Over the New Year’s holiday, I worked at a residential workshop in Malibu, California. This is the sixth time I’ve been at this workshop. Every time I learn something new about myself I wasn’t expecting. This year was no exception.
The workshop takes place at Serra Retreat—a retreat center perched on a hill at the back of a canyon overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The center is surrounded by gardens connected by winding paths that lead to tranquil places to sit and meditate.
The retreat also has a labyrinth.
If you haven’t seen a labyrinth before don’t mistake it for a maze. A maze has multiple paths, not all of which lead to the center. It’s a puzzle to find your way in and out.
On the other hand, a labyrinth has a single continuous path, that winds around without a clear view to the end but will eventually lead to the center as long as you keep going forward.
I’ve seen many labyrinths over the years, including this very one at Serra Retreat. But this last visit to Malibu was the first time I walked a labyrinth. I knew there was probably a protocol for what to do, meditate on, or pray for. However, I purposely went to the labyrinth without any information. I put down my coffee mug on a stump by the entrance and started walking.
Very soon it became clear how desperate I was to see how much further I had to go before I got to the center. But that’s the beauty of the labyrinth. It forces you to stay with the next step, not look ahead and focus on the end of the path. Because you can’t.
One of the skills I’m constantly practicing is staying present with what I’m doing.
That way I have a better chance of being aware of how I’m doing what I’m doing—which is where my habits lie.
My walk in the labyrinth reminded me that I continue to need to work on this skill.
One practical way I work on this (when I’m not in a labyrinth) is to come back to my awareness of my feet on the ground. When my mind has wandered off to whatever shiny object has attracted its attention I simply come back to my awareness of my feet contacting the ground for a few seconds. And it allows me to be “here (in the present) not there (in the past or future)”.
I don’t try to stay in that present moment very long. I let my mind wander off so I can practice bringing it back later.
Practices like meditation or walking a labyrinth are great. I hope to try out another labyrinth sometime soon. But what about bringing that practice of being present that you work on in your regular meditation session or visits to your local labyrinth into your daily life?
For me, it requires something extremely simple, like my awareness of my feet on the ground. And for just a few moments I can live “here not there”.
What tools work for you to spend more time in the present moment in your daily life?
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