Meditation and Mindfulness

Walking a Labyrinth

Land's End Labyrinth and the Golden Gate Bridge

People have been walking labyrinths for over 3500 years. Today people use labyrinths for inspiration. They walk to help with stress, to deal with an illness, to help heal anger, grief and to quiet the internal and external noise of our lives.

You can find labyrinths in churches, gardens, national forests, schools, hospitals, beaches, prisons and in many private spaces. 

People often confuse a maze and a labyrinth. Mazes have many routes in and out. They have tricks and dead ends. Labyrinths have one way into the center and one way out. Where mazes are more of a game, labyrinths are a spiritual journey. You never lose sight of the center while walking a labyrinth.

My Mother Walking the Outdoor Labyrinth, Grace Cathedral

The first time I walked a labyrinth was with my mother. She had always wanted to visit the two labyrinths at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. My mother was a long time meditator and knew how to consciously walk. 

At first I watched her walk from outside the labyrinth and was so very touched by her focus as she walked the eleven concentric paths while carrying her purse.

Then I joined her. First we walked the garden labyrinth and then the one embedded in the Cathedral’s floor. I was quietly aware of her calm movements as we passed each other.

Not long after, my mom became quite frail and died. The following year I retired and moved to Mexico. One day walking along Lake Chapala’s malecon in Ajijic, I stopped to watch a man build a labyrinth. It was shaped like a heart and was dedicated to his wife who had recently passed away. In the center was a vase where he regularly places fresh flowers. 

So I now have a lakeside labyrinth to walk where I can find my center and remember my mom. 

There are so many labyrinths in the world today. You can find them in public spaces by visiting the website Labyrinth Locator

I recommend three books about labyrinths.

Walking the Sacred Path by Dr. Lauren Artress  
Exploring the Labyrinth by Melissa Gayle West 

And if you are interested in building a labyrinth you might want to read...
Classical Labyrinths: Construction Manual by Robert D. Ferre.

Mindfulness and the Art of Stone Balancing

A number of years ago a friend and I sat on the beach watching a man quietly and patiently balancing rocks on top of each other. It was mesmerizing. This is a craft that definitely has a Zen quality to it. 

Rock balancing uses no adhesives, wires, rings or other supports to help maintain the rocks' balance. Many rock balancing artists consider their craft a practice of awareness and mindfulness. Although there are some who feel that rock balancing wreaks havoc in national parks, this is certainly a mindful practice that can be done in private spaces.

Michael Grab is a blogger who blogs about his rock balancing at Gravity Glue. About his rock balancing practice he says, "I quickly noticed the therapeutic/transformative effects that balancing and working with nature had on myself and others; in an artistic sense, but also nurturing something uniquely human, inspiring a sense of magic and peace, luring awareness out of the mind and into the moment — ultimately cultivating a meditative presence."

Cairns (from Scottish gaelic) are simple stones balanced on each other and can be found all over the world. Since prehistoric times they have marked burial and ceremonial sites. In modern times they have noted boundaries and provided hikers with directions.

Buddhists have stacked stones as a metaphor for balance in your life, a meditation on impermanence, prayer and mindfulness. The blog Buddha Grove describes 9 lessons from stone stacking...

1.  Be solid, not rigid.
2.  Stand tall.
3.  Find your balance.
4.  Be centered.
5.  Get grounded.
6.  Stay aligned.
7.  Guide others.
8.  Leave your mark.
9.  If you fall, rebuild.

Since so many of us are stuck at home 24/7, it's a perfect time to either learn to meditate, return to our meditation practice or to increase our meditating. I have meditated for years every morning for 20 minutes. It makes a huge difference in how my day goes.

This is a stressful time, and since you are not distracted by running errands and attending events, you might find a meditation practice helpful.
There are lots of online sites, videos, apps to help you learn meditation and I will be covering those soon. For now I am going to recommend several of my favorite books.

Start Here Now by Susan Piver is my favorite book for beginning meditation.

Piver writes in an easy, humble, down to earth style. She starts out by describing the benefits of meditation, what it is, what it is not and gives you easy to follow instructions.

It was published in 2015 and I recently went back and reread it. And even tho I have been meditating for nearly 50 years, my copy is full of highlighted passages.

If one of the things you want to do during this time is learn how to meditate, this is a great book to help you.

Tea and Cake with Demons by Andreanna Limbach is one of my favorite meditation books. Published in 2015, Limbach brings secular Buddhist meditation teachings to a whole new generation.

Limbach describes herself as "still shoveling her manure," and discusses how to deal with our demons.

Tea and Cake with Demons explores The Four Noble Truths in ways that are relevant for our lives today, especially as we hunker down at home trying to avoid the Corona Virus.

I first read Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn many years ago. It was published in 1994. Every once in awhile I pull it out and read it again.

It's one of those books that brings something new to your awareness each time you read it, depending on where you are at the time. It also reminds you of what you already know.