labyrinth

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Upcoming Appearances, Workshops, etc

Published November 20, 2014 by ireneglasse

The cold wind blows, but light and warmth glow brightly within!  I have a few upcoming events you should know about, all available to brighten the long, cold darkness of winter.

Wednesday, November 26th (Thanksgiving Eve), 7 pm
Harmonious Healing at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio

Relax and Re-Center before the Holiday Weekend with a special offering from studio owner Aimee McBride! Harmonious Healing incorporates Yoga Nidra, Somatic Yoga and Reiki (provided by Reiki Master Irene Jericho during the class). Find release in mind, body and spirit as Aimee guides you through gentle movement and meditation while you receive light healing energy work. Yoga Nidra, or ‘yogi sleep’ is among the deepest possible states of relaxation one can attain while still maintaining full consciousness. Lucid dreaming is the Western term used to denote a practice similar to yoga nidra. Somatic Yoga offers exercises that reprogram muscles to dissolve chronic pain, dramatically improve flexibility, regain strength, and leave you with an overall sense of peace and wellbeing. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by a laying on of hands. A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats body, emotions, mind and spirit. creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing.  Facebook event here.
 Cost: $20, click here to register
Saturday, November 29th, 9 am and 11 am
Thanksgiving Recovery Yoga at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio
Come work off the calories and release any stress from Thanksgiving and Black Friday!  The 9 am class is an All Levels Prana Flow Yoga Class lasting an hour and a half.  I plan to do a lot of detox-supporting asana to help return our bodies to homeostasis after the Thanksgiving feasting.  The 11 am class is a Level One–perfect for those beginning their practice or simply looking for a more gentle flow.
Click here to register
Sunday, December 7th at 7 pm
Full Moon Labyrinth Walk at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick
Need a chance to recenter in the midst of the holiday crush?  Come enjoy the beauty and peace of the Labyrinth by the light of the full moon! The labyrinth will be illuminated from 7:00 pm till 9:00 pm. Everyone is welcome. During the cooler months, we take our Labyrinth practice indoors, and will be walking the Rainbow Seed Labyrinth, a canvas Classical-pattern Labyrinth. Please remember clean socks or slippers to walk the Labyrinth in.  If you haven’t walked a Labyrinth before, there is no ceremony or ritual. We put out the little flickering LED tealights and just keep the space open 🙂  Please bring a small contribution for the UUCF.  Facebook event here.
Friday, December 12th, 7 pm
Mala Circle/Mala Making Workshop at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio
The yogic answer to the Stitch’n’Bitch!  Join our Mala Circle to learn and relax while you create your very own mala!  Free for those who already  know how to make a mala and bring their own supplies, $20 for those needing the workshop instruction. Ananda Shala Instructor Irene Jericho will share her method for creating a Mala, a strand of 108 beads used for meditation.Create one for yourself or as a beautiful gift for a special person in your life.  A mala is a necklace of 108 beads commonly worn and used by yogis for for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra. This practice is known in Sanskrit as “japa.” Malas are as personal as the yogis who wear them–let your creativity shine in this fun, interactive workshop. Irene will provide good beading thread to string your mala, instruction, a handout detailing the technique we will use, examples of mantras, and other tips and tricks for getting the most out of your mala.  Facebook event and supply list here, click here to register if you plan to take the workshop portion.
Thursday, January 1st, 7 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick
New Year’s Day Purification Ritual
Enter 2015 from a centered place of peace. Release the energies of the last year, and set a harmonious tone for the year to come. Sacred Space will be held from 7 to 9 pm in the Sanctuary of the UUCF.  Attendees are invited to move through the Elements, releasing the shadows of 2014 as they go. Elemental Guides will be available at each Quarter to offer a way to move into the energy of a new year. End your Purification journey with a walk to the center of the Labyrinth to receive any messages for the new year. All are welcome to attend.  Free will donations are welcome.
Friday, January 16th, 7 pm
Darkest Yoga at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio
Inspired by Black Yo)))ga in Pittsburgh and Tough Love Yoga in Atlanta while paying homage to our area’s own Darkest Hour, Darkest Yoga combines flow yoga and atmospheric heavy metal to serve the greater Washington, D.C. community.  Irene Jericho (RYT 200) will be guiding you through your 75-minute moving meditation with some killer tunes over the PA. Enjoy a stripped-down, alignment-focused, no-fluffy-stuff yoga class with Ananda Shala’s own Heavy Metal Yogini.  Cost: $15 in advance/ $20 at the door
Sunday, February 1st, 7 pm
Kindling the Fire Within: An Imbolc Yoga Practice at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio
Winter’s darkness lingers with us still. Naked branches scrape the sky and night falls early. We crave the warmth of summer while we navigate an often snow-covered landscape. Yet in the midst of night, there is a glimmer of brightness–a tangible reminder of the sun-filled days yet to come. This light in the cold winter stillness is Imbolc. The word Imbolc is derived from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”. Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or are expecting new life very soon. Join Irene Jericho for a transformative Imbolc yoga practice as we ignite the fire within and find warmth from the heart out. Live hand drumming will accompany the journey from darkness to light, from stillness to asana, from silence to music. Ignite your own Winter Fire, and allow the light to carry your practice into spring.  Participants are encouraged to wear white or light-colored clothing to practice in.  Cost: $20

Fire Labyrinth

Published October 5, 2013 by ireneglasse

In advance to next weekend’s trip to Twilight, a good friend offered to host a Dark Moon Labyrinth Walk with a special treat–a labyrinth of Fire!  Small clip from initiating the burn below.  Enjoy!

 

How to make a canvas Labyrinth for $200

Published November 30, 2012 by ireneglasse

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”  That phrase rang unusually true for me this past week.  I facilitate monthly Full Moon Labyrinth walks at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick.  We’d been using a borrowed canvas Labyrinth for our indoor walks.  It was suddenly called home to its owner (for use in her church) three days before a scheduled Labyrinth walk.  It became necessary to find a suitable substitute on very short notice.  Thanks to my mother, sister and sister’s-boyfriend, we managed to work a minor miracle and now have a lovely Classical Labyrinth for use at the church.  It cost slightly less than $200 in supplies and took my family and I 4 hours to make, start to finish.

Here’s how to make one.

All of my supplies came from my local Home Depot.  You will need:

*6 9′ x 12′ canvas drop cloths.  I paid $21.98 each.  Make sure the canvases all match in color.  Different brands may have a variation in hue.

*1 roll 60 yds white duct tape ($6.97)

*Colored duct tape.  This part is a little tricky.  I created a rainbow Labyrinth.  Each circuit is marked out with a different color of tape.  If you choose to go that route, you will need 40 yards (2 20 yard rolls) for the three outermost circuits.  Each circuit thereafter will only need one 20 yard roll.  So, for mine, I had: 2 black, 2 red, 2 orange, 1 yellow, 1 green, 1 blue, 1 purple, 1 silver, all in 20 yard quantities.  20 yard rolls cost $3.57 each.  If you’re using all one color, you will probably need about 120 yards or 6 rolls.  Save your receipts in case you need to return any unused tape.

*yarn

*measuring tape

*graph paper

*some friends!  This goes a lot faster with a little help.

*a big, empty room

Step 1:

Graph out your design.  This will help you keep track later on, as well as explain to any helpers what you’re trying to accomplish.  In this graph, the canvases are in purple ink, the circuits in pencil, and one square = 1 foot.graph

Step 2: Lay out your canvases on the floor, ‘wrong’ side up.  Like sheets, the canvases will have visible seams and tags on one side.  Put that side facing up in the layout your Labyrinth will take.  DSC04932

Step 3: Using the white duct tape, tape the edges of the canvases together.  Because these are painter’s drop cloths, the canvases aren’t cut perfectly.  The outermost edges of your finished Labyrinth won’t be perfect.  You can always trim them later if it makes a big difference to you 😉  I began by taping the long, center seam of the canvases, then working out from there.

taped edges

Step 4: Carefully (this is where having extra hands can help) turn your now-one-whole-piece canvas over.  The ‘right’ side will now be facing up.  Using the white duct tape, tape the edges of the canvas together.  This reinforces the seams and smooths over any uneven edges.

Step 5: Using your chalk and tape measure, mark your circuit spaces from the outside edge in.  In this design, the circuits are 15″ wide.  So, starting a couple inches from the outside edge at the top of the canvas and both sides, mark a line every 15″.  You’ll have eight marks (for the seven circuits) on each side.circuitmarks

Step 6: Measure the center space from edge to edge to find the exact center point.  Using your yarn, make a rough compass by taping (or having your helper hold) one end at the exact center.  Attach your chalk to the other end right above one of your marks.  Run a chalk line from center mark to center mark using your rough compass.  It will make a circle.

Step 7: Using your tape measure (or tape measures if you’re having helpers assist), mark out the rest of the circuits in chalk.  Mark them out a little over 1/2 of the way around to the center bottom of the design.  Leave that space blank so you can mark in the turning points.

Step 8: Draw in your center cross, L-shapes and dots, remembering to leave 15″ space on all parts of the path.

centercross

Step 9: Connect the circuits to your center cross, finishing off the design.  Walk the Labyrinth to be sure everything got connected correctly.

chalked

Step 10: Duct tape over your lines in the color pattern you’ve chosen.  It’s great to have help for this part!

DSC04939DSC04942DSC04944

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 11: Walk/dance/run your Labyrinth in joyous celebration!

DSC04952

Step 12: Fold/roll your Labyrinth up.  Canvas Labyrinths are very sensitive to soot and moisture.  Make sure to store it in a waterproof plastic bin and to remind folks not to wear shoes on it during walks.  Only use your canvas Labyrinth indoors.

Here’s the finished Labyrinth at a Full Moon Labyrinth Walk, photo courtesy of Elisa.  The lights are little flickering LED tealights we place on the Labyrinth during a Walk–they’re not actually attached to the canvas.

Elisa

Ta da!  Not as sturdy and flawless as a canvas made from heavy-grade sailcloth, but still quite usable and resilient.  This one comfortably fit 5 walkers at a time.

An Introduction to Labyrinth Walking

Published October 25, 2012 by ireneglasse

I often receive emails or comments that run something like this: “You talk about Labyrinths and Labyrinth Walking a lot.  What is it, exactly?  What happens at a Labyrinth Walk?”

So, let’s begin at the beginning.

What is a Labyrinth?

In Labyrinth Walking terminology, a Labyrinth is a single meandering path that winds from an entry point to the center of the design.  There is only one path–the same walk is taken on the return trip from the center to the entry point (now the exit).  There is only one path.  There are no turns or dead-ends as in a maze, and nothing designed to confuse or bewilder the walker.  To walk a Labyrinth, you simply start walking between the lines and follow your feet.  Although the path winds toward the center and back out again, you never have a choice to make about the direction you’re going.  That single path holds true.

Labyrinths can take many forms.  Here are some examples of Labyrinth designs:

Although each of the above Labyrinths have unique characteristics, they all share the most fundamental trait: there is only one path.

Because of the single path, if you decide to walk a Labyrinth as part of a group (at an open Labyrinth Walk, for instance), you will encounter other people along your route.  Labyrinth walking as a group is a cooperative experience–to allow someone else to pass, you can simply step out of the way, then back to wherever you were on your path.  Everyone shares that single route.

On Labyrinth Walking

The Golden Rule of Labyrinth Walking is “There is no wrong way to walk a Labyrinth.”  You can set any pace you’d like–you can walk slowly and meditatively, at your usual walking pace, at a good clip…you can even dance or run through the Labyrinth.  It’s all up to you.  You can enter the Labyrinth with a specific thought in mind to contemplate, you can carry a prayer with you, you can enter in joy, grief, or pain, or you can wander in with no expectations or plans at all.  All ways to move within the Labyrinth are correct.

A lot of things can happen during a Labyrinth walk.  If nothing else, if you walk in with no expectations, you will walk out feeling more relaxed than when you entered.  However, many other things are possible.  You might realize the solution to a problem you’re facing or change your perspective on a situation.  You might find a creative block suddenly loosened.  You might find yourself connecting deeply with Spirit, whatever form that happens to take for you. Many people pray on a Labyrinth walk.  Occasionally, we find ourselves walking with the souls of those who have passed on before us.  Surprising things can happen.  We calm down, gain insight, figure out solutions…the possibilities are endless, and endlessly individual.  Everyone gets something unique to them out of their walk.  One of my favorite quotes from ‘The Sacred Path Companion’ (the workbook for ‘Walking a Sacred Path’, both by Lauren Artress) is “The Labyrinth meets you where you are, gives you what you need, and nurtures a web of interconnection.”  Every Labyrinth walk I take or facilitate underscores that quote more deeply.

There are some fairly widely-accepted principles that can help you get the most out of your walk.  Remember, what follows are simply suggestions.  When walking a Labyrinth, the most important guidance to listen to comes from within you.

Calm and Center Yourself

Take a moment to clear your mind and become aware of your breath.  You may want to spend some time around the outside of the Labyrinth before you begin.  When you feel ready, enter the Labyrinth, find your own pace and follow the path.

Set Your Own Pace

Allow yourself to find the pace your body wants to go.  If you meet someone on the path coming the other way, simply turn slightly or step off the path and allow each other to pass.  If you wish to pass a slow walker, or help others pass you, it is easy to do so at the turns.  There are places to step off and pause if you need more time along the way.

Take Your Time

The center of the Labyrinth is a good place to pause and reflect, sitting or standing or kneeling, before retracing your steps on the path that now guides you out of the Labyrinth.  A Labyrinth walk is a journey, not a race to get to a destination.  You are welcome to take all the time you need.

The Three R’s

There are three movements and associated emotional states to the Labyrinth, and you are free to make of them whatever you like.  Remember, there is no right or wrong way to walk a Labyrinth.  These states can happen in order with the associated actions, or in a different order, or not at all.  All paths and experiences are correct.

Releasing

On the inward journey, walkers can cast off, discard, divest, unwrap and forget.  It is an opportunity to unload emotions, mental states, memories and thoughts that do not serve the walker’s highest good.

Receiving

At the center, walkers can pause.  This space is an opportunity to be open, expectant and receptive.  Walkers can take the time to listen to an inner voice, to Mystery, or to the simplicity of silence and stillness.

 Returning

On the outward journey, walkers can gain direction, satisfaction, comfort and new energy.  It is an opportunity to integrate the knowledge gained within the Labyrinth, to prepare for leaving Sacred Space.

What happens at a Labyrinth Walk?

An open Labyrinth Walk is a great way to begin your Labyrinth practice.  Depending on the location and layout of the Labyrinth, and whether there are any facilitators present, open walks can vary a bit.  I’m going to recount what you’ll experience  if you come to one of the Open Full Moon Labyrinth Walks that I facilitate at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick.

At the UUCF, we walk at night, after the sun has gone down.  We have two Labyrinths we use, an indoor one and an outdoor one.  Which one we use is dependent on time of year and climactic conditions.  (The next open walk I’m hosting will be on the indoor labyrinth–it’s getting chilly out there!)  The indoor Labyrinth is a Chartres-style canvas Labyrinth that we roll out in the sanctuary.  The outdoor Labyrinth is a contemporary Labyrinth designed specifically for the church by John Standing Bear.  It is laid out in brick on a grass courtyard.

The Labyrinth is marked with flickering LED tealights.  They help show you where the pathway leads.  If you arrive after the walk has begun, you’ll find that it’s pretty quiet.  Labyrinth walking is a meditative activity, so it’s customary to keep the noise down in order to give everyone time with their thoughts.  If people do want to talk and socialize, however, they’re more than welcome to do so elsewhere on the property.

I stand at the entrance to the Labyrinth.  My purpose there is simple: since we all walk the same path together, it’s easy to have a ‘traffic jam.’  I help put space between people as they enter the Labyrinth so that while you walk, you have a chance to focus inward rather than worry about stepping on the person in front of you.  I’m also then available to answer questions or help out anyone who needs extra assistance for their walk.

The number of people at a Labyrinth walk can vary greatly depending on the time of year.  At a guess, we’ve had as many as 40 and as few as 10 at past Labyrinth walks.  After I welcome you onto the Labyrinth (generally done with a gesture in order to maintain silence), you’ll probably end up passing a couple people who are on their way out.  You may also find that when you come to the center, there are a few other people seated in meditation there.  Everyone is very good about being respectful of each others’ space.  This is the aspect of Labyrinth Walking that fosters community.  A Labyrinth Walk can be deeply personal and cooperative at the same time.

On your return journey, you’ll again pass other walkers.  After you walk out of the Labyrinth, you’re welcome to sit down and journal or think about your walk.  There are benches at the outdoor Labyrinth and seats placed around the perimeter of the indoor one.  You can sit and contemplate, move to an area where conversation is welcome to chat about your experience, head home for the night or walk a second (or even third) time.

During the warmer months, we welcome hand drummers to play during the second half of the Labyrinth walk.  Drums add a different energy to a walk.  Where a silent walk is contemplative, a drumming walk is jubilant.  People dance and twirl on the Labyrinth, clap their hands and sometimes sing or chant.  That’s why we only have drums during the second half of the walk.  It allows walkers a choice in terms of what kind of walk they’d prefer.  Many walkers, myself included, do both.

At the end of a walk, after the last walker leaves the Labyrinth, a few people generally stay and help clean up the tealights and move chairs if we were using the indoor one.

And that, my dear ones, is that.  I hope this helped answer your questions about Labyrinth Walks.  If you have any additional questions, anything I didn’t address, feel free to leave me a comment 🙂

‘Solvitur Ambulando.”

Strong, slow, deliberate

Published June 6, 2012 by ireneglasse

Everyone has their battles.  I’m convinced that it’s impossible to make it to adulthood (and in some cases, just past 10) without a serious issue or two.  Or four.

I have an anxiety disorder.  It’s diagnosed, I’ve been through counseling for it.  As it was explained to me, one can have a predisposition for greater or lesser amounts of anxiety.  Think of it like a fight or flight response–the response is stronger in some people than in others.  In order to move from ‘responsive’ to ‘disorder,’ all that’s required is a little trauma.  Mine hit right around age 13 (since being a teenager isn’t hard enough on its own) and presto!  The shifter jumps a couple gears and off we go.

I’m pretty fortunate.  My anxiety issues are not so severe that they necessitate medication.  That said, they do need to be managed.  And it is in the management of our issues that I think people, myself included, often fall short.  It’s not enough to take the pill, you see.  Or to have gone through therapy of some sort once.  Although we can take the edges off of our issues, they remain with us, and can regrow their ridges if ignored for too long.

June is always a rocky month for me.  Many of the clubs I juggle in my life are in the air, and on fire, during June.  Cassandra Syndrome‘s summer tour season is underway.  Although we’ve pared back on gigs this year to one a month, there’s still a lot that happens behind the scenes to make those gigs happen.  Especially since we’ve just changed lineup.  My garden is also picking up speed–there’s more maintenance necessary, new rounds of crops to put into the ground, pest management has begun.  And finally the big one–the Shenandoah Midsummer Festival.  I co-chair the festival.  I’m blessed to have a team of amazing folks that helps make Midsummer happen, but it’s still a LOT of work.  This year in particular is a bit anxiety-inducing since we’re at a new location.  The location is fabulous, but since we haven’t run the festival there before, I don’t know what, if any, problems will arise.  I’m trying to plan for things I can only theorize about.

This along with all my other duties and activities.

I could feel the stress building over the last couple weeks.  I found myself, several times, quite literally turning in a circle while trying to figure out how to do two different things at once.  The memory problems that I associate with increased anxiety were showing up, plus the awful sinking feeling that underlies the condition.  The everything is going to go wrong, and I will be left alone forever feeling.

Here’s the good news.  I noticed the ramping up.  I noticed the issues coming to the fore.  And that increase in stress was what I carried with me into the Labyrinth during Monday night’s walk.

How do we slow down when the world speeds up around us?

One, we limit how much world is allowed into our minds.  I have a hard time not working if I’m attached to the internet.  So now, at 9 pm, an alarm goes off on my phone and I end all use of electronic media.  Reading is fine.  Writing (with a pen) is fine.  Meditation is fine.  Gmail is not.

Two, we focus on making our goals reasonable.  I know for a fact that it is impossible to get everything on my to-do list knocked out today.  I also know from reading study after study that multitasking is not as effective as many of us would like to believe.  So, I sat down, figured out what actually *needs* to happen, and focused on that.  If my living room doesn’t get cleaned today, the world will not end.

Three, we specifically make time for fun–for relaxation.  For letting ourselves off the hook for an hour or two.  If there is never a release in the pressure, we slowly grind down underneath it.

I figured out the fourth option last night as I was journaling.  I was mulling over stress and realized that there’s an area in my life where I’m already good at managing it.  Yoga.  My muscles can be screaming, my heart pounding, sweat pouring, yet in a yoga practice I am centered in myself, completely calm, and breathing fully and smoothly.  Three words came to mind about how I approach my practice.

Strong.  Slow.  Deliberate.

I focus a lot on alignment, on smooth transitions between poses.  On making my physical practice as much like the flowing of water as possible.  This idea of fluidity can be turned to my own life–to my to-do list, to the chittering monkey voice inside my head urging me to more and more faster and faster.

I choose my next task with Strength.  I will focus on it, turn all my attention to it, until it is completed.  I will meet it with all my energy, rather than attempting to divide my reserves.

I move Slowly.  Rather than the chaotic tumble of a mountain stream, I move as with the swell of the ocean.  I choose to take the time to ensure tasks are done correctly, thoroughly, skillfully.

I work Deliberately.  I consciously choose my actions.  I reflect on situations and obstacles and think them through rather than falling into mindless reaction.  When I do identify a path to pursue, I move forward in full awareness.  I stay mindful of the present moment.

Strong.  Slow.  Deliberate.  And, as always, remember to Breathe.

 

Proximity

Published May 21, 2012 by ireneglasse

Last night, I facilitated an indoor Dark Moon Labyrinth Walk at the UUCF.  Indoor walks are beautiful in a different way than outdoor ones.  The environment is more controlled–the temperature is even, the light consistent, there are fewer distractions.  The sanctuary where we roll out the canvas Chartres Labyrinth is acoustically bouncy, so the music we play is very haunting and echo-y in the stillness.  Indoor walks there are a bit like falling into a pool of peace and stillness.

Yesterday’s walk was particularly interesting for me due to the transition in my state of mind over the course of the evening.  You see, I arrived angry.  Furious, actually.  I have pretty decent control over what shows and what doesn’t, so I don’t think anyone helping set up noticed.  But inside, I was one enraged, roiling pot of flames and fury.

Some wonderful folks helped to pull the chairs to the borders of the sanctuary and we rolled out the Labyrinth.  I put on my prayer shawl and stood at the entrance to the Labyrinth to welcome people to their walk.

And a funny thing happened.

You see, I was concentrating on putting out the right energy for a Labyrinth walk.  I wasn’t really thinking about my anger.  It  was just sitting there in the back of my mind, simmering away.  But as people entered the pattern and began to walk, the flames went down.  As I stood there, my back to the flickering tealights, purple Labyrinth and walkers, the pieces of the day I was so angry about turned around inside my head, showing how different they looked from another perspective.  Showing how my point of view had gotten in the way.  How my jump to anger had then made it impossible for me to listen, or to see things from a different vantage.  How holding to rage silenced compassion.

All the anger I was carrying fell away like so many stones tumbling down a hill.  I almost laughed at one point.  I hadn’t even *walked* the Labyrinth yet!  The effect of a Labyrinth on me is, at this point, so strong that I can’t even stand near one without the quiet energy of that Sigil going to work on the inside of my head. By about 10 minutes into the walk, I was balanced again, if feeling a bit rueful about the mistakes I made during the day.

One of the gentlemen attending the walk was gracious enough to take over my post at the entrance of the Labyrinth so I could walk as well.  As I did, I focused on releasing all the blocks that tripped me up that day.  Judgement.  Single-mindedness.  A lack of compassion.  Not listening.  Anger.

The temper that used to get me into barfights is obviously still present, just changed in form.  Something else to work on as I walk this winding path.  And good to know–I had been pretending that I’m better with my anger now since I don’t hit people anymore.  Granted, the symptoms are less severe, but the root cause is definitely still there.

I carried the peace of the Center with me as I walked back out of the Labyrinth.  I gently touched the shoulder of the man who had taken over as Guardian for me to thank him for my opportunity to walk.  He emerged, startled, from a deep place.  I hadn’t realized how far he’d gone within–in retrospect, I should have brought him out more gently.  Anyway.  I thanked him for the opportunity to walk.  He thanked me as well, saying he hadn’t realized how cool it was to stand at the entrance of a Labyrinth as facilitator. I realized he was right about that.  It’s a different way of experiencing the energy of a walk.  But still potent.  After all, my own proximity to other walkers, to the Labyrinth, was what brought me back down so I could actually see what went wrong earlier in the day.

Another beautiful walk, and another affirmation of my favorite quote about the Labyrinth: “The Labyrinth meets you where you are, gives you what you need, and nurtures a web of interpersonal connections.”

The Labyrinth met me angry.

The Labyrinth gave me peace.

We all hugged and bid each other safe travels we left.  The web, you see.

I apologized when I got home.

Beltane Alchemy

Published May 7, 2012 by ireneglasse

al·che·my

[al-kuh-mee]

noun, plural al·che·mies for 2.

1. a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.
2. any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.

It is the nature of life to transform.  Living things are a constant growth process–cells replace themselves, size changes, color shifts.  Our outlines flicker and adapt, grow and diminish.  Slowly to our eyes, of course, but we are always in flux.

It is the nature of matter to transform.  Apply the right forces, and rough ore from the heart of the earth becomes sword or plow.  Sand becomes glass.  Wood becomes coal.

It is the nature of spirit to transform.  We pass through trials and wonders on this path, and each high or low point leaves a mark.  We come through the other side as different people.  Our value systems change.  Our outlook is forever altered.  And when we look back, we do not recognize the past self gazing into our own eyes.

It is a simple thing to create a Labyrinth.  A Labyrinth is a sigil in the truest sense of the word–a drawn design that, once etched, has power independent of the hand that drew it.  Labyrinths can be spray-painted on the ground, drawn in the sand, chalked on the driveway. They can be made to last, or made to be ephemeral.

This past weekend, I had the honor of presenting a Labyrinth and Labyrinth workshop at Fertile Ground Gathering, a Beltane festival in Northern Virginia.  The festival takes place in a State Park, so the Labyrinth needed to easily melt away after the weekend.

Robin (my working partner) and I created ours out of 80 pounds of flour, sprinkled in the timeless design of the 7-circuit Cretan or Seed Labyrinth.

It was easy to lose sight of intention as we sweated in that field, slowly walking the curving arms of the Labyrinth, stooped to pour the flour on the ground.  Easy to forget the purpose of the design while we focused on creation in that hot, humid clearing.  Easy to lose sight of the 5000 years of history as I walked, barefoot, across the design again and again, to find sticks and sharp stones that might distract other walkers.

But no matter the creator, or process of creation. The sigil of the Labyrinth is true.  After we’d finished building the Fertile Ground Labyrinth, showered off the sweat and flour and changed, we came back to the field.  I breathed deeply at the entrance and placed my foot upon the path.  And there it was.  That just-below-hearing hum I’ve come to associate with Labyrinths.  That sense of deepening.  As I walked, I felt the knots of the day slipping away.  I felt my consciousness slipping into a dream state.  The moss on the ground was soft beneath my bare feet and muffled my footsteps.  As ever in walks, I passed through thoughts and emotions as well as the turns marked out in flour on the ground.

As one foot fell after another, I found myself walking other Labyrinths in my mind.  My very first one, so like the Fertile Ground Labyrinth: flour in a field.  My home Labyrinth, laid out in brick and earth.  The canvas Chartres Labyrinth we sometimes roll out at the UUCF.  The Dancing Woman Labyrinth.  The creaking wood floor of the Chartres inside the church in which I became a Labyrinth Apprentice.  The sigil holds true, always.  This pattern, this ancient design, connects to a spiritual practice so old that its original name has been lost to the mists of time.

I knelt in the center, in front of the round altarcloth, cauldron and white flowers, and felt myself sinking into that immense sea of time and space.  The wonder of the Labyrinth, the transformation of design to form to spirit, filled my mind.  Labyrinths humble me.  To be a part of a tradition so much older and greater than myself is more Grace than I know what to do with.

To be able to help others into that Grace by creating the sigil and guiding weary souls onto it is equally humbling.  My part is small.  The transformation of a Labyrinth walk can be breathtaking in its scope.  Some walkers found answers to problems.  Some healed.  Some prayed.  One tearful, grateful whisper; “My Mom is here.”

That is the power in the pattern.  The true alchemy.  It is not just the matter in which the Labyrinth is created.  The alchemy is in the spirits that pass through the pattern.

It is the nature of life to transform.  It is the nature of matter to transform.  It is the nature of spirit to transform.

Alchemy.  Flour into spirit.  A miracle small enough to be overlooked and large enough to change a life.

It is the nature of Labyrinths to transform as well.