Learning from Spiders and Labyrinths

Last night, when my husband, Mike, and I went to bed, two tiny spiders crawled across our white sheets. I’d like to say we captured them and let them outside, but instead, we used a tissue and a trash can.

While propping my pillows, I noticed a third tiny spider. Another tissue, another toss.

I was convinced an egg sack had hatched somewhere near the bed. Visions of hundreds of arachnids, investigating our ears and nostrils and mouth, while we slept, caused me to convince Mike to help change the sheets, pull out the bed, and vacuum years of accumulated dust from behind the headboard. We found neither eggs nor obvious webs.

From Gnissah

The next day, while opening windows to let in the cool morning air, I spotted a few spiders in the living room and kitchen. I had forgotten about the night before, until I noticed Animal-Speak, by Ted Andrews, laying on the couch, and decided to see what it said about spiders.

“Spiders teach you to maintain a balance—between past and future. . . . Often the webs take a spiral shape, the traditional form of creativity and development. The spider found in the web reminds us that we are the center of our own world. . . . We are the keepers and the writers of our own destiny, weaving it like a web by our thoughts, feelings, and actions.”

Meditative Labyrinth

Webs and spirals got me thinking about walking a labyrinth; something I enjoy doing about once a year for deep reflection.

There are several ways people use labyrinths, just as there are countless ways to construct one.

While it looks like a complex maze, there is only one path—no dead ends—that leads from the edge to the center, similar to the labyrinth below from Quiet Meadows, which can be followed with your finger on a printed page. I am partial to walking mazes, but some folks find finger mazes quite meditative and inspiring.


Via Quiet Meadows

Walking the Labyrinth

Inspired by the spiders, Mike and I headed to Saint Mary’s Labyrinth, pictured below. Over the past ten years, I’ve walked at least a dozen different mazes, and this turned out to be one of my favorites.

Made of simple bricks and totally flat, you have to concentrate to stay on the path. Unlike some mazes that use plants or tall grasses to mark the way.

Another aspect that made this a favorite place was the lack of distractions. Grasses and flowers or bushes, while beautiful, draw the mind outward; the faded gray-black and red pavers made it easier to maintain an inner awareness.

Saint Mary’s Labyrinth in Hales Corners, Wisconsin

Labyrinth Technique

The technique I used while walking the path was the three R’s: release, receive, and reflect.

  1. On the way to the center, release or let go of thoughts, troubles, and worries.
  2. Pause in the middle as long as you like, while receiving insights.
  3. Finally, on the way out, reflect on any insights or thoughts that had come to you.

I always hope for a lightning bolt of revelation to strike me at the core of the maze. Hasn’t happened yet. For now, I’ll settle with subtle whispers, ideas that pop into my head.

Once I returned to the start of the trail, I took several silent minutes, before leaving this sacred space and returning to highways, laundry, and responsibility. During this time, several whispers came into my mind:

  • Don’t look back. Flow forward.
  • Don’t get distracted. Stay focused.
  • Don’t worry about the path. Just know where you’re going—what your goal is.
  • Don’t be so serious. Lighten up, see the humor, and laugh more.

The first time I typed these from my journal to this page, I omitted the “don’t”s, because they sound so negative and reminiscent of strident school rules: “Don’t run”, “Don’t chew gum”, “Don’t talk out of turn”. These mandates used to leave me wondering what was allowed.

Yet, sometimes knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do.

Overall, I’d say this was one of my more successful journeys, especially since it got me to write my first post for this blog, which has existed for months, with no more than a name.

So, “Bring it, spiders. And thank you. Next time, I’ll try harder to catch and release.”

Thoughts?

I would love to hear your thoughts regarding labyrinths. Had you heard of them before? Does this sound like something you’d like to try, if you haven’t already? If you have been on one, where was it? Was the experience helpful? Any particular technique you like to use when walking the maze?