Tag Archives: meditative

Into the Labyrinth

I’ve a longstanding fascination with labyrinths. It started as a purely visual interest, and then a few years ago, I started having opportunities to walk them. Gloucester cathedral, on a number of occasions, put vast canvas labyrinths down for people to explore. I was able to walk a number of them over about a year.

The process of slowly and deliberately walking a labyrinth does something to the mind and body. I’m still not sure how to best put that into words, but as you walk yourself into the centre of it, you walk the shape of it into your mind. I rapidly discovered that any labyrinth which takes you straight out once you’ve finished it, is not as good for me as one that requires a journey in and out. I found the experience of walking it soothing, and settling, and it is one of my favourite meditative practices.

The trouble with it is, I don’t have a big garden, or a vast living room, or any means to keep the cathedral making these experiences available. They don’t do them anymore. I went so far as to research giant canvas labyrinths, but they start around the thousand pound mark, I certainly can’t afford one, and even if I did, I have nowhere to roll it out.

This summer, the yearning for a labyrinth became a call I could no longer ignore, and I started thinking in earnest about how to make it possible. As I was banner making for a local event, I wondered if we could paint one onto fabric, but the scale it takes to make a complicated one work, is clearly beyond me.

A day of being too ill to do much gave me a window of opportunity, and I sat down with the internet and looked at labyrinths, until I tracked down the one I wanted. One I had walked, and that I knew I would fine especially effective. All I had to do was make sense of it, and so I stared at it, and counted, and looked for patters than I could remember.

Apparently the one I’m obsessed with is a medieval labyrinth. This is Sebastián Asegurado’s version, taken from Wikipedia:

12 concentric circles. Patterns of negative space that define the turns. The placing of the crossroads at the entrance. By the end of that day, I could reliably draw a version of the above labyrinth from memory. I found the process of drawing it echoed the experience of walking it, but was not an entirely satisfying substitute.

I had to take it forward…

What happened next, will be tomorrow’s blog post, as I keep exploring the labyrinth, I’ll post my experiences. It’s a project I am incredibly excited about.

Alternative meditation

There are a number of standard meditation techniques popular with druids that I find impossible. They make no emotional sense to me. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the techniques, I’m sure they work well for some people, just not for me. I’ve been trying to find alternatives, and having got one, wanted to share on the off-chance that I am not alone in my difficulties.

There is the meditation in which we go down into the otherworld. We may go through a door in a tree and down a stair, and meet the guardian. I’ve encountered this one in a few places. It stumps me partly because it’s directional. I have ideas about Annwn that would work for going down, but the otherworld as underworld doesn’t sit right. I understand the otherworlds as being alongside this one, overlapping, interwoven in ways too complex for me to understand.

When I want to explore something otherworldly in meditation, I have tried hard and repeatedly to work with the ‘down’ model. I’m not an inherently visual person, and I’ve tried using imagery from all kinds of places to reinforce the work, and I still struggle. Being a frequent meditator and good at working with other thought forms, I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe it’s just not the right idea for me.

I then started looking round for some alternative. I need a meditative journey that takes me from the world as I experience it, into somewhere else. I need that journey to be emotionally resonant for me, and the imagery to be simple enough that I can easily picture it. I spent some days deliberately mulling this over, and nothing came.

Then, walking beside the canal in the darkness, I watched the full moon rise, creating a path of light across the water. I knew I’d found my image. I remember a story from childhood – Masquerade – in which a hare had to run the path of the sun, created by the sun setting over the sea. I’m sure I’ve read moonpath stories as well.  It’s an idea I’ve also used in fiction writing. Path of the moon, path of the sun, stretching out over the water, over river or ocean, and taking us… I don’t know. Beyond the map, into the unknown.

I’ve started working with the idea of a moonpath in meditation, and currently just imagining walking or running it is enough for me. I realised once I started that I had created a scenario in which I would have to walk on water, which is laden with interesting connotations. So far the journey is simply over the water, following the light. I know that when I am truly ready, that path will take me somewhere. I’m not pushing, or presupposing what I will find, and I like that too. It makes me realise one of the problems I have with prescriptive visualisations and pathworkings is that they often tell you what to encounter. I’ve got to the stage where I don’t want to write a story about where I’m going, I want to journey and experience in a freeform way, in a way that might possibly be a real spiritual experience rather than the creative working of my conscious mind.

This is part of my re-enchantment quest, and my searching for magic in my life. I realised that I needed to open myself to otherworldliness, and looked around for suitable tools. I think in the moonpath and sunpath meditations, I’ve found something. I also like that I can go out and work with real phenomena – I don’t just have to sit and imagine, I can meditate with the moon or sun on the water sometimes, and I’m very drawn to grounding my meditations in reality where I can.

More notes from the journey when I have anything to report.