Tag Archives: labyrinth

Sanctuary of the Labyrinth

I’ve walked the labyrinth: in San Francisco in Grace Cathedral, in Toronto next to Trinity church that supports the city homeless, behind St George‘s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town, in Alice Springs at Campfire in the Heart and in McLaren Vale along the shiraz walking trail of the old railway line.

Each time I’ve walked the labyrinth I have been visited by new thoughts, I’ve been comforted and had some revelation. The very act of walking in and out, tracing and retracing my own steps, strengthens my narrative.

I’ve walked the labyrinth many ways: on my own, with the love of my life and with a group. I’ve walked with a specific intention, meditation or song. I’ve found that the deeper the intention for the walk, the deeper the experience.

I recently learnt of a virus of the inner ear that causes an illness called labyrinthitis – it is not very pleasant causing dizziness and disorientation. I have been reflecting on this affliction and noticing when it flares up. It seems to take hold when there is a need for re-calibration and balance. The condition making sure that its host knows that recalibration and rebalance is required! Walking the labyrinth is similar in a way. Perhaps if you need to recalibrate and find your balance this walking meditation you might be saved from physical symptoms.

Hildegard I know you spent a lot of time in your life not well and I wonder if this ever had to do with your needing to re-charge, straighten up after being dizzy or unsettled by one phenomena or another?

The labyrinth is not a maze, it is one single path that leads to the centre and the same one leading you out. Going in deep and faithfully taking one step at a time is surely the only way into the centre, and once there to find your way out requires a good deal of fidelity and courage. Being true to your path is the universal quest. The ritual walking of the labyrinth reflects the common path of human experience. We all enter the path, and we all exit the path.

And in the places I have walked a physical labyrinth I add my steps to those who have gone before and have left my footprints for those who follow.

Grace Cathedral nurtured the first wave of AIDS in San Francisco and held so many of the gay community to its bosom. The quilts, the prayers, the poems and the sanctuary it was and continues to be is an ongoing testament to the fidelity of San Francisco to its gay community.

Toronto’s Trinity Church has a strong and fine history of being a place for the homeless to feel safe, find a meal and receive friendship, a sanctuary, especially in the winter time.

Cape Town Cathedral hosted so many moments of civil disobedience, solidarity and prophetic witness by black and white throughout the apartheid years. It welcomed everyone and in doing so putting all of the congregation at risk – it was a sanctuary on more than one occasion for those fleeing arrest, bullets and persecution. It grew its own prophets led by Desmond Tutu.

Campfire in the Heart is a sanctuary on the edge of a township riddled with racism and flooded with ancient stories holding the fragile land and communities together. It stands as witness, and is invitation to all, with warmth, wise counsel and deep compassion in the pores of those who are there and in each grain of the red sand on which it lies.

The old train track at McLaren Vale is surrounded by houses on one side and vineyards on the other, nestled in the valley behind the main part of the township the labyrinth is a quiet, still place where the wattle birds, magpies, honeyeaters, galahs and parrots sing to all those who walk the path there. The old red gums hold the stories of the land and provide the sanctuary to support the pilgrim.

I keep going, on my labyrinth way, and as I head into the half way mark, between fifty and sixty, I accept that I have now turned from the centre and am  heading out. Gathering up the lessons I have learnt on the way in, savouring the moments, reflecting on where I have trod, noticing with new eyes what I didn’t see on the way in and gratefully stepping forward.


X (plore) Factors


So I leave my boats behind

I’ve been reflecting on X factors. In algebra the x factor was that still hidden, waiting to be discovered variable, the key to solving the equation. These days it has found an audience applauding and giving x meaning as a special talent or quality. Both reveal the variable in a situation that is the essential impact – the essence – the delivers the outcome. So what are your x-factors? What are mine?

As I’ve been looking for work recently I have been scrutinised, tested, discussed, interviewed, challenged, performed. The investigations all drilling to discover the x-factor that will deliver the outcome the potential employer is looking for. Seems to me this is has a lot in common with a reality TV Show, however the audience, their customers and clients, don’t get a vote.  Will my x factors be the ones they are looking for?

I have learnt a lot of lessons over my life from being at the edges of the frontiers of many institutions. These lessons from the inside have revealed my x-factors – resilience, humour, improvisation, blending, conducting, facilitating, curiosity, bravery.

I think your x-factors become visible when you step onto the precipice and then you find out what x  actually means. You discover what shape it takes, what it tastes like, how it sounds and what it feels like to own it in your body and mind and spirit. I have also discovered the revelations bring compassion too – finding myself compassionate towards B16 is a very, big surprise!

I am exploring resignation and what that means – the resignation of the Pope, me resigning from a job, the resignation of living with a loved one with a life limiting illness.   How are my x factors are equipping me for the explorations ahead?

I am redefining my x-factors and X-plore factors.  I know all my exploring takes place often with the bare minimum of a map – just a hint of knowing where I am going and what I am going to need to get my there. However much I plan, there will still be unknown y variables out there to add to the x factors I bring with me.

I can bring my music, my poetry, my commitment to democracy and participation and my sense of adventure where-ever I travel. And it frequently is an adventure. Adventures might be unusual and exciting. They are typically hazardous and have plenty of unknown variables of their own!

I find myself on interior adventures more often than not, where I discover one of my x-factors being like a ear worm, wriggling its way into my journey to take me to some unknown landscape. The inner journey may  (or may not) be supported by an outer one. At times the pilgrimage is an internal labyrinth – the only way out is to go in and retrace your steps to get back out again.

While there are people who do extreme sports – I am more like an extreme pilgrim.

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without the journey is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” Mark Nepo