𝘋𝘰 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘤 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘺𝘭𝘦 𝘰𝘳 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘧𝘪𝘵 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘴𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯?
With this pressing question I walked a labyrinth on a mountain top in the North of Italy. It was the last day of my volunteering experience as a permaculture gardener at a retreat centre. I on purpose made no plans after Italy, because of this question I carried since a while.
I’ve walked a labyrinth before (before I embarked on this nomadic journey) and it was such a powerful tool. And so it was, this time around. I barely took a step in the labyrinth, when insights arose, or as I’d like to say: unconscious or forgotten knowing became conscious.
What is a labyrinth?
A labyrinth is an ancient geometric structure found in many of the earth’s indigenous cultures. Unlike a typical maze with its confusing paths, a labyrinth follows a single, continuous path leading to the center and then back out again. Labyrinths' origins are unknown, but they have appeared on Egyptian tombs, Cretan coins, Celtic stones and Christian churches.
Labyrinths have been used for various purposes throughout history, including as spiritual, ritualistic and symbolic tools. Walking the labyrinth can be a contemplative and calming experience. People have used it for centuries to find clarity, and gain insight into their thoughts and emotions. The act of walking along the winding path towards the center and then back out can symbolise as a mirror of where you are at in your life.
Walking a labyrinth involves stages like approaching with intention, bringing your attention inwards, introspection and awareness while walking, pausing in the centre to receive, integrating insights while returning and closing the experience with gratitude.
The insights I received
As I entered with my intention to gain clarity on the next step of my journey, I took a couple of deep breaths and cleared my mind. Within seconds, I received my first insight, which was a great reminder in itself:
‘If you want helpful answers, ask helpful questions’.
So simple, yet so profound! My initial question was a closed question, already holding the answer within, thus not leaving much room for refreshing perspectives. What if I’d change the question from “settle down or keep travelling?” to “what is most important to me right now?”. You see how the latter immediately shifts your awareness and opens up different solutions that the “either–or” question cannot provide?
Shifting to a more open question also took away the weight of words as “settling down”. The idea of settling down doesn't appeal much to me, whereas if you ask me what’s important to me right now, and who do I need to be and what do I need to do to live that experience, I could be very willing to settle into a place.
The other insight I got was that I was too burdened with the question of “what’s next?!” and not giving enough credit and gratitude to the path I’ve walked. I shed a little tear, realising how far I’ve come, and that this lifestyle I lead today has long been a dream of mine.
There was also a beautiful lesson in the walk its-self. The time to walk to the core of the labyrinth felt long, whereas walking out of it was over in a felt second. This experience symbolises for me that overcoming your life issues might seem like a long and tough road ahead, but it will be over before you know it. Don’t look at the imaginary mountain you have to climb, just focus on the step right in front of you. Remember that a previous version of you, was wanting to be where you are today.
Hope this inspires you to reflect on the questions you ask yourself and if they allow for helpful answers! Have you got any experiences with walking a labyrinth, or have you encountered other novel ways to deal with pressing life questions?
Click here to find a labyrinth near you. You'll be surprised how many there are!