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as you read, I invite you to notice where you are in your life in this story.

do you see yourself here?

once, I accepted help from someone when I needed it most, what unfolded wasn’t feeling good.  simply, I was doing all the things I was ‘supposed to’ with everything I had, and instead of helping, it was feeling awful.  after an interaction with this person one day that left my whiskers seriously wrinkled, I took the whole kit and kaboodle into the labyrinth, seeking clarity.  what was happening?

the labyrinth I chose is a beloved friend, and it lives up a very steep hill that requires some ‘hoofing it’ to arrive.  on this particular visit, I made the long drive there with my honey, and I’ll be the first to admit I was wearing my finest, sparkliest ‘grumpy tiara.’  (laughter)  my honey is a truly wonderful creature, and we made a game of my crappy mood, finally laughing together at the silly grandeur of complaint and the humanness of it all as we huffed and puffed with rosy cheeks up the hill.  we arrived breathless, and ready.

after asking every darn question about this situation I could think of for months on end, I offered the situation to the labyrinth, in quiet desperation, asking: ‘what is my skillful question?’  there on the wide open rolling hills in the last light of the setting sun, the labyrinth opened itself.

now, a labyrinth is a sacred place for me – I’ve walked labyrinths in the triple digits, over the years.  there is a special magic and flow that happens – emotions arise, intuition visits, big magic works on me, answers arrive.  it’s the mystery.

this hilltop labyrinth is made from rocks placed on dirt, and it’s been there for at least the 20 years I’ve been visiting.  sometimes, folks kick rocks thither and yon, and then other folks repair the rupture.  on my first circuit, I saw that the labyrinth had been busted open, and noted the opening.

somewhere around there this fierce – and I mean FIERCE – longing came on me for the time of childhood.  given, my childhood was often a complicated zip code, but there was wonder and joy and delight in it, too.  I longed for the feeling of childhood like a person dying of thirst longs for water.  I kept walking.

on the second circuit, I came to the opening again.  I found myself thinking, ‘if I was a little girl, I’d hop right out!  I don’t want to walk this path anymore!’  and – having never until that day stepped out of the power and flow of the sacred labyrinth – I stepped out and off the well-worn path.  the green grass was lush and verdant beyond the labyrinth, and the next thought that came was, ‘I wish I could do a cartwheel….’

mind you, I have no idea what decade I last did a cartwheel in.  it’s been several.  but there, on that hilltop in the drops of sunshine of the day, I knew that a cartwheel was coming.  in my head, it was a triumphant thing, an act of power, grace, and freedom.  so I cartwheeled.  and, friends, graceful and powerful it was not!  I fell right on my face, and immediately felt embarrassed.  clunky.  old.  adultish.  it didn’t feel good.

this irked me, so I tried again.  ‘dammit,’ I thought, ‘I can do this!’  so, I cartwheeled.  or tried to.  I fell again, pretty badly, and hurt myself a good bit.  it was clear that this was not going to be the triumph my ego was so hungry for.  even more irritated, I thought, ‘well, if I can’t do a cartwheel, I can at least do a somersault!’  so I did.  same clumsy result – my chin bonked hard onto my chest, I got a grass stain on my beloved sweater, and felt foolish and ungainly and not at all how I wanted to feel.

at this point, I was pretty irked (and this isn’t my usual way of being, friend).  here I was, trying to have this amazing liberating experience in a hard time in my life, and it was Not Going How I Wanted It To.  I thought, ‘okay, if I can’t do a cartwheel, and I can’t do a somersault, I bet I can at least lay on the earth!’  so I did.  I pulled that one off – I stretched my arms and legs out spread-eagle with my tummy to the sky.

and the tears came.

there had been violent weeping in the weeks leading up to this, as relating with this person I hired felt more and more misaligned, and this was not that tsunami of anguish, thank the gods.  this was a pimple popping, a torrent of gunk unleashed, old pus and debris gushing from a wound I didn’t know was infected in the first place.  the tears came and came, and I gave myself to them fully.  the earth mother and the labyrinth did their work on me, and it was big.

finally done crying, I sat in the peace that comes after a good weep.  I felt clear, calmed.  I opened my puffy little eyes and looked into the vast blue wonder above me.  I sat up, there in the last light of the sun, watching the wind ripple through the fecund green grass like love.  in that moment, I finally found it, my skillful question:

‘what am I doing?’

the wrong-ness of fitting my particular whatever-I-am into Something Not For Me hit me all at once.  not just the ill-fitting person I was working with – who meant well, and was the initiation I guess I needed to crack me open and come back to myself – but what my life had become after a long set of challenges, sensitivity, evolutionary times, and a spirit screaming into the void to leave it all behind, step out of the opening in the path and get back to being free.

I looked left.  far, far across the rolling hills, I saw the city.  I’d lived there, ran a business there, and that life is a memory now.  crouching on the land, it was wreathed in smog with sunset glinting off glass windows like angry eyes, concrete limned in more concrete.  I looked right.  far, far across the rolling hills, I saw…green hills of emerald grass.  open space. nature. goodness. freedom.  the web of life in it’s simplicity and it’s splendor.

I don’t know if I can properly articulate the impact of that powerful ‘aha!’ moment – how meaningful it was that clarity finally came after hopping off the familiar path, being humbled by my own stuck-ness, giving myself to pent-up emotions, or the exquisite clarity of ‘what am I doing?’ pealing like a bell in my heart, followed by ‘this is not for me, and something big and wide and wonderful is calling instead.’  it was powerful for me.  I give thanks.

I chose to part ways with this person the following day, and gave myself over to the void.  I spent a long time there, sending up prayers for guidance, letting the wild loving divine lead, and allowing a new life that was waiting for me to arrive.  it did, and it was all worth it.  a happy ending…and it took this moment of ‘aha!’ in the labyrinth to get me there.

are you in this story?  does something you dedicated your whole heart to not quite fit?  are feelings coming up?  are you seeking support?  following a familiar path?  yearning to step away from how things are ‘supposed’ to go?  stepping outside of the labyrinth?  falling on your face in a failed cartwheel of childhood?  weeping belly to the sky?  looking at what was and feeling just so done, or looking at the open spaces and feeling called home?  finally jettisoning the thing that didn’t fit?  surrendering to the total unknown?

I’d love to hear.  you can send me a lovenote if you’d like to share, and if we feel aligned, we can explore how healing and the mystery might want to come for tea time in your life.

also!  if the mystery of the labyrinth calls to you, you can find a labyrinth in your area with the worldwide labyrinth locator.


ps – do you know one or two folks who would benefit from receiving the dreaming otter articles?  if yes, please encourage them to subscribe to the email list here.  I would be so grateful – thanks, and may that kindness return to you a thousandfold.