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Posted by markdohle , 16 September 2012 · 203 views

1st day of retreat
(Written 21May10)

In Jan of 08 while here at the Upper Room spiritual center I walked the labyrinth that they have behind the retreat house.  I had heard a great deal about them from friends who have walked it winding path and how it affected them.  Some had powerful experience, others did not, but all said that it was worthwhile for them to do it.  So after a few days, when we had a couple of free hours I decided to walk it.  It was a moving experience for in the windings of the path, the moving back and forth from the center to the outer edges I came to see how the pattern of my life was being replayed for me but on a deep emotional level.  Half way through the first part of the labyrinth (it takes about 20 minutes if a slow pace is taken up), I was suddenly filled with great emotions and I actually cried, not sure why, but for a small period of time everything in my life seemed to have true meaning for me.

So this afternoon (21-May-10), after a two and one half year hiatus I decided to walk it again.  It is nice here weather wise, the heat here is of a different quality than what is now experienced in the Atlanta area.   It is not heavy with humidity and the sun does not seem to be as intense here, though not sure how true that is.  So I sat for about half an hour in the little shaded garden that overlooks the labyrinth and was just quiet.  There were some birds flying around, a robin and a mocking bird eating their way through the lawn, then flying away and coming back.  So then after a time, I walked up to the beginning of the labyrinth and stopped for a minute to gather myself for the experience. When I started I said something unplanned, it just came out “and then I was born” and very slowly made my way around.  I like to just look down when I am doing this kind of walk, being present to my feet hitting the stones, the plant life growing, and the insects, mostly ants running around.  I also tried to keep my mind and heart opened to the presence of God and the relationship that I am trying to deepen.  I tried to be open to the love that pours out from the heart of God and for a moment I felt again, a strong inner surge of emotion, but it passed.  It is funny, what I seek I also run from. It seems that I fear ‘love’ that is infinite, perhaps I fear annihilation or that I will not be able to handle it or that my heart will explode. I don’t know, but this has been a theme for most of my spiritual life…. but I feel that slowly I am moving toward that time when I will be able to embrace that experience that for now, I only allow myself a very small taste.  

So I arrived at the center at last.  In the circle there were stones placed there by different fellow travelers and I walked in and picked one up to accompany me on my way back to the exit.  As I was doing this I got the impression that the way back represents what needs to be done after death, the reliving of ones life, experiencing all that one has done and feeling both the joy and pain that was brought to others…..perhaps that is what the life review is all about, being able to see, take responsibility and to learn that others are in fact united, one, and not simply objects to be used and set aside.  Well I am not sure that is true, but that felt right for me as I continued my walk.  About three quarters of the way through along the outer most circles, I placed my stone down for someone else to pick up and to return it to the center. The first arriving at the center represents my death, and then afterwards, going through the exit, the finishing of the labyrinth, is the moving beyond what is known and understood into the impenetrable.

Could it be true that all of our winding paths. The twist and turns. The happiness and sorrow and the pain and the pleasure, are of equal meaning? And that all along, we are all in the arms of grace freely given.  For it seems to me the weakness of religions, philosophies and yes even science, is that they are looked upon by many to be the end all of life, but in end it is proven false.  We are inward creatures who have many deep and profound experiences on our way and meetings unexpected that cannot be explained by any of the above.  Human experiences, of the kind that give our lives meaning, have a way of side stepping any kind of simplistic answers, that are easily found if that is what one wants.  Once that door is closed and ones understanding of reality becomes truncated, fanaticism is the fruit, for perhaps reality is so open ended that if we were to experience it we would be undone.  We need structures in our lives, but when they become stagnant they will become prisons for those who dwell therein.  It is not the beliefs or science that is the problem, but how they are perceived by those who follow any one of those paths.

It is like my fear of allowing a deep experience of God’s love.  I fear the unknown, also what it will do to me and on a primitive level a fear of death.   So what I desire, I fear, hence my inner fragmentation that results from that.  Yet the hound of heaven does pursue and I doubt anyone is outside that hunt.