Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Something New

Retirement seems like the right time to try new things. So when my friend Kris proposed a bike trip to a labyrinth and healing garden, of course I said YES. Only when my husband asked me the difference between a maze and a labyrinth did I realize that I knew nothing about labyrinths.

In preparation for our adventure, Kris gave me two small books on labyrinths as reading material. Sure enough one of the first chapters answered my husband’s question. A maze has dead ends, whereas a labyrinth has only one way to get to the center, albeit full of twists and turns.

Kris and I headed out around 7:30 this morning on our bikes. It was one of the most perfect mornings imaginable – warm but not humid, just about right in every way. She had already scouted out the route, which would take us about an hour, mostly on bike paths, but sometimes requiring us to ride on streets with cars.

Much of the ride there was uphill, with a couple of places so steep that I had to get off and walk my bike because I just wasn’t prepared gear-wise. We encountered very few cyclists or runners or mothers with strollers. So most of the way we could ride side-by-side, which is always preferable. Kris is probably the only person I have ever met who can ride as slowly as I do, especially on hills.

Our goal was the intersection of Lee Highway and George Mason Drive, where there is a gem of a garden associated with the Whitman-Walker Clinic. It was established by the TKF Foundation, a private grant-making foundation whose purpose is to create "Open Spaces, Sacred Places". In the middle of an urban setting is this beautifully sculpted garden with the labyrinth as a focal point.

Kris explained a little about her experience with walking labyrinths. How on Mother’s Day she had come and walked barefoot so as to be able to experience the sharpness and unevenness that her mother, her mother-in-law, her grandmothers had experienced in their lives. How she always sets an intention before beginning.

I spent some time reading in a beautiful little gazebo while Kris walked today. Then it was my turn, as she relaxed by the pool of goldfish, soaking up the sun.

The labyrinth is not the regulation Chartres size, but rather a smaller version. It’s the same idea however. You enter at one side, after ascending 3 steps. I took a deep breath as I went up each step. Then I launched into the path marked by colored stones, quickly realizing there is a lot more walking than I had imagined. My intention was to be grateful for family and friends near and far, some of whom I’ve never met. It seemed appropriate to pause at each switchback to drink in the bird sounds and beautiful flowers all around. As I reached the center I sensed an uplifting feeling. It was easy to retrace my steps back to the beginning. I can see how this form of walking meditation can be so beneficial.

Back in the real world, we stopped for a Starbucks latte before heading for home. The trip back was considerably easier for the most part, with the only grueling section at the very end. There was never the need to get off and walk my bike.

Other than initiating me to the healing properties of the labyrinth, today’s trip was good for me because it convinced me I can do some more difficult bike rides. I have always been a wimp when it comes to hills, but now that my legs are getting stronger, I think I can tackle harder rides.

This was the perfect way to spend the morning with a good friend. Now I want to discover all of the labyrinths in the DC metropolitan area. Does anyone know of another?

14 Comments:

Blogger media concepts said...

I'm glad it wasn't Pan's Labrynth!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I didn't even know there was one in the area! I'm no help at all in finding more, but you make me want to try.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This sentence jarred me: Back in the real world, we stopped for a Starbucks latte before heading for home.

It seemed so incongruous. It was like admiring a rich, warm mahogany table, only to be jarred by a cheap little plastic toy.

I've never been in a labyrinth, though I do like very much the movie Labyrinth.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I've never been in one either but it souns like I'd love it. We used to play the wooden game with the 2 or 3 silver balls! I loved that game!

7:05 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Kris is so cool!

When they first put the Chartres labyrinth in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, I took a weekend workshop with Lauren Artress, the person responsible for bringing labyrinth walking to the U.S. It was an incredible weekend. Wow.

I like to let go of thoughts and concerns on the way in, meditate in the center, then use the walk out to integrate what I've discovered. Can't wait to try this labyrinth with you sometime! But ... can we drive there?

8:43 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Matt -- This was definitely not Pan's Labyrinth -- no challenges or dead bodies!

Kristin -- It was news to me also.

Richard -- Yeah, that is just about right. If you saw the area in which this labyrinth was located, you would better understand. It is like two very different worlds juxtaposed.

MOI -- I don't know about the game with the silver balls. Can you explain?

Reya -- I can't wait to take you to this sacred space. It sounds like you could teach me a lot about labyrinths. But we will definitely not be riding bikes from Capitol Hill!

And, yes, Kris is very cool. I am learning so much about her that I never knew before now that we both have the gift of time.

9:32 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I'd like to try this ride with you and maybe even the labyrinth (although I must say i think any spirituality obtained is in our minds nor do I understand why this is at all a sacred place). Got to get my knee better first.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

David -- We can walk the labyrinth while you are working on your knee. When it's well we can bike there. You may enjoy the bike ride even more than the labyrinth!

10:04 PM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

The photos are lovely.
Interesting -the experience you had walking the labyrinth. I'll let you know if I come across any in this area.

Sounds like you ae easing into this retirement beautifully. I would probably sit around and sulk because I'm bored. But not you, you seem to have a great group of acquaintances to "play" with all day.

I would LOVE to cook with you ometime. I'm glad my fired didn't scare you off. lol. (that doesn't happen often)

8:03 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Gewels -- I'll just have to make sure I have a loaded fire extinguisher when you come over :)!

1:59 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

It's a 12" X 12" square wooden game that has a dial handle on each of 2 sides (left and right)that controls the movement of two flat parts that tip the board horizontally from left to right or vertically from top to bottom. By doing this carefully, you guide the silver ball, the size of a small marble, through a course painted on the wood. There are holes all through the wooden board and if the ball falls down, you have to start over again. When you get good, you can guide 2 balls through, one behind the other or one starting backwards. It is good for ccconcentration and balance. My dad gave it to us one Christmas and now my older sister has it but I've seen a few around.

5:22 PM  
Blogger riseoutofme said...

Sounds idyllic ... except for the Starbucks!

6:12 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Rise -- Yeah, the Starbucks didn't really fit into the rest of the scene. But I needed some caffeine after all that pedaling...

6:53 AM  
Blogger steve said...

barbara, I love the Labyrinth of Greek mythology that housed the Minotaur and even the builder required the thread left by a spider to guide him back out.Something like that.
anyway, I love your interest in all things Spiritual and how proactivly you pursue your own Spirituality. Something like that.
I think you should make a trip to egypt someday, and then on to India. You just might come back a "Bodhisattva"!

10:58 AM  

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