Labyrinths have taken their rightful place in spas, churches, hospitals, parks, schools, gardens and many a back yard over the last couple of decades. Many of us are becoming aware of them as a beautiful path of peace, contemplation and prayer. Most of us however, may not be aware of them as a tool for peering into our relationships.
First, let me reveal that the language of the labyrinth is metaphor. We aren’t walking the labyrinth to learn about it, we are walking the labyrinth to learn about ourselves. Everything we notice —from a brick out of place to animal scat can offer a powerful “aha” if we look past the literal into the metaphorical messages. Simply put, what you notice on the labyrinth is what you are being invited to notice in yourself.
When I first discovered the labyrinth, nearly twenty years ago, I was anxious to share it with my husband. I stepped onto the path ahead of him and noticed right away my discomfort walking in front of him. Knowing this had nothing to do with the labyrinth, I looked for the symbolism in our marriage. I realized that there, too, I was concerned that my success with some individual projects would be reached ahead of his. Realizing this allowed me to be mindful not to sabotage my own success to keep the “status quo” and to be aware of supporting the success of his projects simultaneously.
Next, I noticed that while we started one right after the other, we soon were walking side-by-side, then on opposite sides of the labyrinth, then together again. I looked for the metaphor and could easily see the cyclical nature of relationship. Indeed sometimes it is “him and me together against the world,” and other times a sense of “where is that guy going?” Realizing that there are “steps we can take” to move toward a more loving connection when we start “spinning out” is a helpful recognition.
Once a woman came to walk my labyrinth. After walking on the labyrinth for a little while she came up to me laughing to tell me what had happened. “When I arrived, you may have noticed, I was angry about something in my relationship. I went to walk the labyrinth to work it out and came across a pile of dog poop on the path. At first, I was mad about that too, but then the metaphor unfolded. I suddenly realized that “poop happens” and I have a choice about how to handle it. I can be angry and storm through the rest of my journey, or day, carrying that anger with me. Or I can do something about it. I can I can ignore it and move on, clean it up myself or report it in the hopes someone else cleans it up. What I don’t want to do is (metaphorically) stomp in it and allow that one moment in time to stink up the rest of my life.” She laughed with a great sense of relief at seeing that she was not a victim afterall, and the ability to make choices set her free.
When I work with couples, I have them walk into the labyrinth individually, yet at the same time, meet in the center and then find a way to walk out together, in contact with each other. This is the tricky part as the path is narrow with only room for one, and yet it is also the revealing part. Who leads? Who trusts? Who “cheats”? Who controls? Who has self-doubt? Do they play and dance their way through the decisions that walking the path together brings or do they argue and vie for the lead? One couple finally decided not to walk together, neither trusting the other as to which way to go. Remarkably, their whole relationship played out in that one journey out of the labyrinth.
Once when leading a group of forty people on a labyrinth walk someone said, “I’ll come back tomorrow when there is no one else here.” To which I replied, “By all means, come back and walk the labyrinth alone—but don’t miss this! It is one thing to achieve relationship mastery alone in your “cave” and an entirely different experience whilst actually in relationship!”
The invitation is for you to find your nearest labyrinth, (World Wide labyrinth locator: http://labyrinthlocator.com/) whether you walk it in tandem or all on your own, the path will reveal what you need to see in yourself if you are self-observant. That self-observance will lead you to self-awareness. Self-awareness leads to choices, and mastery over those choices will help you heal your relationships.