Labyrinth

Once again I find myself at the ARC retreat center, with a comfortable pen, a familiar chair, a well-worn journal, and a spectacular vantage point. Here I give myself permission to just be me, allowing myself time to simply sit and breathe, to let the accumulated layers of worry and exhaustion and stress drop away one by one by one. This place reminds me to let my body relax, convinces my mind to step out of its self-imposed hamster wheel, and frees my spirit to float ever-so-gently to the surface.

Last night I dreamed that a woman I didn’t know told me she needed some space–that she needed to break up with me. I was slightly anxious, but even more confused. Had I been married to this woman? And if so, why didn’t I recognize her? I looked around the house to see where she’d been a part of my life, and there was no evidence of her anywhere—she’d never lived at my home, so how could I have been married to her?

Obviously, this woman represents an important part of me, one that’s been underfed and unattended to. She’s my soul, saying to my ego (who thinks SHE’s all there is of me): “I need to separate from you and be my own person.” I’m sad to realize there hasn’t been room for her at home. She’s the one who has brought me to the ARC. She’s the one who urges me to take a nap.

After napping, I decide to walk the labyrinth. For this short journey, I bring along a glass of water and a piece of chocolate cake. I enter the labyrinth with the intention of letting go, of leaving behind everything that isn’t useful anymore, of unloading old habits and messages, as well as other people’s baggage that I seem to carry, whether they’ve asked me to or not. As I wind my way inward, I notice a small feather, and nearly stoop to pick it up. I catch myself just in time—I don’t need to add to my load.

I reach the center, stand still for several moments, and visualize myself removing a heavy backpack and laying it to rest at my feet. My, that was heavier than I realized. I sit cross-legged, rest awhile, and eat my sumptuous repast. I am reminded of Elijah under the broom tree, ministered to by ravens and angels. I breathe deeply, taking in the crisp fall air, and imagine sending my roots down deep, far to the center of the earth, down to the world’s well of deepest wisdom. “Is there anything else I need to let go of?” I ask. I wait. The still, small voice answers: “Self-doubt.” Again I ask, “What do I need to take with me on this journey?” There is a long silence, and I finally get it. This part of the journey is about letting go, not about taking on more.

A song runs through my head. It starts faintly, and I recognize it from “Pinocchio”: “I’ve got no strings to hold me down, to make me fret, or make me frown. I’ve got no strings, so now I’m free. I’ve got no strings on me.” I laugh and resume my journey.

I wind my way slowly out of the labyrinth. Again I see the small feather I had noticed on my way in. This time I choose to take it with me. I have room for it now. It’s a lot lighter than the heavy burden I left behind, a reminder of the weightlessness of letting go. As I approach the gateway at the end of the labyrinth, I take my shoes off. I tread more lightly now, aware that, back in the “real” world, in my everyday life, I’m treading on holy ground.

Walking back up the hill toward the retreat center, enjoying the feel of the rough ground and crunching leaves beneath my stockinged feet, I receive the answer to the question I asked earlier, “What do I need to take with me on this journey?” The question that was previously met with silence. “You already have everything you need for this journey.” You just have to remember to stop picking up things that aren’t yours to carry, and to make use of that most important instrument of all—your own inner compass.”

Blessedly, I’m no longer afraid of dying, but I am afraid of never having lived, so I direct my compass to take me home, back to my heart’s desire, where my long-lost soul has a fire burning in the hearth, and a kettle on the stove. She is watching for me from the window so she can be the first one to greet me and welcome me home.

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