October 18, 2008

The Healing Labyrinth: Finding Your Path to Inner Peace

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? I have; they have become en vogue in the past decade or so in Unitarian Universalist circles. I have found peace in them, and a way of moving from uncertainty to some knowing of myself. I like them, but I've never led ritual in them. I really liked this book by Helen Raphael Sands in most ways. She does a good job of explaining what labyrinths are, where they come from, and what you can do with them. Also how to make them.

I like the way she sets forth the four parts of a labyrinth journey: The Threshold, Journeying In, The Resting Place, and Journeying Out. I love the pictures - wonderful photographs and a few illustrations grace this volume.

I'm a bit leary of the cross-cultural aspect of labyrinths. I think it's so easy to say, "Oh, look, here's this symbol and process present in cultures across time and across space, let's refer to ALL of those cultures at once when we build/walk ours!" But I'm not sure it's respectful to prepare and energize a labyrinth using elements from paganism, Christianity, Native American tribal culture, AND Hindu chakra work all at once, especially if you don't happen to have any particular training in or connection to some of those traditions. For myself, I know that in order to properly prepare and energize a labyrinth - or use the symbol as a metaphor in my childbirth preparation work - I have to know which traditions I have authentic connection to and consider how to share those meanings and traditions authentically with the people I work with.

I also read Sacred Rituals: Connecting with Spirit through Labyrinths, Sand Paintings, & Other Traditional Arts by Eileen London & Belinda Recio. Similarly, it was a truly lovely book and I learned a lot. Also similarly, I had concerns about multicultural appreciation vs. appropriation.

October 13, 2008

The Four Agreements

"Dreaming is the main function of the mind, and the mind dreams twenty-four hours a day.
It dreams when the brain is awake, and it also dreams when the brain is asleep.
The difference is that when the brain is awake, there is a material frame that makes us perceive things in a linear way. When we go to sleep we do not have the frame, and the dream has the tendency to change constantly."

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz fascinated me. It lays out the fundamental world view of the Toltec (intellectual/spiritual leaders in pre-Conquest South/Central America) as experienced by a modern inheritor of that tradition, and how Don Miguel believes that world view can help and heal all people. An "agreement" is a belief or choice we make about how we are going to live. The four agreements are healthy beliefs and choices: be impeccable with your word, don't take anything personally, don't make assumptions, and always do your best.

This book felt like a window into a spiritual tradition which is very different from (in some ways) but very compatible with (in other ways) my own. There were a few things that came up for me in reading it: one was the emphasis on control - I believe control is not desirable in most of life because it isn't truly possible. Ruiz posits control as a desired way of being in the world. Another was that while he talks a lot about the agreements we make within ourselves, and how they construct the way the whole world works, he doesn't talk about the agreements we make explicitly or implicitly with each other. I think those are very important, too. Finally, although I agree with some of what he says about how children experience agreements and become party to them, I don't agree with all of it. His veiwpoint falls into the "children are born innocent and are corrupted (forcibly) by the evil world" camp, and I'm just not sure that's a true view of reality. I think children are born with their own complex and not "innocent" spirits, and shape their families and communities as they shape the children.

But overall I did a lot of saying "right on" in my head while reading this book.

October 4, 2008


“The memory of pain always recedes. The memory of triumph does not.” – Ani Di Franco