walk 13: santosha

from the centerSantosha,or contentment, is one of the niyamas, or observances in yoga. Niyamas are one limb of the 8 limbed (ashtanga) practice of yoga. Asana, which is what most Americans think of as yoga, postures, are another one of the limbs.

When I was looking deeply into yoga and attempting to practices the 8 limbed path, santosha always intrigued me the most.  To arrive at contentment seemed to me the most elusive pursuit, and one that I believe would help put so much more into place. Yesterday, surrounded by truly beautiful land and sky, I longed for Long Island. When I was there, I misssed the magnolia trees of the south.

To walk the same labyrinth path over and over is an attempt for me to find santosha, in a practice that is as simple and complex as the pursuit of contentment.

Today is my father’s 79th birthday.  We had such a great celebration for him on the 75th, all his children and grandchildren as well as the woman who would become his wife, his best friend  and a surprise visit from his sister in law. We stayed in Harriman State Park close to Bear Mountain, one of his favorite places on earth.  That was 4 years  ago.  4 years. It feels like yesterday. At the time I was running alot, and competing with myself at all times. There is no competition here.

walk 13: January 30. Morning is the best time to walk the labyrinth. The sun rising in the east aligns with the toadstools at the center perfectly.  Freshly weeded, the contrast of the black path and white rocks is heightened. I was so used to the weeds and enjoyed them.  One tiny maple sapling survived. The more I walk the path, the more attentive I am to each moment, and the walk gets longer instead of shorter.

At work a few minutes later, my eyesight is particularly sharp and the light is so much brighter.

walks 11 and 12: midas

joshua roadI jogged to the path, and was greeted by Midas, the golden retriever who lives next door, and a woman weeding in the garden. I believe she may be the pastor of St. Jude and the Nativity, but I was too shy to ask her. She insisted on putting Midas in the house so that I could enjoy the garden and labyrinth.

walks  11 and 12: July 28 The garden with its circular path became part of my walk, and my observation of the memorial benches and small stone angels made me think of memorials. would it be nice to put a memorial of Eartha here? Will I stay here for long?  I have felt much gratitude in finding a home so close to this labyrinth, but didn’t my fleeting glance of it when I was looking at the house to rent help me know that I wanted to live here?  At the center, I felt grounded and elevated in appreciation of the red maple tree and the trinity of bushes with purple flowers.  That which is of God.  “Are you an atheist, yet” my curmudgen colleague asked me the other day.  No, the trees and flower are enough evidence for me.  My journey outward felt lengthy and I decided I needed another walk. This one was more mournful. Again, my meditation seemed to extend beyond the confines of the labyrinth, and I walked rather than jogged home, so that I could sit and watch the creek. The cordoned off wetlands area, which is a common sight in this county, made me weep for Islip Beach in Long Island, where I used to walk in summers past.  I am feeling homesick for my old home after a full year of hopefulness in a new home. At the same time, the sky was so magnificent with gold in the sunset that reminded me of Midas, and the winds were exhilarating.

June 29–Walk 13 did not yet happen. I was really confused this evening, did not know if I should just get in my car, because I did not have much energy, but thought that was just wrong, and decided biking would be easier than walking.  I got to the labyrinth and it was being weeded! I sat on the bench in the garden, enjoyed the red maple tree and the fountain and debated whether I should ask if the woman needed help. But she had gloves and tools, and I had nothing.  I road my bike home.  Tomorrow…

walks 9 and 10: minotaurs

minotaurmedicicollectionpalazzostrozzi  I dreamt of minotaurs once last year.  They were gentle creatures in my dream that were being oppressed, and burned alive by a society that did not value them.  It was such a haunting dream, I remembered looking into the eyes of a minotaur in pain.  I looked up the dream interpretation. Dreams of fabulous beasts that are half human/half creature suggests that there is some duality in a problem, and with minotaurs, it is mind against instinct.  Minotaurs are either to be pitied (as in my dream) or feared.  The Minotaur’s mother tried to care for him, but he became too ferocious, so he was made to dwell in the Cretan Labyrinth, and ultimately killed.

July 26: walk 9: I woke up with foreboding and to a rainstorm.  I managed to get out in a lull in the storm and walk, but there were deep puddles on the labyrinth path. I actually got lost, by walking on the rocks and not knowing which way to turn.

July 27: walk 10: After an hour of silent worship at the Friends Meeting, the labyrinth walk became a puzzle.  Could I memorize the path?  There was a woman with red hair in a bun, a bright pink top and pale pink bubble gum blowing bubbles and chatting on a cell phone in the garden. My first witness.  The church doors were open and inviting with big white wreaths on them. Was it a wedding or just Sunday?

No Eartha Kitten. And PJ had to go to the vet.

walk 8: awareness

20140721_194140July 25 walk 8: I had a bad headache. I noticed the flowers more. The finiteness. (or ‘finity?’) I walk the path and I still don’t know it by heart, although I am beginning to recognize certain green weeds and mushrooms. Being in it means I cannot see exactly where I am going. I can’t fly above it when I am walking it. It is a Chartres labyrinth in design. Will I know it by heart one day?

Afterwards I went to see if I could get my car oil changed. I waited behind a woman who really wanted to discuss her car problem to the cashier at length and in detail. I observed a strange sensation.  My heart beat was very strong and slow, my breath was full and free. Although my mind was a little impatient with the long conversation in front of me, and a little afraid (of what? But there it was) — my body remained calm. My headache was gone. My cat is still gone.

 

walk 7: loss

shewhoseeksEartha Kitten, who for 17 years has shared my life, slipped away quietly into the night last night and has not returned. She usually brushes against my leg, maybe to tell me that she is leaving but this time she didn’t. I did see her as I headed back to the door after throwing out trash. But I figured she would come back up to the stoop as she always does within minutes. After 3 hours of waiting I went to bed, but took a walk in the neighborhood before going to work.  I called the shelter and they told me to come down, so after work I did and seeing all the cats and dogs and no Eartha —my heart which has been so full lately was suddenly starved.

(image abovefrom shewhoseeksblogspot.com)

 

July 24 walk 7: how would I approach the labyrinth? A rabbit startled me. once I was close, I arrived at the chant “Thy will be done”  At the center I had a good raw cry, and for the first time noticed the centeredness of the center.  I looked beyond the labyrinth and saw myself in it and the world beyond it. I was in the center of my world and at the same time very aware of the church, the pale sunset, the bicyclists on Germantown Pike, the trees and fields. I had an image of many labyrinths with everyone taking their paths among each other.  I chanted “thank You” on the way out. My heart was back in my chest and now it was quite heavy.

Cat%20LabyrinthWhen I arrived home, I knew I would not see Eartha. I think she left, to die alone. But my neighbors said, do you have a black cat? There is one sitting on Kate’s porch, two doors down, I walked down and another black cat stared at me.  I felt I knew her–she looked like a younger Eartha, or a skinnier Menina, or a smaller Achilles, who when he lived was my brother’s companion.  She seemed to fear me and I could not turn her into Eartha.The brief reversal reversed quickly back to the original direction.

image from http://www.oswin.co.nz/What.html

what you will

12thnightLast night I attended an outdoor production of TWELFTH NIGHT by Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company at Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill Philadelphia. Many years ago I played Olivia in an outdoor production. The wonderful Jessica DelCanton performed the role in this production, and Leonard Kelly was a delight as Andrew Aguecheek I went with two faculty members and their partners. I was flooded with onstage and offstage memories of life in the theatre and among those who live their lives in it. Its been a long time.

Patsy Rodenberg gives an exercise in her book THE NEED FOR WORDS in which the actor walks and changes direction when speaking Shakespeare at every punctuation point.  It helps the actor see the shifts in the character’s thinking.  She uses Hamlet’s speech “O, that this too too solid flesh..” as an example, and its a good one because Hamlet’s thoughts move in very uneven patterns.  Sometimes when I walk the labyrinth I think of that exercise.  Kristin Linklater in her book FREEING SHAKESPEARE’S VOICE asserts that the rhythms of Shakespeare, in their relationship to the heartbeat, are actually healing, much in the way I am beginning to discover that the Labyrinth is healing.  Olivia and Viola’s scene was so well played,  that tonight I began to experience that feeling of well being as I listened, and Viola’s “make me a willow cabin at your gate..” speech made me cry in its earnestness and beauty.

walk 6: morning

labyrinthshell

Last night, I began surfing the web for Labyrinth information and discovered the Labyrinth Society at https://labyrinthsociety.org/ and the 365 Club, composed of those of  who pledge 365 days. I wrote to the Club, of course. The Society is also gathering empirical evidence on the benefits of the Labyrinth.

June 23 Walk 6:  I was going to be early for work, but I knew I would probably not get to the labyrinth later this evening, so I stopped on the way to work.  The sun on the other side. Dew on the weeds. A yellow leaf. Wet wood chips.  Little mushrooms.  The surprise turn right before I think I am at the center, and equally surprising right when I leave.  No time to sit and reflect, but in the car, I notice my breath is full, my heart is swelling in my chest, as if I have done a nice yoga class. When I get to work and turn on the lights in my windowless office, the light seems so bright, and when I have my first meeting, I feel lightheaded, but clear.

A student who came in to see me today told me that people don’t undertand why she is joyful–that they don’t understand that joy can come from her belief in God.