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Lessons From The Labyrinth

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It’s a brisk and sunny morning.  Not wanting to go back inside immediately after our usual walk to the bluff, I decide instead to walk the labyrinth in honor of the New Year.  As I stand at the entrance of the large stone mandala inscribed on our lawn, I decide to let this mornings walk into center represent my spiritual path to enlightenment, with each of the four quadrants serving to represent the four aspects of my own psyche: the physical world of form, the emotional experience, the mind, and the Spirit.  I say a prayer of intention before entering and then start moving slowly inward, following the twists and turns back and forth as I wind my way deeper inward.  Both the physical and the emotional sectors of the labyrinth are covered with shady patches of still frozen dew – the droplets sparkle like diamonds lying exposed on the frosty grass.  I keep moving.  Within moments, while still in the first, or physical, quadrant, I come right up next to the centermost line and walk along side it for just a few steps before the path turns abruptly away again.  It always takes me a little by surprise to find myself so close to the center this soon after entering the labyrinth.  This morning’s “close encounter” with center reminds me of the many times in life when I’ve erred in thinking, “Oh, I’ve got it! … Well, at least – almost”.

The labyrinth is truly an inspired design.  My respect for it has grown immensely the more I’ve used it as a tool for clearing, prayer and going inward.  The way the path takes me right to center line in each of the four quadrants, only to lead me away again. Until, finally, I arrive, effortlessly and unfailingly, “home” – to the center, which, today I’ve designated as representing that in me which is “Awakened Consciousness”.
New insights arise every time I walk the labyrinth.  Among this morning’s realizations came this one: “Understanding the physical laws of manifestation may bring me close to Source, but will not get me there.”  No matter how much I practice the Hermetic principles… no matter how successful I am at manifesting the form of life I desire… no matter what miracles of health or material success are performed – these things will not bring me enlightenment.”  I keep walking, allowing this thought to take me deeper towards my innermost center, while outwardly, I continue to follow the twists and turns of the serpentine maze.
I have spent my life “trying” to become enlightened – to no avail.  Slowly it dawns in my consciousness that it is the effort itself that holds me back from that which I desire.  Making this known brings me to the necessity for surrender.  I must let go of a whole other level of “doing”.  The trying so hard has become just another obstacle standing between my Self and the One Truth.
I have had experiences with Source – some truly awesome.  It might even be said that I have been a collector of “experiences with Source”.  But though these have been wonderful moments… they are not to be confused with “The Awakening”.  As a matter of fact, I’m seeing that such phenomena can be deceptive – actually leading me away from that for which I long.  Rather than serving, they can end up replacing my Awakening.  These “special events” may, if I’m not very careful, distract me from knowing the Oneness by quickly becoming just one more story in the growing identity of a separate self.  Anything that adds story takes me away from the realization that I am that I AM.  I Am That I Am is The Awakening.  I can see that as glamorous as I, and others may think it is to have “spiritual encounters” these can be a dangerous detour on the path – the danger being that the “Lynne story” may settle for the “miraculous” experience in lieu of the REAL THING.
The best that these mountain – top experiences can offer is in service – as a beneficial pointer, and no more than that – to the Authentic Experience.  They can serve as, perhaps adequate, metaphors or similes – they can speak, albeit somewhat awkwardly, of the repercussions which occur upon Awakening – no more than that.  How quickly ego manages to turn these Highs into the sort of high that numbs, waylays and distracts me from the Truth – then it’s the “Lynne-story” that gets fed – nothing Real.
The second quadrant of the Labyrinth is deep in shadow … “How appropriate for the emotional being this morning”, think I.  The dew sparkles and glitters in the splotchy light and reminds me of how easy it is to get distracted by the emotional glamours in life  … that “feel good” sort of inner state, for instance, that comes when the story-named-Lynne gets attached to some notion of being highly spiritual.  There may be real connection with Source – that’s not the problem,  – it’s the story that I create around the connection that forestalls Awakening.  I have been guilty of using such emotional highs as evidence that “something momentous is happening to Lynne” – which then keeps me from the Momentous.
At times I am very close to giving up – but, then something intervenes and I just can’t.  Not quite – no, not yet….  I wish I could … that is my current biggest longing –to be able to surrender to the point of complete annihilation of all the remaining lynne-story.  I think this must be the kind of essential dying of which yogi’s speak – that of giving up – of letting go of this whole package labeled lynne that I’m bundled up inside of – as if that small form could possibly contain the Immensity of what I AM….  I want, to want to die to that story – including the part of it that tries so hard to “make” me Awaken.  But the lynne-story is tenacious … and grows increasingly so when I practice “believing-in-her” as something real.  She likes it when I buy into her claims that she can take me Home – “just keep trying”, she whispers, and I do.
I see this clearly on this bright and clear morning in the labyrinth … “I’ve tried and tried to “get there” and I’m tired!”, I proclaim to the sky.  And looking up brings me home to this moment and a smile comes.  For a moment or a few, I am resting in the arms of Now – and there is no problem….
Then the Lynne-self pipes up,  “NO SURRENDER!” she proclaims, “that dying stuff is SCARY.”
Fear … there have been times, these past few days especially, when waves of such intense anxiety have rolled through that I could hardly stand still.  There’s that word  – “anxiety”….  Recently I read in Michael Brown’s book, “The Presence Process” that that word contains another two words that speak tons – “any exit”.  These two words artfully define the state called anxiety.  Anxiety is the tension created from the overwhelming desire to escape something.
Anything that is Real is threatening to the story – it fears extinction and so it automatically freaks … “RUN, get out of here!  Do something … anything – NOW!!!”  It literally looks for any exit out of this moment … it only wants to be where it can be in charge … “take me back”, it begs – to the small world where lynne rules.
Sometimes, I do run – somehow I just can’t resist the fictitious self, it seems.  It then, hustles me off to some “important doing” in order to promote the lynne charade. Such is how my thoughts run this morning as I meander through the second quadrant of the labyrinth.  I am coming up out of the small boggy area that occupies most of the emotional quadrant of this labyrinth – a quite appropriate physical representation for the emotions, I’d say, wouldn’t you?  As I transition into the third quadrant (home of the mind), the ground rises and the grass is much drier.  My thoughts follow the lay of the land….
“The mental does, sometimes, appear to be on higher ground.  But still, I can get just as lost here, in a sub-culture of mental gyrations as I have in any emotional drama!  As a matter of fact, the story-self’s favorite place to hide is the mind … and that certainly doesn’t take me to any kind of ‘higher ground!’”
Because I notice it here in the layout of the stone pathways where I walk – I automatically begin to seek an inner parallel.  Is there a mental version of “higher ground”?
It occurs then that perhaps “higher reasoning” is the mind’s version of “higher ground”.  Logos – inspired thought – intuition – the dispassionate witness … these are all concepts that may well describe the higher purpose of mind.  A flashing light of warning accompanies these thoughts, however … “Remember …ego is very crafty … it can imitate and disguise itself as any one of these in order to meet its own agenda!”
Just like the emotional self likes to turn spiritual experience into a drama – into more story about who lynne is – so also does the mind like to create a box for me with words.  Words easily become a digression away from, rather than a progression towards Awakening.  They cannot  – whether in thought or speech – truly express That Which Cannot Be Thought or Spoken.  Any attempt to frame The I Am in words is futile and ultimate illusion.  Words, by virtue of being what they are, are limited, restricting and hopelessly misleading.  They attempt to reduce, for the sake of human understanding, That Which Cannot Be Understood.  Words are efforts to turn Immensity Beyond Measure into concepts – to make Source Energy into a thing that we can see or handle somehow.  Words are things – they are forms – they cannot even comprehend, much less define The Awakening.
The intellectual in me delights in the use of exacting, descriptive and colorful words.  Such philosophical diatribe is often referred in esoterics by the term, “dead-letter”.  This term refers to a phrase or idea that may have originally been inspired – conceived, perhaps, in heightened consciousness, but which has lost its aliveness through repetition.  It becomes nothing more than a pretty phrase, often used as a trophy, or to prove how conscious one is.  Such sayings can be mimicked and memorized to the point of being devoid of any real meaning … they become mere empty husks.  Words, phrases, dialogue – none of these – can take me where I want to go.
They are simply something that must be gone beyond….
I walk the labyrinth, deliberately placing one foot in front of the other, and find myself chanting the heart sutra out loud…
“gate, gate, paragate… parasamgate … gate.”
“gone, gone, gone beyond … complete – gone beyond … gone.”.
To use words for such surrender as this – to dedicate their use, combined with the intensity and passion of ones whole heart, to the intense desire and longing for Source – now that is indeed higher ground!

“But I cannot think my way into that State of Consciousness.  I have tried!  Surely, if that were possible, there are many who would be sharing the Awakened State with me right now”.  This is my thought as I find myself, once again, walking parallel to the line that separates the mental aspect of the labyrinth from center.  “Thinking can only bring me close to the Center line … but then it too ends up keeping me separate.”
I cannot use the mind’s clever devices to cross over into Awakening.  The thinking mind is just another, totally frustrating barrier.  How can a made-up mental construct, which is what this “Lynne-story” is, use a made-up mental apparatus (the mind) to save me?
Suddenly, here in the middle of the labyrinth, I am totally and completely struck with the utter futility of words.  The awareness leaves me empty … speechless … and for the span of a breath or two the mind stops.  Here, in this moment, I see the glistening world around me without the limitation of words to define that which I see.  Gratitude fills me.  And then the words come rolling back in like thunderclouds across a clean, open sky.  From being the Witness, I am now, once again the loquacious commentator.  Words imprison Essence.  I yearn to realize the Immensity That I Am.  And yet, here I am – stuck with words in an effort to express that which I cannot resist saying.
Here’s the dilemma within which I find myself …that even in seeing clearly the limitation of words, I cannot seem to drop them.  That, even though they are poor vehicles, they are still the best, and only way that I have, in this world of form, to point to The Formless.  Even though words are a product of the illusion called “mind” and therefore can only be illusion as well, I go on verbosely attempting to describe something Real.  How can such meager, finite and limited terms express That which is Infinite and beyond comprehension?  I realize how way out of my league I am here, in the attempt to say something Real and True while speaking from a self that is not real.
“It’s amazing how clear things can become while walking the sun-blazed paths of a labyrinth!”  This is the thought that carries me from the mental into the spiritual quadrant of the labyrinth.  The dew is gone now – it has melted away in the full warmth of a radiant sun that lights the Spiral Path to center.  I stand still a moment on the bright path and soak up the rays of the Sun’s energy.  The phrase, “Standing in the Light of Consciousness” comes through my mind, as I pause in silence and absorb the rays of a fresh morning sun.  I love the way Source uses our native environment and every single thing in it in order to communicate with us!  I stand here in the spiritual quadrant, absorbing rays of sunlight, aware that the sun has been used for thousands of years as a symbol to represent Source.  “Source is shining on me….”  The sun’s light permeates my being – enters this form and fills my mind with light.  I am of Its’ Light.  I am of Source.  I am that I Am.  This, I realize is what the term, “enlightenment” means.  It means Awakening to the realization that I Am That I Am.  It means to understand that it is the Light Within that creates the whole illusion of a without, for Its’ own viewing pleasure.  It means essentially that there is no “without” … there is only the Great Within.
I am still waiting to awaken from this dream … but I am now, at least, a lucid dreamer.  I know that I am dreaming the illusion of “my life” as a self-named-Lynne.  I continue walking to the center of the labyrinth feeling like the dream-ego who has become aware that she is asleep and dreaming but does not know how to wake-up.  Nonetheless, I proceed with faith, knowing that the coming of the Eternal Light of Awakening is inevitable.  Like the spiral path of the labyrinth, I too, in life, may meander hither and thither, and even sometimes stray away from center.  But sooner or later, this path is bound to lead Home.

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