Remember how I went to Breitenbush and had that whole TwitterThink experience? Well, lots of interesting little things happened for me in Breitenbush. Maybe no more than normally do when I'm at home, but since I was there by myself, I had the space and time to contemplate even the smallest event. This is a brilliant opportunity – contemplation of little things…
Another sort of little thing that happened while I was there turned out to have fascinating implications.
Walking the property, I came upon this labyrinth. I have never walked a labyrinth and, frankly, I'm still not sure their exact purpose. No less, I am a believer in their power now…
This labyrinth sits on the edge of a plot of land just above a rushing section of Breitenbush River. The “maze” itself is simply made of rocks placed cuddly-close into long lines that weave back and forth and around. As I don't really know about labyrinths, I wasn't sure if the maze would require decision-points as I went along – ones that could lead me in right or wrong directions. This was my weekend of “no mind” so I stepped into the labyrinth and began my journey, open to whatever arrived on the way.
My Story to Myself
I really love stories. In particular, I love the stories we tell ourselves. So, one of my favorite things to do is tell myself my own stories – current, past and future. This personal retreat I was on was about surrender and discovery, so I told myself many stories.
As I stepped my foot into this labyrinth, I started a story. I wasn't quite sure where the story would lead (which is often how I tell my stories to myself) but I knew it was my story and it was about my business and how it fit into my life. Turns out, the story had an interviewer (played by me) and a storyteller (me).
Here's how the story went, with my in-the-moment sideline internal commentary in parentheses:
Interviewer: So, Michelle, tell me what it's like to be where you are today. And, how'd you get there? (wow – no pulling punches by this interviewer)
Me: It's surreal to me that I am here. Even to have you asking me these questions. At the same time, I always knew I'd get here. It felt like my responsibility in some way – some sort of divine directive. (whoah – intense. Hmm)
Interviewer: And where are you? What is this divine directive? (yowza – yes – what is it?!. Answer the question!)
Me: I'm here to help people discover their “must-say” then say it in their most natural, authentic, super out-loud voice. I'm a facilitator for that process. (self to self: Ah – Ha! … but then again, that's not all that insightful, you've always known that. argh.)
Interviewer: How did you know that this was your “divine directive”?
Me: Well, I've sort of known for many years – maybe always. But I didn't always know how to articulate it. And even when I did know how to articulate it, I didn't always know how to package it in a way that would invite people to let me help them with this process. That was the hard part. Well, that and believing I could actually do this work in the world in a meaningful way. That was the biggest hurdle. I have since learned that that is the biggest hurdle for almost everyone who is living life from their gifts. (RIGHT! EXACTLY!)
Interviewer: So, how did this shift take place – the one where you went from not knowing how to offer up your gifts to knowing how to do that and create a successful life out of it?
Me: It was both very gradual and very sudden. I was doing work I loved and growing my business. While I was happy with the difference I was making for my clients, I knew they were coming to me in spite of my marketing efforts. I just knew that I wasn't saying it right (this – the woman of the “must-say” mission!). I was frustrated at my inability to reach out more broadly to those that I knew really were looking for the kind of help I can provide. I was also balancing a family life with three small babies, a husband, and all the things associated with the good life of lucky people like me (home, social opportunities, a plethora of outside interests). So, I took a personal retreat to Breitenbush Hot Springs. And it was there that the greatest clarity arrived around what I was offering and who would want it.
Interviewer: Why there? What happened there?
Me: I guess it would be most accurate to say that the insight began the day before I left. I went to see a wonderful counselor and friend of mine who is extraordinarily open and intuitive. She hypnotized me, which I had never done before, and I had some experiences during the imagination part of that process that were important as I went into my retreat weekend. I didn't really know where those images fit into things, but I was in such a state of openness that I just put them into my mental “take along” bag and carried on. Then when I got to the hot springs I did as many things that I don't normally do as I could think of. I sat naked in a river and drew pictures with my left hand. I wrote down questions to myself with my right hand and answered with my left. (I have some counselor-y type friends who gave me all kinds of non-analytical type ideas to try, since I am really prone to (over) analysis.) I refused any epiphanies or “a-ha moments.”
On the last day of my visit, I walked the labyrinth. I had no idea what the purpose was, I just knew that this was something people do when they are wanting to access spiritual feelings or experiences. That sounded kind of nice to me, so I gave it a shot. As I stepped foot into the labyrinth I started telling myself this story, in the form of an interview. Set in a future time, a number of years out, the interviewer (played by me) asked me questions which I answered from this place of future existence and knowing. And in that interview, I answered some really key questions about my life and my work that served me powerfully the many years since.
Interviewer: What were those answers?
Me: You're going to be annoyed, but here they are:
That what I have always known to be true was true. That my purpose is to help people articulate their gift in a way that others can use it for their own benefit. Somehow, in that interview, listening to that wise woman many years older talking about the life she (I) had already lead, I got it. I am right on track. I am building the right thing. My message is quite clear. And I have everything I need already to get out and make a really meaningful difference in the lives of others by helping them build a business based on their greatest gifts.
Interviewer: That's not annoying. That's cool.
*End of interview*
And here's the coolest part. Right that moment, when that interview ended and everything seemed all clear and certain, I stepped into the center of the labyrinth! Now, one could argue that I was subconsciously walking at a pace that supported that ending. Or that, actually, to complete the labyrinth I needed to walk back out and therefore I was only halfway through. Whatever. It felt totally right to land at the center of that labyrinth with that level of certainty. My celebration was smiling happily at the silly little rock structure someone had built with twigs and dry grass poking out the sides. I added a little pebble, ceremoniously, even though I couldn't think of a story to attach to the idea of doing so. I just wanted to be a part of that little piece of art at such a meaningful moment. Breitenbush compels you toward such feelings.
How to Walk a Labyrinth
When I got home, I did a little reasearch on labyrinths. And while the information is pretty diverse, it seems I actually walked the labyrinth sort-of the right way. The essentials are:
1. Set your intention and prepare yourself in mindset/heartset/soulset,
2. Begin walking,
3. Hold a question in your mind/heart/soul or simply open yourself up to receiving guidance with a focus on letting go,
4. Keep walking – with intention and at a thoughtful pace,
5. Spend time at the center, in stillness or contemplation,
6. Walk out with the same intention and thoughtfulness as you walked in, considering how you will take this experience out into the world and your life, and
7. Depart the labyrinth with a ritual of your choosing, taking your new insights, stillness, peace… with you into your life.
The only difference in my version is that I really had to go to the bathroom when I hit the center of the labyrinth. So, after my little ritualistic addition of the pebble, I actually just leaped over the rock lines in a hurry and flung to the nearby outhouse. But, really, it worked anyway. Chalk that up to the power of the labyrinth, I guess.