Monday, May 4, 2009

Climactic stillness

So a while back I found myself walking down a labyrinth path trying not to pass gas loudly.

Why is it that any time I have indigestion and I'm with a group of people, it's loud indigestion in silent surroundings? Why is it that when walking and trying to respectfully release one quietly it squeaks out past the cheeks with every step? It's like a dirty music cd that keeps blipping back to the same note over and over and over again. I hate that.

And what the heck do you say? I was outdoors in a sacred space where people are emptying their minds of thoughts, breathing fresh air, and savoring the silence.

Well, two oughta three ain't bad.

Okay, enough about escaping nitrogen.

I took a moment to breath in some fresh air (pre-gastrointestinal) and prepare my left brain for a rest. My left hemisphere, when it's engaged for a long time, has a really difficult time letting go of control, I've found. It takes a while for the left brain's sarcastic, cynical comments to dissolve (even when they are supposedly for humor), the harsh judgments and evaluations to ease, so I can hear the open-minded right brain's observations. As I begin with just a few steps through the opening of the labyrinth, my right brain engages: "Whoa. That's cool! Did you feel that energy?" And, of course, the left brain can't possibly let that one go by: "Yeah. It's called indigestion, you freak."

Funny thing about the right brain, though. It attaches no emotion to anything the left brain puts forth. It's really genuinely unaware. Instead, it keeps observing, "Oh! Yes! I felt that too, but what I was talking about was different from indigestion. It's a little more subtle."

So with each step I try to release the left brain's "this is so freakishly woo-woo-ey, why am I doing this" attitude and engaging the right brain's trust that a quiet reconnection is just exactly what I need. Maybe...just maybe...the indigestion is related directly to the left brain addiction of late.

Each step releases just a little more of the left brain. My recent urge to wrap my daughter in loving protection from some aggressive, but typical, school girl behavior. Fears about a student's cancer. Worries about reaching deadlines, getting paid. Concerns about my husband's happiness at work. Disgust in walking across the kitchen floor's filth.

None of the thoughts or emotions are necessary. But all of them fully there. And with every step in the labyrinth, the emotions dissolve, replaced by a centered space of emptiness. My left brain has quieted. It’s not sarcastically criticizing my right brain thoughts of letting go, feeling each pressure point of every step I take. It’s allowing the right brain equal time. The right brain needs to stop and feel this labyrinth, the other people who are walking it, the air, the connectedness.

The layers come off, sometimes thick, weighty, substantial ones. Sometimes so thin, so insubstantial that they’re actually even more noticeable.

The path winds itself, turns, pools in certain areas. At first I feel it as stagnation, then no, just a pause. Yin to balance out yang.

And only when I realize I’m in the labyrinth's center do I feel completely present. The path has done its work.

I am free.

Sitting in the center, just existing in wuji (in simple terms: nothingness), is really powerful. I sit for some time drinking it in. Savoring the space.

And the time to return comes. Back through the winding path I feel clear, light – at times almost giddy. There were others walking back, some talking softly with each other. Some moving a bit more quickly than they were on the way in. A little less reflective. And before I even realize it my left brain is re-engaged and spewing out my list of things I have to get done.

I stopped in the path blown away that I wasn’t allowing this part of the experience equal attention. Where else do I do this in life? During family celebrations, do I have a tendency to work really hard cooking, cleaning, tending to people, just to get to the celebration and then collapse afterward? At work, do I put it into full gear to make it to the deadline, only to collapse again and possibly get sick afterward? In Taijiquan, do I put much more intention into the yang application and gloss over yin?

There is great strength in the yin phase. In life, it can be a time for pause, reflection, healing, awareness, preparedness. And in this labyrinth, I was letting it go. So I stood – once again reconnecting. Enjoying the hard work of letting go, maintaining the balance.

Being in the moment. Just being.

Walking through the archway that led out, I made a commitment to myself to be aware of every yin phase in my life and give it the respect it deserves. No glossing over just to get to the excitement of the yang. Being present: beginning, middle and end.


  1. Not to devalue the rest of the post, but "So a while back I found myself walking down a labyrinth path trying not to pass gas loudly" is easily one of the best openings to a blog post I've ever read.

    Then, perhaps I'm stuck on the more literal side of things this evening since, only a few hours ago, I spent much of a yoga class trying (and failing) to keep from farting (all the while knowing that such releases are actually considered a good thing in yoga...though unsure if the people immediately next to me are up on that aspect of the yogic thing...and, yes, still caught up enough in my ego to be concerned about them thinking I'm a total pig...).

    So it goes...

  2. I have to admit that farting in taiji class is still socially uncomfortable for me. But it's considered very healthy in taiji practice as well. I still remember a story about a woman who watched a taiji master practicing in the park daily. She just didn't get why he practiced, or what benefit taiji would possibly have. So she finally interrupted his practice and asked him.

    "To fart!" he said.

    She immediately left.

  3. You guys crack me up! I've had to come back a few times to fully 'digest' this, and be able to leave a comment that wasn't just about farts :)
    Lucy, I really love how you've described the experience of walking the labyrinth so eloquently. I have probably walked about three or four, and I don't think I could have ever described the experience as clearly and consciously as you did. I'm realizing now that sometimes my awareness has been more present one the way in, sometimes on the way out! I love the way you connected that to how you are in your daily experiences.
    As an aside, for years I have wanted to create a labyrinth in our back yard, but John has been opposed, because it would impose on dog play - but now that we are down to one elderly arthritic one, I may be able to persuade him. Wanna come out and help me build it?!?
    xox K

  4. Karin. I. Am. So. There. Are you kidding?

    And, knowing you, I bet you could train a dog to walk a labyrinth. Seriously. You taught a cat to pee in a toilet.

    I cut the lawn today, thinking about the labyrinth and thought I could just cut one in the grass! Wouldn't that be cool? The kids could run through it and over it and on it and it wouldn't really get damaged. But the yard is too small and the mower too wide. :(

    I'd like to do it in the front yard, but I didn't get the idea until it was too late. Maybe when I cut the lawn again in August.

    My neighbors love me.

  5. you goof ball! there are people that have trained their cats to pee in the toilet, but my rebel felines aren't among them! I did get the birds to poop on command though - maybe that's what you were remembering :) remember Tucker? Poopie - splat!!
    okay, let's get planning ;^)

  6. The initial sentences of the post reminded me of Murphy's laws. :-)

  7. This is really amazing that our left and right mind work seaparately at the same moment.

  8. zoft gum,
    Isn't the brain fascinating?! There are so many new studies on its plasicity and ability to change, shift, heal. I find it amazing.

    And Devpriya, you're right!