All right action must arise from stillness
Sitting, just sitting.
Walking a Sacred Path – Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool
by Dr. Lauren Artress
I walked into the Friends of the Library booksale in Gainesville, Florida, a glorious event which just happened to coincide with my month-long sabbatical in Gainesville.
My wife and daughter quickly appropriated shopping carts and began filling them up with books and magazines. I took one walk around and, right at the beginning of the walk, came across the only book I was to buy: Walking a Sacred Path:
I am extremely curious and constantly find myself wanting to learn a million different trades, yet, at the same time, I have learned to become aware of the channel or thread in my life, of the river I’m flowing along and how its currents give me a sense of the turns ahead. Shortly before this I had turned for the first time. I had visited a Sufi family and, in their beautifully simple and sacred livingroom, had learned to turn or whirl for the first time.
I told the lady, Hilal, right from the beginning that I get dizzy fast (takes less than 2 spins with my daughter or son to feel like the world is all wrong) yet I handed over my person to this age-old practice. That night I was invited to turn and I did so twice for 30 minutes each time. I could feel my body grow cold and sweaty/clammy; I turned until I stopped turning and the world began turning around me; I turned together with others and I lost myself in the practice and came out changed.
Sufi’s work hard in their spiritual practice. It is hard work. Physically and mentally.
The similarities between the Sufi practice of turning and the Christian-mysticisms practice of walking the labyrinth are evident. Both practices involve a surrender to the present moment, to a loss of attaining a goal because the practice itself is so hard that only staying in the very instant will get you through; both involve circling or spiraling, a loss of linear external orientation and an entering into an internal compass; both are physical practices for spiritual goals.
This book felt small, concise, sharp (for the most part… sometimes felt a little convince-y) and written from a passionate and knowledgeable perspective. I definitely recommend it. Dr. Lauren Artress found herself drawn to the labyrinth in her personal life path and then worked to understand it in the context of Christian spiritual practice and did extensive work to divulge/reanimate it.
I strongly agree with the author’s emphasis on spirituality being a personal experience and a personal endeavour and what we need is tools for assisting the individual’s connection to spirit, to their spiritual path, rather than an an external entity dictating our spiritual path. The labyrinth is one tool for connection to spirit.
“To walk a sacred path, each of us must find our own touchstone that puts us in contact with the invisible thread. This touchstone can be nature (as it was for me early on), sharing with our friends, playing with our children, painting on our day off, or walking in the country. It may be the Sunday-morning liturgy and Eucharist. Walking a sacred path means that we know the importance of returning to the touchstone that moves us. The labyrinth can serve as a touchstone.”
“It is a container for the creative imagination to align with our heart’s desire, it is a place where we can profoundly, yet playfully, experience our soul’s longing and intention.”
“The experience is different for everyone because each of us brings different raw material to the labyrinth.”
“We need to be shaken out of our complacency and begin to use our short time here creatively so we don’t look back in regret. … To be pilgrims walking on a path to the next century, we need to participate in the dance between silence and image, ear and eye, inner and outer. We need to change our seeking into discovery, our drifting into pilgrimage.”
Enjoy this book
I’ve been meaning to write about this movement towards stillness that my work has recently taken and, particularly, about my experience during a recent session in this Stillness Project. The session first.
There was very little initial check-in other than the most important points such “is there anything I need to know?” and then I sat down cross-legged and the client lay down resting their head on my hands. And it could be said that the session both started and ended right there as between beginning and end we find story and action where here there was none.
There was no story, no action, and no intention either.
And in this goal-lessness there arose a strong connection to my heart. Without looking or asking or searching I noticed the presence of Heart in and around me. I would venture to say that the lack of looking and asking and seeking allowed me to notice the presence of Heart that was there in the deeper fabric of experience.
From stillness arises heart.
Carl Jung visited the Indians of New Mexico and met with Ochwiay Biano (Mountain Lake), a chief of the Taos pueblos. He related this interaction with the chief:
“See,” Ochwiay Biano said, “how cruel the whites look. Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are mad.”
I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad.
“They say that they think with their heads,” he replied.
“Why of course. What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.
“We think here,” he said, indicating his heart.
May we learn to be without seeking and thus allow for our heart to be our guide.