I choose to live today
Dressed in the clothes
Of who I am, discarding
The costumes designed
By others who have not
Met my spirit in true
Communication. I choose
To be the face I see
In the mirror undisguised
By the caricatures drawn
By those with intent
For power or hidden
Motives creating harm.
I choose to hold space
For those whose words show
They know a better way
Than what was then. I give
The room to grow into
What they know could be.
I choose to live
At peace with my soul
By living at peace
Today I walked my first labyrinth. Here in Winnipeg we have the Carol Shield’s labyrinth in memory of the author who has written many books and plays. The entrance is flanked by two large stone collages of quotes from her book.
As I walked along I noticed the leaf buds had bloomed into clusters of leaves. The mantra played through my head “Winter is over, the leaves have budded.” Not far along I saw crocuses beautiful even in their faded glory and pink buds beginning to unfurl.
How had I missed this? The last I remember really looking, the leaves were hidden in tight brown coverings just emerging from the branches. The thought struck me, in holding winter in my mind grieving a loss I could not change, I was missing the spring!
My thoughts turned to a poem I had remembered reading. In the meandering space of time, I was here in this moment. I took this thought out of the labyrinth. “Spring is here. Embrace the new growth.”
By David Wagner
Stand Still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made a place for you.
If you leave it, you may come again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
It is hard to see momentum
While standing still
Muscle tensing relaxing
Leaning into the start
Trusting in preparation
Belief your mantra
Arm extended ready
To catch the baton
When next it is
Your turn to run
LJAndres, April 27
Though the themes don’t match, this art piece and the imagery in this poem speak to me of possibility.
I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses
Both pain and joy held in their memories
They come holding out the fragrance
Of strength and resilience,
Of compassion and inspiration,
They saw in me in the times
Our lives interlinked in the daily
Of living life in those moments that were
Their presence glow with an illumination
Lighting dark corners where ghosts
Once hid in silent threat to hope
They call inward leading my dreams
To the centre where the divine
Holds in gentle hands the seeds
Of dreams planted in me before
The storms ravaged my garden
Held through the years of disillusioned
Dreams the divine waited, held them safe
Until I was ready to receive them again
With reverence I carry them into
The garden where fallow ground
Stands ready to nurture new growth
Cleared and harrowed by these others
Witnesses of the life once lived
I remembered the card differently. I had seen it so often long ago when desperate for direction I would search the deck to find my way. Recently I bought the Zen Tarot deck again, not so much for the wishing as for the beautiful symbolism in the cards.
In my mind I saw a child standing at an open door ready to take a step out of the confines of his life. Imagine my surprise in finding the gate padlocked in this card I had seen so many times! It wasn’t a card to signify moving forward but a card signifying the feeling of being trapped, locked out of a life he couldn’t reach. It was the nightmare of those years as I grieved my “failure” to be able to find the way to succeed in the marriage that had ended. The years of trying had all but erased the person I once was, still colouring outside the lines but recognized as having worth in circles of friendship, in my studies, and in my workplace. The torn pieces of hope were roughly bound together in a crooked effigy of living.
Such a contrast between that time of breaking a decade and a half ago and the breaking I have been passing through in the past months! This also began with grief as the words of another with power to do so walled me out of my passionate dream celebrated in the past years, lived in the present and anticipated for the future until retirement.
But each breaking had done its work of cleaning more of the uneven growth that had effected my ability to walk with steadiness through the stormy moments of life. Over a decade has passed since the day a short film allowed me to give myself permission to not be able to communicate with someone who chose not to communicate with me. I began to accept what I would later read in a book by Parker Palmer. My life was speaking who I was meant to be. What I counted as my successes and my failures illuminated the reality of who I was within. Decades of trying began to be unwound as I spoke the “No” in my spirit that was the beginning of a renewed, more vibrant “Yes” to life.
Though each break was a labyrinth in itself, my life has been a labyrinth of searching for that way out of the confines created by my anxious desire to please and the inability to feel good enough for the ones who held power in my life. The card showed me something I had not realized. That short film had been the centre, the revelation which would begin my return journey.
This moment I had interpreted as the beginning of the labyrinth return journey was something more. I had been on a spiralling movement for years, getting caught in the circling yet ever moving outward to a more expansive life. This moment is not a beginning of the return but a wider circle in the spiral drawing me to a place where I could see the threshold, the exit into a fuller living.
Only, this time, the chains that held the gate shut are missing and the gate has swung open inviting me to take those final steps.
Two poems as my journey into the mandala labyrinth continues:
I have been given a gift,
unexpected and, surely not one I wanted
I have been given an island of time
A castaway from the sailing vessel
Of roles and expectations
To preform to fill the role
Defining my dreams for the future
Delight and joy of accomplishment’s
Satisfaction torn away
By violent waves of disbelief
That dream would find an end
Broken on the rocks
Of others’ expectations
Changed from those encountered
When signing on to crew
Safe passage on a lyrical sea
Here on these sands
I walk to the gentler rhythm
Of waves on a quieter sea
I cannot reach the other shore
Until a boat comes back for me
So I wait and taste the fruit
Sustaining me, new satisfaction
Dawning with each rising sun.
Within this island of time
The sun and silence have burned away
The should have beens, leaving
What matters, the essence of dreams:
The innocent love of children,
The warmth of caring friends,
Enough faith to sustain each step
And a heart that can reach to others.
Stop! Slow down!
I’ve only arrived at
This island of peace!
Walking this labyrinth
Of grief I found release.
Centred I began to know
Who I am beneath
The fears and shame
That held me bound,
That blocked my mind
And tore emotions.
This quiet waiting
Isn’t that what peace is?
Can’t I stay here
Protected from the winds
Outside my safe confinement?
You smile, remembering
My hurry to rush past
This time to push forward
Into trying once again
To meet the expectations of others.
The twists and turns of time’s
Labyrinth have quieted
That storm of loss.
I have founded contentment here,
Made peace with life
Secure in my choice
To live my belief by
Isolating from risk of others
Who set a different course.
I breath relief.
The storms have ended
I am safe in the centre
Safe in the knowing . . .
a puff of wind
And then another
The sail in the distance
Moves quickly toward
My refuge on these shores.
Am I ready?
Can I move back to the
World I once knew?
The world did not wait
But came to me invading
My defences with time
Spent sharing and
Into the silence of years.
The darkened pigments of release
Trail from the boat
As the distance grows
And shrinks toward
What living will be
As I return to life once more –
A new kind of peace
Of knowing the end of
This journey is near
And life will be
What it’s meant to be
I leave the centre
Of this labyrinth of time
Yet carry its gifts inside.
pentimento (pĕnˌtəmĕnˈtō) [key], painter’s term for the evidence in a work that the original composition has been changed.
Despite my good intentions, there was no beauty in the outer lines. The peace I so longed to paint upon the canvas held the jarring discord of the reality. I did not know how to bring peace within the relationship this mandala represented. I did not feel direction in how to breech that barrier. Imposed hope, unwanted judgments clashed as colours and line created dissonance. Only the centre held promise.
How the urge to flight, to run away from what I couldn’t seem to fix held me! Throw the canvas away! Repaint the background to obscure the creative mess! What good are intentions if the product is flawed?
I was stopped by the centre, the seed and ground of my own heart. Green radiating from the spiral spoke to me.
I raised my paint brush and began to recolour some lines. As I did, it struck me. This mandala was walking me through the inner labyrinth. This time on the journey was the walk toward the centre, that time of Release, the emptying to make room for the changed. The past could not be undone but colours and lines could be revisioned by letting go of what needed change.
I chose the colours that were darker for the heaviness of their pigments. Spiralling upward as layers obscured the colours and line below. I prepared for what will come by letting go.
It is not finished. Releasing is a spiralling process in time. It will come as I take the steps I can see. Each will draw me to that place of Revelation which will lead me to Return to the place of serving more deeply again. It will not be what was. It will have a new beauty.
I look at the mandala and see raised shadows as the only evidence of what had once been.
Only the centre remains.
**Credit to Heather Plett for teaching me the stages of a labyrinth
**Credit to Info Please for the wording in the definition of pentimento.