Yoga Labyrinth Walk

On a lovely late summer day, the Yoga classes from PCI and Toula Yoga, led by Lisa Hanigan and Cyndy Logue, picnicked and walked the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth. After I shared a brief introduction and overview of labyrinths, each woman began her walk. Each rang the portal bell and started her journey as I held space. Some were hesitant until they realized the path was clear.  Others boldly set out.  Energy built as they connected with themselves and the labyrinth.
Before the women walked I had opened the space and measured the energy which was low.  Toward the end and after all had left the labyrinth, I measured the energy again before closing the labyrinth.  The rods whirled over 200 times!  Interesting to me was that the dowsing rods responded differently as the women moved through and out of the labyrinth, sometimes swinging slowly and other times quickly.

The pilgrims were quiet as they rang the bell and left the labyrinth, then on the porch steps, they began to chat as they worked finger labyrinths.

Following are some observations and pictures from our day.

Wendy, who has been strong for a sister with health concerns, experienced “spontaneous tears that stopped when I left the labyrinth.” Barb felt a “tranquility I don’t’ find in my ordinary day.”  Lisa had a “deep connection with nature” and Rose Mary added to that observation remarking on the “warm peace with all.” One pilgrim simply gave a big hug as she left with tears in her eyes. Another gently stroked plants with the turkey feather as she moved along each section of the path. Each expressed gratitude for the experience.

Cyndy penned, “My experience today was very different from the first walk in Muscatine. As I reflect back on the first walk, I think I felt such intense energy that day because that is what I needed.  I had given so much of my energy away, both mentally, physically and emotionally, that I needed to recharge. I needed to trust my own intuition.  It was about taking time for me, meeting new people and hearing their story.  “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” (Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr)
“Today’s walk was about connecting with nature and being present.  Taking time to notice: the ants, bees, flowers and emerging cicadas adhered to the side of the bench. It was about feeling the breeze and warmth of the sun, and just being in that moment and enjoying it.  It was also about sharing the gift of this experience with others. “In the end, you always go back to the people that were there in the beginning.” This is so fitting for me, as my personal journey began in Lisa’s yoga class and has grown exponentially.  I learn new things about myself daily.  “The only journey is the journey within.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)
“Today the two yoga groups became one in spirit.  I’m thankful every day for the wonderful souls I’ve met on my journey of life!
“Thank you for another great adventure!”

Pilgrimage to Muscatine Labyrinth

Sometimes the experiences that yield the greatest learning are the ones that don’t follow our expectations and desires.  A group of labyrinth enthusiasts joined me on a pilgrimage to the Muscatine Labyrinth in the Arboretum on Harmony Lane. Tucked into the “elbow” of Hwy 61 on the northwest corner of Muscatine, this Arboretum with its well-crafted labyrinth is a true gem. My first experience there on July 31st was simply magical.  And, I wanted to share this with others.

So a small group of us headed out to Muscatine on Sunday, August 13th.  A mild day. I-380 to Hwy 218 to IA 22 East flows into Cedar St. to Houser St. to Harmony Lane.  What a great name!

The Labyrinth

Co-Founder

We hear about the arboretum.

When we arrived, instead of a quiet entry, we were basically waylaid by an elderly woman who turned out to be a co-founder of the arboretum.  She enthusiastically shared all about the history of the founding, where trees were planted and puzzled over “that structure” – pointing to the labyrinth.  In effect, she told us passionately about her love of the space, how hard people worked to make it happen and how proud she was of the results. She insisted we had to see various structures and parts of the arboretum.  All the while she was quite oblivious to the fact that we were there to walk the labyirnth. Other features would come as possible.

As I chafed to accomplish our “goal”, the members of the group were kind. And, so I learned, too, that even when – especially when – our plans are impacted by other circumstances, it is how we are “in the moment” that matters.  Eventually, we were able to communicate why we came to Muscatine’s Arboretum . Ms Lynn was puzzled as she moved off slowly with her dog.  She sat and watched from afar as we began.

My role as facilitator was to hold the space for people to walk peacefully.  Suddenly, Ms. Lynn was right in our midst on the labyrinth speaking loudly, “You have your shoes off.  Why do you have your shoes off? You don’t have to take your shoes off.”  So, I walked quietly to her and managed to steer her off the labyrinth itself.  As she continued to talk and point out features around us, I inched her farther away from the labyrinth.  Staying centered and calm and compassionate to her needs was a struggle for me. Even when I stated that this is a time for quiet for the walkers, she loudly declared that there is not much time for that anymore. Definitely ironic.  Again, she moved off and watched the walkers.

I circled the labyrinth slowly to hold in the sacred energy and offer a buffer for the walkers who completed their journeys peacefully.

When I asked later how they felt about the intrusion and interactions some were neutral. Others slightly amused. Some acknowledged her presence and chose not to engage.  Others were grateful I guided her to the side. Rose pointed out that likely we were the first people she had talked to all day so her enthusiasm spilled over.  And, Lijun noted, “She is part of the story.” Thank you both for perspective.

We followed a path across a wetland to the Veterans’ Memorial – simple and elegant. Then, back to the cars.

By county roads, we drove up to Tipton for dinner at Mi Tierra. Then up IA 38 to US 30 and home. Great meal and some synchronicity for Amy Kris Ackman as you will read soon.

Reflections

Standing.

Feel the earth under your feet.

Rose Gabe found the labyrinth much longer than others in Cedar Rapids.  She gamely walked the circuits, paused occasionally, assessed the journey and continued on.

Robyn Miessler-Kubanek observed: “Walking the labyrinth barefoot was marvelous. I go barefoot as much as possible in every other context, so feeling the decades’ old bricks under my feet while studying their shapes and scars brought focus and depth to my walk. How many others have those bricks held upon the earth? And how many more will they support? Yet their roughness made me happy to finish and walk in the grass again.”

Lijun Chadima:  “I felt a history there connecting me from the past to the present and walking toward the future.  The energy at the center is so great.  I liked the square that I could walk four corners then sit at the bench before I walked to the beginning where I started.  I liked walking on the old bricks.  I also liked the trees touching me while I walked.

“The flan completed the good meal at the Mi Tierra.  The chiles rellenos were great.  Mi Tierra is a right size restaurant for a small town.  A roadside farmer’s stand made me connect to the earth we are living.”

Entry

Inviting entry.

Cyndy Logue: “I felt very connected and noticed an energetic feeling in my third eye chakra.  Last night I looked back through my Earthing book and found this helpful: ‘Earth Qi is absorbed, without thinking about it, when we walk barefoot, which may explain why it’s so relaxing to walk without shoes and why exercises geared toward strengthening the body and relaxing the mind (yoga, tai chi and qigong, for instance) are often practiced without footwear. A central focus in Chinese practices involves “growing a root” and has to do with opening up communication between the bottom of the feet and the Earth.’

“I think the energetic feeling was a reminder to just go with the flow and be present for the experience.  Dinner at Mi Tierra was a great way to close the afternoon! Thank you again for coordinating this fun excursion!”

 

Amy (Kriz) and Mark Ackman: “My experience with this labyrinth was interesting. When we were interrupted by the lady commenting on our bare feet while we were barely on our way, I just had to chuckle. I thought maybe I didn’t need to take things so seriously and could just take people as they are (or meet them where they are) instead of trying to fit them into my expectations.

“After (we ate) in Tipton. I couldn’t believe that our destination restaurant was located right next door to a store called Wild Angels Expressions. When I saw it, the name looked familiar. Then, I recalled that earlier that morning, while rummaging through boxes of paperwork from the basement, I found a beautiful little card from a friend. The card spoke to me so much that I thought I could reuse it to make a new card for another friend. I was so impressed that I flipped the card over to see the brand and saw that it said Wild Angels Expressions! I had never been to Tipton before.” {Yet here was a card from that very place! We call that Synchronicity!}

“Thanks for inviting us, leading us, and opening and closing the space for us!”

The afternoon was wonderful for us all.

Notes from a Pilgrim’s Year of Labyrinths

Teri P. is an articulate, sensitive pilgrim of Labyrinths.  Below Teri shares insights from a year of walking labyrinths in the Eastern Iowa area.

“First time in the labyrinth: Maundy Thursday April 17, 2014

“(Christ) Episcopal Church – Replica of the Chartres Labyrinth. Eight people there. I felt like people were walking fast. Faster than I wanted to. I tried to do the walking meditation as I was taught, but I felt pressured to keep moving. I walked with one foot ahead of the other. Reminded me of walking on the balance beam as a kid. Made me think of Dad. Marion said gymnastics must be where I got my good posture. No other impressions except calm.

“Regis Labyrinth:  Saturday April 19, 2014- after a run.

“This labyrinth was a tribute to a beloved teacher. Stones along the path are engraved with inspirational words, “Patience”  “Courage”  “Pray”.  At the center is John 14:6.  Situated on the hill behind the school gives the labyrinth a restful feeling of solitude. I think I shall call it my” local”, like you do with a pub. Just a few blocks from my house.

“Solon Labyrinth: May Day 2014

“There was a cold rainy drizzle. When you drive onto the property you see a large round barn. Very cool.

“But around the back of the barn it gets even better. This massive stone arch is perched on the bank of a pond. It was laid up dry, by someone who understood the principle. I made Marion take a picture of me standing under it. As I walked the circuits I began thinking, “if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams….” At the center I moved from one rose petal to the next and wondered where this energy came from and where it would take me. I don’t completely understand, but I seem to feel lighter each time.

Prairiewoods, World Labyrinth  Day : May 3, 2014

“Marion tried to organize a walk, but she and I were the only ones to show up. Marion knows all the bird calls and frog sounds and any other sounds along the path to the labyrinth. When we arrived there were four young women there. Two inside the labyrinth, two outside. We watched the two young woman as they walked. One carried a stick and wrote in the sandy surface of the circuits. Marion measured the energy in the labyrinth – the dowsing rod circled 18 times – clockwise. I walked with two turkey feathers. Tail for guidance, wing for strength, according to Marion. The girls left and a deer showed up to watch. Deer totem means you are highly sensitive and have strong intuition in Native American culture – according to Linda. (When mom died and deer would show up at unexpected spots she started saying Mom sent them to tell us everything was good.)

Indian Creek Nature Center: August 1, 2014

 “Hot, buggy, beautiful sunset. I think we started at 7:00p.m. The prairie grass completely hides the labyrinth from the road. The path is mowed among the wild flowers. Not sure how many people there were. Eight? The path was wide enough to pass people so I did not feel I had to hurry. I set my intention. Not to worry. Things at work were getting to me. I carried a feather and tried to feel my way. I tried to smell and touch and listen – more than I saw.  Some of the flowers you could smell easily – I only knew the obvious ones. When I got to the center I started thinking about being in a vortex, wondering why the path was the same in and out, and how winding a wire is part of a battery, isn’t it? I walked out feeling happy – while in the labyrinth I did not think about work at all.

Laughing Labyrinth:  Nov 1, 2014

 “The labyrinth is open for walking. I arrive around 8:00 a.m. No one is there. I park my car, take a feather, ring the bell and announce my intention. “Help me with my grief.” Is that an acceptable intention? I still don’t know a lot about this. It has been two years since Dad died and I still miss him a lot. I try to be present. I look at what remains of the flowers. I smile at the metal dragon fly that looks very much like the one in my yard. I wonder what the magnolia tree looked like in the spring. I take my time. I stay in the center for a while, knowing that Marion told me that resolution does not always come while you are here, sometimes it happens on the way out, sometimes days later. So I make my way out, redeposit my feather and am ready to meet the day.”

Leaning Into the Light: A Metaphor for Relationships in Organizations

Hot. Humid. Still. Not exactly an optimal day or time to walk a labyrinth. Necessary.

For weeks I have known that the labyrinth needed tending. The blooming grasses have shot up toward the sun and lodged over. Some completely block the path. Searching for the light, others have crowded into and narrowed the path. Deer have ripped off plant tops. The bird bath is dry. One area has too much sun. Plants are overly exuberant. Another has too much shade. Plants are withered. Creeping Charlie has overwhelmed the stepping stones. Too much and too little of everything. Everything feels out of balance.

Pausing, I begin to notice the beauty. My attitude shifts. Butterflies and other pollinators busily work the flowers. The occasional, slight breeze passes grass pollens plant to plant. The lyrical chatter of the goldfinches undulating across the yard brightens the day. In the shade a random breeze cools my skin. Suddenly the path widens – grace of my imperfect planning. Black Eyed Susans and nodding onions ready to harvest. Tiny purple blooms peek out from the robust prairie forbs. The magnolia pods are set for next spring.

As I notice the plants leaning into the light, Universe and I have a conversation. Behaviors are the manifestation of the negative energies that have persisted in the building and congregation. “What is my role?”

“A labyrinth walk for healing.”

Then, the counter thought: “Those who choose to heal will be here. Those who choose not to heal will not.” (And those who have been deeply wounded, will need to decide.) So, preaching to the choir. But it doesn’t invalidate the experience.

A Pema Chodron quote keeps coming to mind. “Our true nature is like a precious jewel: although it may be temporarily buried in mud, it remains completely brilliant and unaffected. We simply have to uncover it.”

“Simply.” That is the rub. Robyn M-K and Maria K’s service Sunday spoke to “covenant.” From the French covenir and earlier – Latin – covenire – “come together.” About “relationship.” What kind of relationships do we wish to have and in what ways can we move most successfully in these directions of “right relationships”? How do we relate to those who are hurt – even by their own actions? And those on the side who receive the hurt.

Unanswered.

On the way out I re-entered the heat and sun, spotting blooms that I missed on the way in. Joyful. I pushed aside the lodged grasses, intent on my mission. Blocks yielded easily.

Now what. Tranquility isn’t always easy to sort through.