Last weekend I attended a Women’s Retreat at Kloster Armstorf just north of Munich. In the back garden is this labyrinth to walk for prayer and meditation. Eager to try it, I marched out with four other women. We weren’t a third of the way into the path when I felt this ominous discomfort descend upon me. I had a sudden urge to want to flee, and found that I was cracking jokes to break the tension building within me. At one point, the woman just in front of me and I had to step aside to allow others to pass us on their return to the start. I felt an immense relief in just crossing one of the lines.
Afterwards, I sat on the bench behind the labyrinth in the sunshine and pondered about what had just happened – and why I had no desire to do that again. Just the thought of stepping back into the labyrinth filled me with dread. Then it occurred to me why. I felt trapped, like the labyrinth was controlling my movement. Later I asked the woman who had walked with me if she likes walking the labyrinth, ”Oh yes,” she said, “It frees me to think and pray!” It frees her, but traps me?
I can’t stand the feeling of being controlled. So much of my life has been spent trying to free myself of the tyranny of irrational outbursts from female family members. When my parents divorced, we all had to visit a counselor. She told my father that I had crawled into a shell for safekeeping, but that I would be fine because I had clearly thrown a fist at the shell to break out. I was 13, and I remember thinking ‘clever woman’. More recently I have had to literally tear my heart in two to free myself of a virtual leash on a choker collar that was pulled and yanked at another’s whim. (Perhaps there is more therapy in my taking on a dog to train than I thought.) I have paid a heavy price to protect my right to live in a peaceful home that is non-abusive towards me, and any attempt to once again control my movements is not appreciated.
The Labyrinth and I will have to make peace, but I think only by my ‘owning’ it. I will have to spend time criss-crossing the lines and walking it anyway I please. Maybe someday I will be fine meditating in the labyrinth, but for now my wings are simply too weak. They need to fly free and strengthen for awhile.
“Our Father who art in Heaven… forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”