Thinking about the setup of the labyrinth walk this morning, I came to the issue of timing. Can everyone complete the walk within the session? Can everyone do this and still take their own time? The walk is a metaphor for our lives. All of us are different; we proceed at different speeds, have different backgrounds, and make sense of what is happening in different ways and at different times. When confronted by blocks or challenges we respond in different ways. We want to make the space for this to be evident; some people will pass us along the way. We will sometimes pass by others.
And yet people coming to an event like to know when home time will be, when will we finish? Can they also have a complete experience, make the full journey to the centre and return? Can this be done to time?
Then it occurred to me that life is not like this. It offers us no guarantees. Everyone will know someone who has been cut off in their prime. Do we not feel that this is the more painful outcome; that it is good to have run our full course, lived a full life, rather than be thwarted in this way? Worst of all is the loss of a child; no chance of full expression, potential unfulfilled.
Then I thought that this experience of being cut off in the labyrinth process might also be a useful experience; a part of the metaphor. That it would be good to say to people, this might happen. The labyrinth, like life, offers us no guarantees. We may find ourselves just setting out, or part way round, while others are reeling in the boundaries we so recently created. How does that feel? In Meeting today I also recalled the image, often reported, from near death experience; of travelling down a tunnel towards the light. In the deep psychic reality of the labyrinth, do we in some sense always make this journey and ultimately always reach the light?
Not always in this world though…
A further matter is the business of the journey of return. Though the journey into the unknown is an achievement and an act of courage, the hero’s return is not always welcome. When one person grows, questions their assumptions and their scope is extended, the consequences are felt beyond their personal self. Growth and change reverberate out into their wider system. This can be experienced as provocative and unwelcome. Why are you coming back with all this stuff? Changes may be going on here that affect me! I haven’t chosen this, why can’t you keep this to yourself?
Systems do not always welcome disturbance. We may feel we are heroes who have faced our fears but our wider system (home, friends, work…) would rather not know. It threatens their identity.
I remember reading an article by Margaret Wheatley on the Bhopal disaster. The CEO responsible at the time was distraught at what had happened and intended to use all his powers and resources to help the victims. Wheatley’s analysis was that he was ultimately unable to do this because there is a profound conflict of values between his CEO role and his intention. The business he headed up could not retain its identity and continue operating while also making restitution to the people of Bhopal. Identity is a vital survival trait. People and systems all feel the need to retain their identity, even if this is ultimately limiting or even destructive.
Food for thought.