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Walking a Labyrinth

I recently read Daniel Pink's brilliant book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule in the Future. I am excited by his description of the right-brain skills and abilities that will be highly valued in the future and how we can develop those skills. Pink's book is a welcome infusion of optimism.
In the chapter on Meaning, Pink talks about labyrinths. They've been around for centuries in many forms and designs. Today they are a popular form of meditation. The first time I walked a labyrinth was at the magnificent Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I'd never seen one and stood in awe, watching quiet, contemplative people move slowly, gracefully along the path. I felt compelled to walk the path, too. I took off my shoes, feeling self-conscious and little silly, and stepped into the labyrinth opening. Noise and the bustle around me kept pulling my attention. I was aware of the other people on the path with me, worried that I would block someone, or slow down someone, or force someone to go faster than desired. I never reached a sense of meditation--my brain was too busy for that--yet the experience was lovely.

Pink mentions that there are over 4,000 public and private labyrinths in the United States. Using an Internet labyrinth locator site, I discovered an outdoor labyrinth at a church less than a mile from my home. Score! It's a gravel path delineated by rubber borders, wide enough to walk comfortably. The setting is peaceful. Nobody else is around. It's perfect.

Walking slowly does not come naturally to me. I want to get there, wherever there is, as quickly as possible, thank you. But in a labyrinth, the value comes from slowing down, releasing tension, quieting the busy brain. Once the left brain is disengaged, the right brain is free to soar with creativity. That's my goal: to tap creativity. So I deliberately enter the labyrinth with a slow step and a willing heart. Each time I walk a labyrinth I get closer to true relaxation, a calmer mind.

In the process I've learned something about myself. Only one thing will quiet my left brain while in a labyrinth. Not conscious control, not stern self-talk, not just-notice-the-thoughts-and-let-them-go-ness. I have to count the steps from the labyrinth entrance to the center. One pass, one direction. Counting. Then my left brain is happy and gets out of the way. I don't know why. I'm paying attention to this, though. I'll bet it's a clue to disengaging my left brain in other circumstances, too.

My husband often walks at the same time but at his own pace. As we walk, we pass each other going opposite directions on adjacent stretches of the path. We reach out and touch hands, sliding them gently as we move on.
In those moments both sides of my brain are happy and so is my heart.
Jerilyn Marler helps military families cope with the challenges of deployment separation. Her two books are must-have additions to any military family's library. Lily Hates Goodbyes is for children ages 2-7 to help them understand and handle their feelings in healthy ways, to be happy despite the separation, and to look forward to a joyful reunion. Helping Your Young Child Cope is a Kindle format eBook that discusses what children need in order to thrive despite the separation and suggests 22 ways to help kids feel connected to the away parent. Both books are available on and other major online booksellers.
sho fia

sho fia

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