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Monday, September 17

Walking the Labyrinth

Labyrinths are a common form of walking meditation.  If you are lucky enough to have experienced one, you can understand when I say the results are often unexpected.  At the Pagan Spirit Gathering, one of my favorite festivals, a temporary labyrinth is usually constructed of candles in a grassy field, lit at dusk and those interested can walk it as they wish until dawn.  For many years I watched as people walked the path and were overcome with emotion.  Some would erupt into smiles and giggles while others would fall to their knees sobbing.  I never walked it.  I was honestly terrified with having to confront such strong emotions within myself.  For 7 years I watched.

The stone labyrinth at the Kearns Spirituality Center in Allison Park, PA.
After a particularly bad year, I found myself at a small retreat at a Catholic convent in western Pennsylvania.  My sister, who had been going through an even rougher patch, was there with me.  We were presented with an opportunity to walk a small brick labyrinth.  I hesitated.  I was particularly terrified of crying in public, breaking down as a result of the stresses the past year had heaped on... and yet I felt it was time.  Time to walk the labyrinth.  My sister walked as well, entering shortly after I did.

As I walked, I found myself settling.  Instead of anything building up, instead of feeling ready to burst, I felt amazingly calm.  A phrase began jumbling about in my head: "It may just not be so."  This odd sentence made incredible sense to me.  I was a person who worried what everyone thought.  I was a person who feared impossible outcomes.  I was a person who fretted over what-ifs.  I harnessed this phrase, the gift the labyrinth had given me, and applied it to the end of every fear and doubt.  "My mother thinks I'm hopeless doesn't she?" = It may just not be so.  "I am never going to find a job and end up on the street!" = It may just not be so.  "I'm such a failure, I'm never going to accomplish anything!" = It may just not be so. 

Just before I exited the labyrinth, my sister and I happened to pass one another.  We didn't make eye contact, both focused on the meditation, and yet as we walked away from each other we both instinctively reached a hand backwards and touched each other.  It was spontaneous and beautiful and reminded me of the deep connection I share with my sister. 

I left that day feeling empowered.  I now walk a labyrinth anytime I get the opportunity.

Grass path labyrinth at Forest Grove Community Church in Robinson Twp., PA
If you feel that you have gone too long without this experience, here is a website that will help you to find a labyrinth close to your home.  http://labyrinthlocator.com/home

Labyrinths come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  They can be temporary, made of candles or sand.  They can be made of timeless rows of hedges and flower bushes.  They can be made from paver stones or burned into a wooden church floor.  They are all walked the same.

Many are open to the public, but if you desire to take your family, you may try calling to get an "ok" first.  A family trip to a labyrinth can be enriching for children.  They may use it differently than adults, singing or skipping instead of silent walking, and so I would recommend scheduling family time with the labyrinth.  Most organizations appreciate this greatly.

Children walking a temporary sand labyrinth at a Prayer Vigil for the Earth event.
Children have stressors and complicated thoughts, the same as adults.  Take a light snack, a smudge stick, and a bell.  It is common to pause and ground before entering the labyrinth, so stand with your children and join hands.  Encourage them to close their eyes and take a few deep breaths.  Ring the bell once to allow a clean, unifying vibration to pass over all of you [this can also be done via the use of a singing bowl or the strike of gong].  Light the smudge stick and smudge each child to cleanse them.  If you wish to sprinkle with salted water, you may do that as well.  Everyone should enter the labyrinth slowly, allowing adequate space between each other.

Once everyone has had their turn through, sit in a circle and enjoy your snack.  Ask the children about their experience.  You may be surprised.  

Tuesday, September 11

Autumn Traditions

Doodle Bug and I picked up a dazzlingly red potted mum yesterday as well as two pumpkins.  There is already apple cider in my fridge and the signs for local corn mazes are lining the streets in town. 

A rather tiny Doodle Bug picking apples
at a dwarf apple orchard in Pennsylvania.
Corn mazes, pumpkin patches, pick-your-own apples and so on are traditions for September and October in the House of Mama Stacey.  If you have yet to take your child to something like this... you don't know what you're missing!


To find local corn mazes, pumpkin patches and other Halloween/Samhain related events, give this website a try: www.PumpkinPatchesAndMore.org   They allow you to search by state here in America, but also have listings for the United Kingdom, Canada and several other countries.

To find local farms and orchards for pick-your-own apples, black berries, pumpkins and so forth, try beginning your search here: www.PickYourOwn.org


Just about any corn maze we've been too has non-scary daylight mazes as an alternative to the late night fright-fests that are haunted mazes.  There are often side attractions for children as well, such as hay bale climbing, tire swings, clowns or even farm animals to pet or feed.

There is fun for adults as well.  At most autumn-happy farms there are weekend events like bake sales, pumpkin carving demonstrations, canning workshops, and even live entertainment... everything from storytellers to bluegrass bands.  Living in a semi-urban area, I personally delight in the little country stores full of apple butter, garden fresh vegetables, maple syrups and fresh honey.  Also, some locations even host my all time favorite... antique and craft bazaars.

Weather in September and October are classically unpredictable so dress your children in old shoes and bring a jacket or umbrella just in case.  You can often, even after several dry days, expect mud at a corn maze or pumpkin patch.  For our little family this is just part of the experience.  A last hurrah for the soft and fertile soil before it hibernates over winter.   But know that even though your child's feet may get muddy and their noses may drip from a chilly wind and their hands may become sticky with goat slobber, they will enjoy the dickens out of a day at a farm.