My name is Justin and I’d like to take a moment to welcome you to both Into the Labyrinth Magazine and Teerlinck Health Services, my health and wellness telehealth practice. I will use this space to connect with you and share insights and knowledge about health and wellness that I’ve learned over the years often through personal as well as professional experience. Today I’ll be sharing my thoughts relating to labyrinths as a metaphor for acceptance. As you get to know me better one of the facets of my personality, you’ll see is how deeply ingrained writing, words and metaphor are in everything I do.
To me, labyrinths are like black holes but in a good way. They are dynamic (if invisible) cognitive structures that contain our essence. They form the structure of our life histories written in the language of the choices we have made. In other words, each one is unique. We create our own labyrinth just by living our lives, by existing, by making even the simplest of choices, by going left instead of right we create a new turn in our personal labyrinth. Unlike memories, labyrinths are not good or bad. Unlike a movie, they are not two-dimensional. They are not the experiences themselves. We cannot step into a labyrinth and relive our choices; we can only revisit—mentally—the path they have wrought for us. They are a space within us that we can step into and see, feel and touch the curves and bends in the path that the gravitational pull of our choices has made.
I welcome you to join me in this opening discussion about how entering our labyrinth can help us find meaning, purpose and ultimate freedom. And I welcome your comments, thoughts, feedback and questions. Thank you.
Mazes versus Labyrinths
What are Labyrinths? Many self-help paradigms utilize the concept of “finding yourself.” In my guidebook, Finding Your Way, A Guide to Building Hopes and Dreams
I discuss the difference between mazes and labyrinths. Situations can be viewed as maze-like when they appear to be circuitous, drain our energy and are endless and pointless. We fear mazes because we lose ourselves in them and become trapped. Labyrinths on the other hand have become metaphors for cyclical return and reflection. People use them as places of refuge, meditation and reflection.
In Finding Your Way, the labyrinth is not a place to find or lose ourselves, but to accept ourselves as we are. Self-acceptance doesn’t mean that we don’t have goals to strive for, things we want to change, or work left to do. It is one of life’s many paradoxes that we can accept who we are in the present and work toward future change simultaneously. The labyrinth can be viewed as a visual description of the history of the consequences of our actions. This is neither good or bad. It simply is. Our personal labyrinth is merely a road map. Every twist and turn are another place where the gravity of a choice we made pulled the path of our life in one direction or another. It’s that simple. Our task as we enter the Meta-Labyrinth is not to judge our choices, not to classify them as good or bad, but simply to see them, to be aware of them. The alternative name for the labyrinth is simply “What Was and What Is.” Like a spider building its web, we continue building our labyrinth. But unlike the spider, our work is not finished until we die. Until we die, we continue to make choices that add more bends in the path we take.
Time and the Labyrinth
No matter how many bends and curves there are in the labyrinth, the direction of travel through it is always the same: forward. This is because time draws us onward toward the inevitable mortal conclusion of our lives. It does so with a speed and at a pace that no one can predict. In Finding Your Way, in the chapter titled, “Entropy, Disorder and Death, or Life as a Mayfly,” I discuss the gift of mortality, of having limited time in which to live life. Time is one of the elemental forces that gives our actions meaning. If human beings were immortal. If our lifespans were infinite, if we had all the time in the world to do anything we wanted to do, then our actions would have very little—if any—value.
The Transcendent Spiral
The labyrinth is an important visual reminder that we cannot escape ourselves, that it is okay to get lost deep within ourselves. The labyrinth is ultimately a powerful symbol of freedom and transcendence. That is why I chose to write about it in Finding Your Way and why it became part of the cover art for Finding Your Way, A Guide to Building Hopes and Dreams and the logo for Teerlinck Health Services. When we live with regret over choices we have made, we waste the present by perseverating on a past we cannot change (unless you have a time machine, I don’t). The labyrinth metaphor represents stepping back into, coming to terms with and accepting both the choices and their consequences without making value judgments. Within that acceptance lies freedom, the freedom to live life with greater awareness of what we want, awareness of the impact of our decisions and transcendence through self-knowledge and understanding of the forward-moving direction of the river of time. Understanding the labyrinth helps us move with rather than against the current of our lives and gives us one of the keys we need to unlock the portal of peace and living a life fortified by meaning and purpose.
Engage & Do:
The “Meta-Labyrinth” is just a fancy word for observing yourself within the labyrinth. We can do this with our imaginations. By visualizing (imagining) yourself entering your own labyrinth, you can pass through every bend, twist and curve of every major decision you made, conscious or unconscious. But as you review those decisions practice observing without judging. Practice seeing each choice as neither good nor bad. Then, when you reach the present moment, let your mind go blank. Then think about which choices you made unintentionally or without awareness and which choices you made with full awareness of why you made them.