On the first Sunday of each month on a beautiful beach in St. Augustine, Florida, the Friends of the Labyrinth wait for the tide to go out. As soon as there is enough damp, compact sand available they set to work and create several labyrinths in the sand.
A labyrinth is an ancient symbol known to go back 3,500 years, and may be even older. Labyrinths appeared on most of the inhabited continents in prehistoric times. Many people confuse a labyrinth with a maze, but they are different. A maze is more of a puzzle and the walker has to work out which is the correct path to the center. It is intended as a form of entertainment.
The labyrinth is a walking meditation design and holds no trick paths to confuse the walker. It has a single winding path from the outer edge to the center and back out again. This walk represents the journey inward to our true selves, our “Higher Selves”, our Spirit, our God-Center, and then back out again to the outer world.
Some people use the following process when they walk the labyrinth.
- releasing of concerns and worries on the journey in
- centering meditation, prayer, or quiet contemplation in the
- empowerment of new thoughts or intentions on the way out
However, everyone is free to use the labyrinth as he or she wishes.
Today I walked the labyrinth at St. Augustine. It was a gorgeous sunny day with magnificent cloudscapes against a cerulean sky. There was a wonderful warm breeze that caressed the skin. My friend Lorelei, who creates the labyrinth, had in fact drawn five or six different ones in the damp sand.
There was the classic seven circuit labyrinth and the famous eleven circuit labyrinth based on the one incorporated into the floor of the Notre Dame de Chartres cathedral just outside Paris, which was created around the year 1200 AD. Lorelei had also designed a magnificent fifteen circuit labyrinth as well as two smaller “Baltic” labyrinths, which reminded me of the female womb.
So with the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair I entered the fifteen circuit labyrinth. Within a few steps I realized that almost without thinking I had slowed down internally and I was totally focused on walking the path. This brought me right into the here and now, the present moment, which is where I always desire to be. Because of this process, I automatically let go of any worrisome thoughts.
After a few minutes, I stopped my walking and closed my eyes just to enjoy this feeling, of being present to where I was in that very moment in time. I became aware of the sound of the sea, the waves crashing onto the beach, the distant voices of children as they played in the sand or the water. I lifted my face to the sun and thanked God for the joy and the peace of this moment.
I then opened my eyes and watched the surf spraying as the waves crashed. I saw the seagulls swooping through the air and in the distance I could see several kites flying with long tails fluttering in the breeze. Running swiftly back and forth at the water’s edge were groups of sandpipers checking out what tasty morsels the sea was washing up to shore for them. I found myself being grateful to be alive, to be able to enjoy this.
When I reached the center of the labyrinth I stopped again and brought to mind people who I wished to uplift to God. I asked that He bless and protect them, and I asked the same for myself. I stood there for a few minutes just enjoying being still, having no agenda, no need to move.
I then moved on to the outward journey. I felt a new energy sweeping through me. I found myself thinking of a dream that I want to manifest in my life. I held it close to my heart then offered it to God. I continued walking and became aware that I was breathing deeply, taking oxygen deeper into my lungs than usual. It felt so good to be alive! I stepped outside the labyrinth and just breathed.
After a moment or two I decided to walk the small Baltic labyrinth. Compared to the labyrinth I had just walked this was just the size of a babe in arms, maybe three yards in diameter. (The fifteen circuit one was approximately ten yards in diameter.) The feeling was completely different. There was a sense of intimacy, a warmth that surrounded me.
When I reached the center I sat down and did not want to come out. I felt protected, as though someone had put their arms around me. I hugged my knees up to my chest and thought, “this is what love is about”. I had the distinct feeling that I was “home”. I was, in fact, with my God-Center. I stayed for quite a while before coming out.
If you have never walked a labyrinth, then I highly recommend that you try. It is another way to create that quiet time. It is a wonderful stress reducer and a beautiful way to connect with Creator. You can find more information at www.labyrinthsociety.org. Happy walking!!
I can no longer ignore the fact that some of you may be wondering why the words Life Coach precede the words Spirit, Body and Mind at the top of my blog page. Life Coaching is a new career field that has opened up in recent years and I am, in fact, a certified Life Coach. I chose to get my certification with the Certified Coaches Federation (CCF).
However, Life Coaching is something that I have been doing for years. I just didn’t call it that or realize that I was doing that until late last year. That’s when I “God-incidentally” received an email through an unknown source that introduced me to CCF. I contacted them to make inquiries about the certification course they offered and that was when I recognized that most of what they taught I already knew and practiced. I just didn’t have certification in the specific field.
I have already mentioned in previous blogs that I made a serious life change about thirty years ago. This entailed much work on myself, changes in attitudes and behavior, in other words a major lifestyle change. As a result of all of the above, I opened my heart, my mind, and my soul to many opportunities that I would otherwise have never seen. I opened many doors that I had previously ignored and began to live a very full and rich life and continue to do so to this present moment.
I explored many paths on the road back to the religion of my childhood – Catholicism. However, the practice of my religion is only one aspect of my spirituality. Along the way I opened myself to being there for others, becoming part of the CREDO retreat team in Naples, Italy and also becoming a facilitator for a class called NADSAP. This acronym stood for Navy Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program, which was later known as Navy Alcohol Drug and Substance Abuse Program. I believe that today this program carries yet another acronym and name which I do not know.
In order to undertake these roles I had to go through both programs as a willing participant then undertake paraprofessional training. They were both fairly stringent and involved a lot of personal growth and continued maintenance training each year. I will not go into the details of those trainings but I can tell you the skills that we came out with were highly developed in the following areas: active listening, empathy, compassion, tracking, objective feedback, personal disclosure, non judgmentalism, personality recognition, and genuineness.
So let’s get back to Life Coaching. What is it? And why do people need a Life Coach. If you think about a sports team, whether they are good or bad, they got to where they are with the help of a coach, maybe many coaches. The coach is there to assess the teams strengths and weaknesses, to see where they stand right now, and to look at what they can do to achieve future goals. He or she is there to make sure they don’t get stuck.
And so it is with an individual person who is attempting to navigate the oceans of life. Why can’t the team or the individual see that and work to change things without the help of a coach you may ask? The best answer to that question may be because they are all too emotionally close to the the issue/s at hand. In other words they can’t see the forest for the trees, or vice versa.
This is where the coach comes in. However, there is one big difference between a sports team coach and a Life Coach. A sports team coach, once he/she has made all the necessary assessments, then makes a plan and gives instructions as to what the team has to do. A Life Coach creates a professional rapport with the client from which he or she can then help the client recognize where they are at and what goals they want to achieve. Then through the skilful use of uniquely created tools, the Life Coach will encourage the client to take action to achieve their goals.
Life Coaching is most definitely a process which involves a commitment from both parties – the coach and the client. And when I say a commitment I mean a signed-on-the-dotted-line-contract kind of commitment. This creates a professional relationship between the two parties. The coach commits to be there fully and intentionally for the client, and the client commits to stick with the coach for a specified amount of time in order to reach his or her goals.
The main idea behind Life Coaching is to help people to recognize and break through their self-imposed limitations and to identify and achieve goals, dreams, and aspirations that will improve and enhance their lives, their careers, and their relationships. The coach never tells the client what to do. The coach is there to actively and objectively listen, to empower, and then to encourage the client along his or her path.
The beauty of Life Coaching is that it does not “brain wash” or take away from the client’s unique ideas, nor does it seek to interfere with or change their personality. The coach becomes a “companion walker in life” if you will, however the client has to take his or her own footsteps.
Another unique aspect of Life Coaching is that you do not have to be face-to-face with the client to do effective coaching. In fact much Life Coaching is done over the telephone. My personal preference is to have at least one initial face-to-face session with the client and then move to telephone sessions if that proves to be a convenient method for the client to be coached.
Life Coaching is a very satisfying career. It is a privilege indeed when someone asks me to enter their life. My sense of wonder increases a thousand fold as I watch a client’s sense of wonder at themselves increase through the coaching process. I find that it is an honor to help someone to recognize their personal beauty, worth, and potential as they explore their relationships, their place on this earth, and the value that they can bring to anything they put their mind to.