Monday, March 7, 2011

Stone Trek: Where Millions Have Gone Before

I love to travel. Perhaps it is the spirit of my maternal grandmother who, at 14 years of age, traveled alone to America from her homeland in Sweden, leaving her family behind. Mor Mor Ragnhild is a young child in this family photo.

Or my father, also a Swedish native, who left his family and homeland after college and traveled to the USA to find employment in the big world outside of Scandinavia. Both traveled by ship across the Atlantic. Both entered through Ellis Island. Both traveled alone with few possessions. Both were here for many years before returning to visit their homeland. Both communicated primarily by written word with their loved ones thousands of miles away.

In today’s world we can communicate instantaneously with email and Skype. We don’t wait weeks or months for news to arrive. Letter writing, especially handwritten correspondence, is no longer the norm, but an artform. Only the imagination and fleeting memory recalls those times. I keep a cache of beloved correspondence, handwritten and yellowed on thin, almost transparent airmail stationery, written mostly in Swedish, that formed the lifeline, the umbilical cord of communication with the extended family, now mostly deceased. I can’t read the letters, but I can hold them and feel the love that was longingly tendered therein.

My inherited love for exploration of new places, communities and ways of life fuels my fascination with the ancient labyrinth symbol. Thousands of years old, embraced by widely diverse societies, this ancient symbol holds such mystery and intrigue. Traveling to and setting my feet or tracing my fingers along paths that have been traversed by people hundreds or thousands of years before me is awe inspiring. The mystical question remains open to theory and speculation, “Why?” Why were the ancient ones drawn to this form and why are we now returning, drawn once more to this ancient form? Is it an umbilical cord of Spirit? These are meander paths that bring us to our deepest wisdom, self-awareness and insight, if we allow ourselves to tread there.

Whether sliding my feet along the worn-smooth stones of the medieval cathedral labyrinths, or

tracing my fingers in circular labyrinth paths carved on boulders four thousand years ago, my breath is taken away. Perhaps it is this vacuum-like action that also opens my heart and inspires my soul.

Ancient wisdom still resides, be it in physical structures or in our very cells and DNA.
All are spiral in nature, stirring the whirlpool of consciousness.
Tread lightly, tread deeply, but tread nonetheless.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Early Encounters of the Labyrinth Kind

Labyrinths and mazes have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. As a child, this fascination was in the form of playful challenges and games. I remember while visiting the dentist office I would hurriedly page through the Highlights for Children magazine to the maze page, hoping that some previous patient hadn’t already completed the challenge. I still have the labyrinth game I received at age 12. It was the only desire on my birthday wish list that year and it occupied many hours of my time as a young girl.

As an adult, when I began studying peacekeeping, spirituality and mediation, I was led to encounter the labyrinth in a new way, this time not for games, but as a tool to support spiritual exploration and self-awareness.

My first encounter on a canvas labyrinth was far from pleasant, but the result was life changing. I walked a large 36 foot canvas labyrinth, similar to the above photo, as part of a breakout workshop at a national church convention.

There were 30 or more people walking this labyrinth at the same time, and I was fully occupied by trying not to lose my place on the path amidst the crowd. So much so that I was entirely unable to release that anxiety and breathe into a contemplative mindset. I was so relieved by finally reaching the center that I felt exhausted. Yet, as I stood in the center, I observed others on the labyrinth path who appeared joyful, tearful or otherwise immersed in a deep prayerful experience. Captivated by the observance that this labyrinth encounter offered the potential for much depth in human spiritual experience, I returned to the labyrinth room later when no one else was walking. There, by myself, I could explore the mystical meandering path with a calm heart and spirit. Inspired, I returned to the labyrinth several times during the conference week. Each time my labyrinth encounter was different. It became a quiet refuge from the busy conference setting.

Intrigued, I returned home and began to research labyrinths. I mowed my first labyrinth two weeks later into a clearing on our five acre property. This labyrinth lasted through the winter. These early days were the first steps on a journey of delight. As I worked with the labyrinth form, I re-connected with my creativity in a way that was integrated with my spiritual path. The journey served me through periods of grief and personal challenges as well as joyful celebrations.

While I define my childhood fascination being related more to puzzle mazes, I was delighted to revisit the Highlights magazine in October 2004 to discover an article on labyrinths. See

It teaches children the same method for drawing a pattern as I explored in my early research, and suggests walking the labyrinth to think through a problem, relax before a test or sports match, calm down when angry or cheer up when feeling sad. I am encouraged by the thought that children of today will grow up learning about the labyrinth not just as a game, but also as a process to experience and embrace life.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Standing at the Blogosphere Threshold

Somewhat reluctantly, I am jumping on the blogwagon. I resist most activities that require me to sit at a computer when I could be creating art or labyrinths or petting the cat. In some ways, I think too many experiences of a sibling reading my childhood diary or eavesdropping on a teenage phone call have made me protective of my thoughts and disinclined to journal, be it on paper or at a keyboard. However, in the interest of sharing more of myself and my work, I am stepping out or stepping in to the blogosphere. My intention is to explore the questions regarding labyrinths, why here and why now?

In my discussions I will be using the term labyrinth in reference to the single-path patterns as opposed to multiple path puzzles more often referred to as mazes. The single-path labyrinth is most commonly used in contemporary society as a tool for stress reduction, calming, balancing and escaping the frenzy of the world we live in. On my website,, I offer these words:

Labyrinth walking can provide a sense of calm that is conducive to meditation, self-exploration and prayer. Though the labyrinth is thousands of years old, these ancient patterns still speak to us today. I believe our culture is so steeped in rapid stimulation, information and technology that we are yearning for places for quiet introspection and release. Labyrinths provide that well of solace where we can go to drink deeply.

Likewise, I suppose blogging can also provide an escape or a place for introspection. Perhaps it will offer an opportunity for reflection and dialog that is unlike the brevity and instant flashes we get from Facebook, Twitter and other means of rapid-action social networking.

So, pardon my rambling as I blog my way along the labyrinth path. Step one – crossing the threshold. Breathe deeply, here I go….