Often we want to believe change will be direct and unproblematic—all I need to do is get the will and want aligned and then it’ll just happen. But when we find change harder to sustain than expected, or years later suddenly relapse in old upsetting patterns, we may struggle to know what to do. Shame is almost inevitable. “I thought things were different! I thought we were past this.”
The image of the Labyrinth is widespread and often employed in reflecting upon the personal and spiritual journey. Though the Labyrinth itself is a direct path—if you keep walking in the same direction, you will eventually reach the center—it is subjectively quite meandering and indirect. We might seem to approach the goal, only to veer suddenly and find ourselves further than ever from it.
Each turn of the Labyrinth offers us the opportunity to see a new facet of the problem or the longing. What seems true is that we cannot escape those things that trouble us. We cannot eradicate what we despise; indeed, despising something only seems to intensify its power over us. Neither can we transcend our problems by minimizing the damage it does to us.
At the center of the Labyrinth might be a hoped-for experience, a sense of self and life that feels so potent and scary that parts of us pull us away as we get close. Often we feel we would rather just get rid of those fearful and hostile parts, yet we seem unable to do so. No amount of will eradicates them or suppresses them for long. No tyranny of mind or society has ever been able to extinguish the soul. Whatever we suppress will erupt, and the more vigorously suppressed it is, the more destructive will be its eruption.
Better to befriend these distractions, these upheavals. Everything seeks to be seen, named, and included. What is this part trying to offer me today? What fear or danger am I not acknowledging? What unmet need still lingers? What weakness in me needs strength training? What does resentment tell me about the burdens I carry that are not mine?
What if my belief about myself and the world is not an accurate map? What do those beliefs exclude? What if those beliefs are obscuring important information that could help me to understand the world better as it is, in a way that would help me be more effective and connected? What if these disruptions, as problematic as they are, arose to help me to see those flaws in my beliefs? What if this was all necessary so that I may truly know the center when I find it?
We turn a corner, individually and collectively, to look at old problems from a different angle. The dangers are real but so too is hope. Refusing the new angle by clinging to old beliefs will not serve.