“You can stay at the centre as long as you need.” That’s what I say to people at retreats when I’m facilitating a labyrinth walk. The centre is where you receive whatever gifts are available to you after releasing the baggage you were carrying as you went in. (The exit is the return when you bring the gifts back to your community.)
I offer people that invitation, but at the same time I recognize how hard it is to stay at the centre. Most of us have been conditioned to believe that we shouldn’t overstay our welcome – we shouldn’t receive too much or it means we’re greedy. Plus we might get in the way of other people receiving what they need (especially in a labyrinth when the centre is small and quickly crowded). And we get restless when the gift doesn’t come soon enough. And then we feel obligated to return so that we can be of value to other people.
On one of our last calls for the Holding Space Certification Program, the participant who was hosting the call invited us to create a small labyrinth in our home or backyard and then to walk it while we were on the call together. I walked in a spiral in my backyard, and once I got to the centre, I didn’t want to leave. I could feel the resistance all over my body, and yet there were voices in my head that kept saying “you need to do this right and that includes the return” and “if you don’t start to walk out soon, you’ll miss the rest of the call”. But… no matter what those voices said, my body refused to leave. So I laid down in the grass and stayed there until the bell was rung on the call to invite us back.
Sometimes we need to stay at the centre for longer than feels comfortable. Sometimes the gift can’t arrive until we’ve stayed long enough to reach stillness. Sometimes we have to silence the voices that tell us we’re being selfish and taking too much. Sometimes we need to resist the temptation to rush back into action so that we can look after the people who depend on us.
This morning I cycled to my favourite labyrinth (the Carol Shields Labyrinth in King’s Park, in case you live in or ever visit Winnipeg and want to check it out) so that I could do my morning journal practice there. As I entered and started the release, I could feel some of the tension in my body ease as it considered what gift might be waiting for me at the centre. I realized, as I walked, that I need an extra long time at the centre right now. The past eighteen months have been more taxing than I ever could have imagined and my body and soul are depleted and in need of rest and solace.
I decided, as I neared the centre, that it wasn’t only going to be a morning of journal-writing at the centre – it’s going to be where I spend the whole summer (figuratively, of course – I don’t plan to pitch a tent there). I’m going to release what I need to in the days leading up to my two month sabbatical, and then I’m going to rest, be still, and open myself to whatever gifts are available to me. I’ll be like an open vessel, allowing goodness to be poured into me. I will resist the urge to produce things, to fix things or to do things that don’t nourish and rejuvenate me. I will accept what I’ve done in the last eighteen months as ENOUGH and I will let go of any guilt over how I’m “wasting” my time.
I hope that you, too, can find some time to be at the centre of the labyrinth. I hope that, at least for awhile, you can let go of responsibilities, guilt, shame, productivity, duties, and to-do lists. I hope that you can love yourself enough to believe that you are good enough just as you are and that you are worthy of rest.
P.S. The Spiral Path is a twenty-one lesson e-course that’s based on the labyrinth (with seven lessons for each of the release, receive and return). You can sign up for it any time.