Over the years I have been able to visit and walk various labyrinths. I think the first ones were with a friend Coifi who has long been passed over and enjoying life in the otherworld. He used to draw them in the sand and then we walked them several times. I learned how to draw simple ones this way too.
Then I visited Wing Maze in Rutland. This is a turf-cut maze situated on the edge of the Rutland village of Wing. It is better seen as a labyrinth rather than a maze. It is around 14 metres in diameter and consists of a single grass path that winds and backtracks around in a circle before finally leading to the centre. The age of this particular maze is not known but it may only date from the medieval period .
On a visit to Launde Abbey in Leicestershire, I saw that they had built a labyrinth of some kind in a glade in the woods. This was built using stones. There was a notice at the start about how to use the labyrinth and you could choose a stone from a large pile. You walked with the stone in your hand around the labyrinth putting all your worries and sad thoughts into the stone. When you reached the centre you could leave the stone there and walk back unencumbered. Since then the Abbey has laid out a new one in the wildflower meadow so when you walk it in the summer you are surrounded by wild flowers.
Recently I was able to visit a labyrinth set out on private land. It was a beautiful day and walking this labyrinth was very special. So what do I mean by walking a labyrinth? Labyrinth walking is an ancient practice used by many different faiths for spiritual contemplation, and prayer. Entering the winding path of a labyrinth, you walk slowly while quieting your mind and focusing on a spiritual question or prayer. One local vicar told me that each corner or turn was a turn in your life and when you reached the centre you had reached God. Whether you believe in God or not, it can be a very profound experience and also an experience of joy. On my last visit I felt a very deep connection to the earth and found myself chanting ‘Mother I feel you under my feet, Mother I feel your heartbeat’. So walk a labyrinth if you get the chance or draw one in the sand and walk it.
It has been an interesting few weeks since I decided to take some time out from my busy world and just look after me and just be me, if that makes sense. Much of this time was spent at home, resting, watching the birds and butterflies in the garden and doing as little as possible. Yet I still felt tired and had no mojo, no inclination to do any creative work.
So I listened to music especially that of Einaudi, a minimalist composer who has written a lot of piano music. I found this very soothing and restful and there was a little thought that maybe I could compose music like that. But I just sat there and listened and meditated and did nothing else that did not have to be done.
This last week I spent three days on a retreat at a nearby retreat centre. It is owned and run by the Church of England but all are welcome and there is no pressure. I have been going there now for some years and have always enjoyed it and benefited from my stay there. The food is good and at regular intervals and the gardens and woodland as well as the surrounding landscape are beautiful and peaceful. There is no phone signal although there is now wi-fi and internet access in all areas.
I spent a lot of time sitting by the pond waiting for the dragonflies to appear. I did see them but getting photos was hard to do. However the robin and the squirrel posed beautifully for me. I walked in the woods and explored the labyrinth in the grounds behind a walled garden. The labyrinth was not at its best as the meadow in which it is situated had been mown and the grass and wild flowers were hiding the path around it. But it was good to sit up there looking out over the countryside and enjoying the peace of it all. But my mojo returned and one day I wrote several poems, something I have not done for some time. I also ate far too much but returned home feeling much better and ready to do things of a creative nature after catching up with all the other stuff.
But coming home can be quite hard. In many ways I am lucky to live alone so I can take my time assimilating myself back into our chaotic world. Others do not get the same privilege if they have family. I am also now being able to stand back from the chaos and look at the wider picture. I am able to watch the ‘dark’ elements of our world come to the front so that we awaken more to what can be and are able to give out more light. There is hope but the future might not be what we expect.
The photo is taken from the bottom of the woodland looking out at the Abbey where I stayed.
I was lucky enough to have another trip out to Launde Abbey this week, having lunch with my local WI members. It was a beautiful day for once and I was able to take advantage of the weather after lunch. The spiral I had found in the woods was now finished and had become a labyrinth with a couple of very sharp turns. One of these passed around a holly tree which had drooping branches. There was a notice at the entrance explaining the purpose of the labyrinth and in the centre was a bowl of stones with a notice asking you to take a stone to represent something you wanted to give away. You were to take the stone home with you then dispose of it perhaps by burying it or putting it in a river. Then you would have given away the thing that you had wanted to give away. Launde Abbey community is a Christian community so I found this labyrinth very refreshing to see.
For me personally I enjoy walking the labyrinth and finding the silence that comes with this. It is an amazing place to be and the whole area has lovely energy which both refreshes, calms and brings creativity and peace. Here is another photo of the centre of the labyrinth.