in the Archives under My Story. The photo of the child in the garden is available by special order. Please contact me if you would like to purchase it as a card or print.