Remarks by The Reverend Tom Capo, Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist. At the October Labyrinth Workshop, Indian Creek Nature Center, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“What is a natural labyrinth? Most labyrinths that you see are flat unadorned maze-like structures. Their purpose is not to bring attention to themselves, but to give the person walking the labyrinth an opportunity to journey within him/herself without distraction. I have walked many labyrinths and found this journey helpful, interesting, and fruitful on my own spiritual quest. A natural labyrinth is not bound by the same rules as other labyrinths. The journey on this labyrinth is not free of distractions, but it is a journey within none the less.
“Let me tell you of my walk the natural labyrinth in front of Marion Patterson’s home. Here is an image of me sitting in Marion Patterson’s Labyrinth. If you were to see this image without context or the sharing of my experience, you might say this is some guy sitting on a bench in some field. You might even say he looks sad. I, in fact, felt both physically and spiritually lost as I sat down on that bench inside her labyrinth. This was not a bad thing. In fact it was quite meaningful to me, and become even more meaningful by my sharing with Marion about how my eyes and heart were drawn to the special features in her labyrinth, and how my expectations of my journey—a journey without distraction, focused only on what I was searching for– got in the way of fully experiencing the path in front of me. We began to talk about the uniqueness and value of her labyrinth to me at that point in my spiritual journey, and I shared with her the value of her creating a natural labyrinth for others.
“What was the value of a labyrinth with features, with flowers, plants, a tree, a bench? As I experienced it, this labyrinth was like my spiritual journey through life. We walk through life holding in our mind certain expectations, ideas, beliefs, direction, yet life throws us a curve — something that takes our attention, gives us an opportunity to consider what we might actually need at that point in our journey. I was walking Marion’s labyrinth, and found my eye going to certain features, wondering about them, even finding myself getting lost when the turn in the labyrinth was not where I expected it to be. I needed to be lost, you see. I had been moving ahead on my journey without even thinking about my next step. I thought I knew where I was going. But in reality, I was so busy focusing on what I thought I knew I didn’t even consider sitting still, and listening to the sound of the still small voice inside. Only when I was truly lost, when I had to still the many voice, agendas, questions, directions telling me which way to go, and listen deeply to what was inside me was I able to realize that I had been out of touch with what was really important, my soul; the still small voice that was telling me to stop, be still, be lost for a while, don’t focus so much, just be.
“You might wonder whether an unadorned labyrinth or a natural labyrinth is better. One is neither better nor worse than the other. Each provides a different journey, a different opportunity. On the unadorned labyrinth, you can really have the opportunity to take the focused journey into yourself about a single issue, problem, belief, direction. One the natural labyrinth, you can hold onto the same issues, problems, beliefs, direction, but you also have to be open to surprise, to new directions, to distractions that might cause you to change your focus, to new learnings, to something that might have been hidden by your own entrenched expectations of what should be happening in your life.
“If you walk the natural labyrinth, I encourage you to start your journey in the same way that you start a journey into any labyrinth, but also be open to what happens when you are exposed to the various objects, natural and otherwise, and how they affect your journey. Be willing to shift and change, to re-consider priorities and needs, to look into parts of yourself that you had not looked at before. Be willing to stop at what at first might seem a distraction, and just be with it for a while. I find these natural labyrinths a very different journey, one that I need from time to time to get me outside my own narrow focus, and open to what I might really need on my journey at that time in my life.”