"What Do You Need to Let Go Of?" This was the inquiry from my CTI Leadership leaders at the mouth of the inlayed swelling earth, grass labyrinth in Northern California. Not only did the question stimulate some strong emotions, but the thought of walking in silence with 23 others pondering the same question brought some emotion as well; I was skeptical and actually little giddy. How was I going to get through this very foreign ritual without laughing, talking, or making faces at the others as we passed? I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it.
After receiving the question, I entered the labyrinth. I took the first step, and the thirtieth, and the hundredth. Many thoughts filled my head as I carefully placed my foot, one in front of the other…
“What do I need to let go of?” I chanted this over and over in my head recklessly searching for something tangible and honest. I found myself taking an inventory of my life (things I was holding on to), taking each person, item and thought that entered my head... analyzing it and trying to come up with an actionable answer to report-out onto my leaders and group. (Wow, look at that attachment to "being right"
and to "having an answer!")
I found it very difficult to just be with the question. As I became more and more aware of my active mind and frantic need to find something powerful and real, I also found a freedom in the path of the labyrinth as my body began to relax into my own movements. I also became aware of the creative energy radiating amongst the group of 23 others walking the same path. As I let go of the need to get the answer and started to sink into the journey, the path led me into the center of the labyrinth …. Yikes!! Slight freak out/ self-conscious moment: What am I supposed to do in here at the center?! Am I supposed to have an answer by now?! I had nothing (and man did everyone else look so enlightened!) (Wow, look at that assumptive mind filling in the blanks!)
I recovered and took some deep breaths as I stood in the center of the labyrinth and quickly turned to walk out. The journey to the exit of the labyrinth was an attempt to return to a quiet mind and a deliberate pace. I was able to recover and be with the inquiry yet again. I felt a connection with nature's beauty surrounding me and the energy of those I passed.
I did not leave the labyrinth with answers, an action list, or labyrinth expertise. In that moment, I felt FAILURE.
Six years later, I recall this first labyrinth experience with extreme affection and curiosity. Not only on what transpired that morning but also, how the metaphor of the labyrinth and the practice of physical movement has re-emerged as the center of my leadership exploration and coaching practice.
But what did I really receive that day? What did I let go of? I let GO of the FEAR of FAILURE. And yes, sometimes it tries to creep back on in (yeah, like daily). But becasue of this experience, I have some new tools to help me quiet that little nag.
Some personal takeaways from my first labyrinth walk:
- The inquiry is important but the path may take you to where you really need to go.
- Notice how much attention and energy you spend on worrying about other people, doing it right, having answers, getting it right, and avoiding failure. How’s that working for you?
- Sometimes being up in your head isn’t all that productive. Quieting the mind and listening to your body and surroundings brings new information into the picture.
- Not knowing what you’re doing doesn’t mean you can’t do it… but you may need to do it again to get really good at it.
I may not have realized what to “let go of” that specific morning in California, but have found new things to let go of every day since. What a blessing!