3rd day of retreat
I again found myself outside setting in the little garden that is at the entrance of the labyrinth. There are two groundhogs that live here and I find them delightful for I have never seen them before. I had no idea they were so big, in fact the first time I saw them on my first evening here they looked like rats on steroids, a lot of them. They are wild of course and shy, but I do get glimpses now and then. In the evening on my third day of my retreat, I arrived about six and sat and did not move; who knows I thought, perhaps they will be close enough for me to get a real good look. They came and went crazy trying to find me. They were smelling and sniffing looking here and there but got nowhere. I was a stone, no movement. So they went back to eating and I watched them for about 30 minutes. One came so close that he almost touched my shoe. I guess if there is no movement then they can't see.....
After the groundhogs left, I got up to begin my walk. As I was standing at the entrance a thought came to me or perhaps a recommendation: “Go to the center and reclaim the ‘ugly stone’, pick it up and carry it back with you into the world outside the labyrinth”. So my walk in some sense became a mission of reclaiming parts of myself that I feel uncomfortable with, or don’t even know they exist, but their energy and neediness still have an affect on my life. So I started, and this time I got the feeling that I was going deeper and deeper into the mystery of existence itself, and the self love and self hatred that seem to be at war within me. Jesus calls me to love myself, something difficult to do. Perhaps easy on the surface, but more difficult as one goes deeper….for within me I sense more aspects of myself than there are animals in the Atlanta zoo. Yet without this love of self, how can I face both the transcendence and the demonic that dwells within. I think that my path is not unique (well it is in the way it is lived out), but we each have to contend somehow with the inner world that interrupts for us the outer world of time, people and events. The less we are aware of this inner dynamic, the easier it is to be pulled this way and that by transferences and projections that happen automatically. Strong feeling of attraction or repulsion point to this process that seeks to bring integration and healing into our lives, if we but know how to listen….though again each does it differently. No way is better than the other, for those differences point to how unique we each are, though we share a common humanity.
So now I have my ‘ugly’ stone again and brought it to my room and placed it before a small icon I brought of Jesus and Mary. So I will let it rest there for the night. Who am I? Well perhaps I am the observer, that which knows and perhaps leads me. It could be that part of me that accepts grace that helps my ego, me, Mark, to be able to absorb and accept those elements within without being drowned, swallowed or overwhelmed….take your pick, for in the end, the mystery deepens, perhaps the inner way is in the end a path of faith, hope and love…. and openness to that Presence which calls and pursues us all.
Perhaps my fear is that my soul has no boundaries……the naked soul embraced by a naked God. Clothes are a symbol of hiding our shame, our imperfections, our inability to live up to false expectations placed on us by our culture, faiths, and yes what we place on ourselves. However before God all is known, though for me, in my present state, the illusion of clothes remain. Perhaps in the end it is God who seduces us, all we do is in reality answer the call to that reality, allowing ourselves to be stripped little by little until all that remains is love embraced by Love. It is grace, in all the twist and turns in our lives grace is present. Our theologies and philosophies and science cannot give us the answer to how that is, but each of us must walk the labyrinth at our own pace and in our own way.