I was in a state of disbelief. I had somehow found my way to this weekend women’s retreat at Fiddlehead Grove – located in the same tiny town I was born in! Five decades earlier my father had raced towards the local Dr’s office in his new Plymouth while my mother and grandmother tended to my birth in the back seat. I was just a few miles from the home I grew up in. I stopped in to see my parents the evening before, but used the excuse of a ‘professional conference’ to explain my absence for the day – there was no way I was going to try to explain the retreat and labyrinth that had really brought me here. I had found this labyrinth only two days earlier, through a general search on the website for the World Wide Labyrinth Locator. And there just happened to be a retreat this weekend with an opening still available. My brain struggled to remove the wall between this ‘new age’ approach to healing and the rigid isolated environment I fled from so long ago. In my flight away from one and now towards the other I ended up creating my own circle of twists and turns that did not appear to form any purposeful pattern, until maybe now.
Rocks, varying in size from grapefruits to small watermelons, outlined the now familiar pattern located in a small semi-cleared area in the woods. Nine of us walked at the same time, some on the inward journey towards the center and others returning on the same 18 inch wide path. Sometimes I stepped aside to allow another to pass and sometimes others stepped aside to allow my passage. Sometimes we both stopped and hugged briefly before we continued on our ways in a dance choreographed only by the unspoken flow between us. Half way into the Labyrinth I noticed we were surrounded by trees of small girth, suggesting this was an old field returning to its natural state, a new growth forest. I realized I too was in a ‘new growth’ phase. Parts of me had lain fallow through the business of marriage, family and career in a field shadowed with alcohol, anger and anxiety. I felt ready to topple; desperate to establish roots deep enough to hold me steady as I swayed with the winds that blew my way.
Following the labyrinth walk, Cathy – the retreat leader and owner of this property – provided directions through the woods to the creek. I hesitated, but then joined a small group, gradually falling behind, enjoying the peace and wonder surrounding me. Why had I always been so afraid of the woods? There was so much life there, often sprouting from death. Tiny saplings sprang from the upturned roots of blow downs, moss and mushrooms proliferated on dead stumps – the perfect recycling of nature. Herbal tea and chatter waited on the lawn upon returning to the small home. Cathy was open and welcoming to everyone, and easily shared her stories, hopes and plans to build and expand. It was obvious many of the participants were regulars here, but I did not feel left out the way I often did in unfamiliar groups. Was it the group? The sense of familiarity with the surroundings? Or my own opening towards them, towards myself, that made the difference?
Following an afternoon yoga class Reiki treatments were offered. I had never had one before but felt open to trying anything. I had no idea what to expect. A few minutes into the session I could feel emotions creeping upward, from deep inside. I tried to hold unexpected tears back without success, apologizing as I wept. The practitioner softly uttered it was OK, and to allow whatever feelings arose to come out. A few minutes later an intense tingling moved from the tips of my fingers, up my arms and through my entire body – electrifying, unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was frightened and told the practitioner about the sensation. Once again she calmly stated it was not unusual and everything was OK, to breathe and relax as much as I could. My desire to relax fought against my usual resistance to self-care, until my mind and muscles finally began to soften. Following the treatment the practitioner stated that my heart had been too open, that I was taking in all the pain and anger of those around me. She had worked to reduce the opening and now taught me techniques to brush away the emotions that I absorbed from others. I had difficulty at first understanding that an open heart was a bad thing – contrary to the lore of love. But understanding grew as I sifted through all the pain and anger that had surrounded me for most of my life; and how it had evolved into the need to ‘fix’ that pain and anger in others – often at the cost of my own well being.
I returned to my parent’s home to spend the night. I felt confused yet calm. The house felt familiar yet foreign. The future felt foggy, but fingers of possibilities poked holes through the mist, letting in brief sparks of light.
To be continued…