It’s no secret that I like labyrinths. I visit them often and am very happy that the beautiful Carol Shields labyrinth (in the photo above) is just across the river from where I live. It was at the centre of that labyrinth that I stood with my candle in a small circle of women, welcoming 2012.
It’s also no secret that I love metaphors. I’m a meaning-finder, and I love to wrap the complexity of life around the simplicity of a good metaphor.
The labyrinth is a great metaphor for life. Here’s why…
1. The journey to God is a path that leads along many deceptive twists and turns to the centre.
2. Though it often feels like we’re getting lost, if we keep following the path, we’ll eventually end up where we’re supposed to be.
3. When we’re weary and feeling lost, all that is required of us is that we put one foot in front of the other and carry on.
4. Sometimes we get really close to the centre, and think our journey is done, but suddenly we round the corner and there’s a whole new lesson we need to learn before we can rest.
5. Each time we pass a familiar place, we wonder “haven’t I been here before?” Those moments offer us the opportunity to lean even more deeply into the lessons we’re meant to learn and the beauty we’re meant to see at those places.
6. God is both the centre we seek and the path that gets us there. What we need is to trust the centre and to trust the path that leads us to it.
7. The path to God requires that we commit our body to it, not simply our minds. Get up and walk – God is in the movement.
8. To hear Spirit whisper, we have to be willing to be quiet.
9. Like all rites of passage and initiation ceremonies, walking the labyrinth is structured as a pilgrimage with three parts. First comes the journey inward, toward the sacred space where change happens. Next, time is spent at the centre, where the new life begins. Finally there is the journey outward, the return of the transformed person to the world, often with a new identity.
10. We don’t get straight paths in life – only winding roads that never show us the final destination and that keep taking us to places we don’t expect to go.
I’m in Calgary. Yesterday I drove for 13 hours to get here, and tomorrow I’ll be awake very early in the morning to start the three day walk.
This commitment is not for the faint-of-heart. Right from the moment I said to Cath “I want to walk with you,” I’ve know that it would require a lot of me. First I had to take the risk to say to someone (whom I’d never met in person), “your story – the loss of baby Juggernaut – has touched a vulnerable place in me and the only way I know how to respond is to drive half-way across the country to walk 100 kilometres with you.”
Then I had to commit the time to drive across the country, the time to train for all this walking, the agony of a dozen or more blisters on my feet, the cost of driving here, the time to fundraise and promote the Kidney Raffle, the cost of new shoes, socks, and blister-prevention aids, and, last but not least, the emotional energy to care about and offer compassion into other people’s stories.
No, it’s not for the faint-of-heart.
Lest you think me an altruistic do-gooder, though, let me admit… there’s a part of me that is doing this for entirely selfish reasons. For one thing, for an adventure-loving wanderer like me, it doesn’t take much to convince me to travel anywhere. Driving 13 hours across the prairies all by myself? Delightful. What’s not to like? Especially when I get to stop at dusk for photos like this one:
But there are other, deeper reasons.
Reasons like these:
– It’s a pilgrimage. Walking for hours and hours feels holy to me. It’s sacred time, when I find those “thin places” that the Celts talk about, where the veil between God and me gets thinner than usual.
– It’s a time to connect deeply with beautiful people whose stories already have special niches in the corners of my heart. We will have deep and honest conversations and we will change each other.
– It’s a vision quest. I know that the deep meditation of putting one foot in front of another for three days in a row will bring clarity and revelation to me that will surprise and challenge me. It will be yet another journey that will help reveal to me my unique medicine in the world.
– It’s part of my personal search for beauty in the world. We will walk in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the world, with the Rocky Mountains always at the edge of our vision. Beauty opens me – it cleans me.
– It will challenge me – push me to the edge of my endurance. I honestly don’t know if I can finish 100 km. After walking 32 in training, my feet felt like they were ready to give up on life. I am interested in seeing how I will handle this challenge, and I know that if I conquer it, I will feel invincible.
– The connection with Cath and her story will re-connect me with my own story of personal transformation through baby-loss. For three days, I will be remembering Matthew, whose 11th birthday/death-day is coming up on September 27th, and little Juggernaut, whose 1st birthday/death-day is only a few weeks later.
And so you see, the commitment is worth it. Yes, there will be moments of pure pain and exhaustion, but I know the experience will change me and I’m ready to be changed.
They say that some of your best clues about how you should spend your life lie in your most cherished childhood memories. The things that brought you joy as a six year old provide the roadmap to your heart’s desire.
In that case, it couldn’t be more appropriate that I will be walking 100 kilometres in the Kidney March in September AND that I will be releasing a special offering on Friday that focuses primarily on honouring and rejoicing in your wandering soul.
When I was six years old, I did something that I am in awe of to this very day.
I completed a 22 mile walk-a-thon. AT SIX YEARS OF AGE!
There’s a photo of me somewhere (it may have been lost when Mom moved off the farm) at the end of that incredible journey. I’m holding the hand of Walter Paramour (my friend’s dad) and we had both just finished the walk. He was the oldest to finish (in his 60s, I believe) and I was the youngest. If I remember correctly, in the picture I’m wearing a white ruffled blouse (which seems like an odd choice for a day of walking), and homemade polyester pants that are just a little too short for me.
If I can do that at six, surely I can walk 100 km. at forty-five!
Last night after a meeting downtown, I walked most of the way home. Seven kilometres. And you know what I felt as I walked? Pure six-year-old joy. I love to walk, I love to run, and I love to bike. I also like to drive, fly, take trains, ride boats – anything that feeds my wandering spirit – but I especially love it when the wandering happens at a human-propeled pace.
It’s so easy to forget the joy of wandering in our rush-to-the-next-appointment, get-the-kids-to-soccer, get-everything-accomplished-on-my-list lifestyle. We are addicted to action and we forget the beauty of slowing down to a human pace. Walking offers the body and mind time to slow down, to heal from some of the damage too much speed causes in our lives, and to clear the clutter from our overly stimulated minds.
My friend Cath Duncan (with whom I’ll be walking in September) has written beautifully about walking through adversity. Reading her post reminded me just how healing and therapeutic walking has always been for me. I remember, in fact, the time I was on my way to a group therapy session at a rape crisis centre, and when the niggling feeling told me I really didn’t want to be part of the group, I just walked right past the centre and kept on walking. Instead of group therapy, I spent my evening walking. I walked and walked, all over the beautiful old tree-lined neighbourhood I lived in. As I walked, something in me shifted and my troubled heart began to heal.
In the following weeks, it was walking and journaling that helped me work my way through the healing process after my rape. For some, group therapy might have been the right thing, but for me, my feet helped me find the path to healing.
Do you have a story about walking through adversity? Over at kidneyraffle.com (the amazing fundraising site for our walk) we’re gathering stories and we’d love to hear yours. Click on the button below to find out more. Rumour has it there may be a prize or two available for people who submit stories!
p.s. I would LOVE to have you sponsor my journey! You can do it here, or you can wait to do it through kidneyraffle.com between June 7 and 9 and be eligible for some amazing prizes.