The first Saturday in May is World Labyrinth Day, a day worthy of celebration.
Thanks to a career in education I have had summers off, and during those three months of leisure I would try to spend one morning each week at the Shrine of Saint Therese walking the labyrinth. Since my graduation, I mean retirement, I have aimed to continue that practice.
On one early morning visit to the Shrine a young child approached the labyrinth from the path above it as I was walking. An adult from the lodge called out his name and the little boy immediately responded with “I’ve already done my self-care!” I had to smile. “My self-care.” Such a great expression. The adult caregiver wasn’t nagging the boy with reprimands to brush his teeth, wash his face, and comb his hair. All she did was say his name and he knew that she was checking on his taking responsibility for his own self-care which he proudly had done.
My visitor was soon bored with watching me walk the path laid out in front of me. A labyrinth, unlike a maze with its intersections demanding decisions from the walker, is designed as a single path to a center spot. The boy left to go explore our beautiful surroundings and I was left pondering the phrase “self-care.”
Walking the labyrinth on a regular basis fits into my definition of self-care. While walking, I am un-plugged i.e. no computer, no phone, no television. I am outside and away from the distractions that surround me at home like cleaning chores, yard work, or the pets. Not to say that there aren’t distractions as I walk the labyrinth. I wear a bright red windbreaker that the hummingbirds seem to like. On occasion, one of the resident Shrine cats thinks I want company and the eagles and ravens always have a running commentary going on. I smile at each of these as I keep my pace but I do pull up and stop walking when a whale sounds. That creature is one I am compelled to pay attention to!
As I walk to the center of the labyrinth I meditate on the health and well-being of my family, friends and acquaintances. I think of them by name and the struggles they may be experiencing and I carry them in my heart with loving kindness. When I reach the center I acknowledge the intentions of fellow pilgrims as evidenced by the tokens left on the large boulder. On my way out of the labyrinth I focus on groups of people that I do not know but I know their work: first responders, educators, social workers, health care professionals, students, the elderly, the sick, the dying, hospice workers, domestic violence and sexual assault victims and workers, soldiers (no matter the uniform), our government workers and the list goes on.
I am often caught by surprise when the end of the path is in front of me. How did I get here so quickly? That’s when it is time to offer up thoughts of gratitude for all those who created and maintain the labyrinth and for the opportunity to practice self-care in this amazing environment that I am so blessed to live in. Self-care, I highly recommend it!
• Pat Mclear is a member of the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (www.juuf.org).“Living & Growing” is a reoccurring column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.