Full Circle: The Canvas Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

Monday morning, May 18th, I stood outside the wire mesh fence that now encloses the entire back of the nave including the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth. On that quiet, misty morning few people were around to witness the workmen, focused on only their tasks, cover the much-revered Chartres labyrinth. [Read more…]

Grace Cathedral’s Labyrinth featured in The California Report

From the Grace Cathedral Highlights e-newsletter April 16, 2015:

Grace Cathedral’s indoor labyrinth was featured this week in the “My Spot” series that is part of KQED’s acclaimed “California Report.” Listen here as Vanessa Kenoyer describes how, though she is not Christian, Grace Cathedral and the labyrinth are a “connection to the divine.”

An Amazing Day!

On the morning of the Inauguration of the La Falda Labyrinth we dress up in clothes far dressier then the work clothes we worn the last five days.

Over breakfast we attempt to name this labyrinth. We talk about the words “prayer” and “meditation” and what works best in this culture. The words “community” and “healing” are ruled out altogether because they are too ‘new age’ in tone. [Read more…]

On Perseverance

My roots are as a corn-fed Ohioan. My family prides itself on knowing what hard work is. So here I am building a labyrinth in La Falda Argentina—sponsored by the Alla Arriba Retreat Center—with an amazing group of Veriditas folks.

It is hard work. Our group is cohesive, united not only by the commitment to build a labyrinth here, but also by humor and the deep connection to the many ways the labyrinth can speak to us. We have moved tons of stones into place to replicate the “petite Chartres”. We haul sand, sort stones, carrying them to the specific path and then down on our knees to place stones in sand. We measure for “quality control”, shoring up the stones to make them level and fit within a certain width.

We’re all working hard, struggling with stiff muscles and sore backs and necks. All this makes me pause to reflect on perseverance. What exactly is it? I think of it as a ‘stick-to-it-ness’ that carries through to the end of a task. It’s also “energy management”—if you do it right—so you can hang in when the job gets tough, or your body gets tired. Part of it is a learnable skill and another part has to do with stamina and that mysterious phenomenon called resilience.

Perseverance is not all positive and there is a necessary discernment process behind your ability to hang in. What if you persevere when it would be entirely appropriate to give up, like a destructive marriage, or an unproductive job? We can hang in for the wrong reasons as well as worthy ones.

During our second day building the labyrinth it rained steadily from the minute we awoke until well after dusk. We almost quit and came home, then collectively we found our footing in our cause: we came to build a labyrinth in La Falda Argentina.

This is not right for me…

Our experience in La Falda deepened today. The wonderful Adoba meal faded into lifelong memory as we prepared to go to the Temescal—the Argentinean version of a sweat lodge. The shaman—straight out of central casting with long black hair, a handsome square jaw and rich light brown skin—leading it prepares all day, readying the ritual fire for the grandmother stones. Every member of our group is vulnerable, changing into swimsuits or shorts and tees to enter the womb of Mother Earth. I am tense—as everyone is—but since I had a massage earlier in the day I am feeling peaceful and open to what ever is going to unfold.

We are told that the Spirit guides want to help us and as we sit in the dark we are to look within. Anything is possible: tears of pain or gratitude could emerge. We are invited to chant with him with no concern for being off-key. If we want to leave for any reason we are to request permission and then be let out. Finally after many words, mostly due to translation, we begin the ritual by honoring the four directions with prayers and three powerful blasts from a conch shell.

Twenty of us sage with the ashes and enter the Temescal in silence.

Hot glowing rocks the size of a round loaf of bakery bread are shoveled into the center, blessed with tobacco and a large vat of water is brought in. Then the blankets are lowered over the entrance so we are in total darkness.

This is a startling moment for which none of us are prepared. One person speaks up and says she wants to leave. The shaman attempts to quiet her by coaching her to breathe, then another speaks up requesting to exit. The shaman continues to encourage both women to breathe but stay in the dark container. After a minute or two of confusion the woman says “This is not right for me.” The shaman continues to ignore her request to leave and then the woman sponsor of our group says “you said to me that anyone can leave who requests it” and three, not two women leave as the blankets are lifted from the outside, much to the relief of the rest of the group

In these times when new and ancient forms of spirituality are arising, we need to be open to what is new for us. The experience may stretch us, deepen us, inform us, heal us. But our only true guide is the wisdom we carry within. Allow this to be your mantra. If something is not right for you, listen to that voice and act upon it.

Peace in Our Hearts

The gifts continue to unfold our first full day at the Alla Arriba Retreat Center. The food is tasty, fresh, all healthy and well prepared. In the afternoon we had a “music workshop” with Alberto Kuselman and Marisa Arrieta. Alberto is in Argentina like Bono in the U.S. and is also a psychologist. He talked about the healing aspects of music and that each of us should know what songs bring us to center when we are out of balance. Do you know yours? I can’t say that I know “my” music as keenly as I need to. Alberto told us there are four channels of suffering: fear (in it’s many forms) doubt, depression/guilt and lastly creating an enemy by being unable to forgive. Then Marisa stepped in and, using the canvas labyrinth as our shared space, we did many releasing methods to clear our channels ending with small groups doing massage with one another. They were highly skilled and provided a rich experience, using progression to move us along.

In the evening we went to an Adoba, which is a special dinner—much like our Thanksgiving dinner—with grilled root vegetable and a series of meats that were out of this world! About 50 people turned up and we were served this bountiful meal on wooden platters. A clear message turned up today:  Despite all the strife and violence in the world, let there be peace in your heart. That’s where it all starts and that’s where it all ends.

Gifts from the Labyrinth

Many gifts have come into my life through the labyrinth. The adventure I am on now is in La Falda, Argentina with five board members, our Veriditas ED, a labyrinth builder, spouses and friends. A bit of background: the Board of Veriditas through Christine Katzenmeyer initiated a project called The Legacy Labyrinth. On our online auction the Board volunteered to build a labyrinth anywhere in the world. They imagined some retreat center, church, or City Park would bid from Connecticut, Texas or Tennessee. No one expected a call from Enrique and Kristin Dura at the Alla Arriba Retreat Center in La Falda, Argentina! So after much planning on Christine’s part, here we are in a lovely mountain village of La Falda to put a labyrinth in the town square with the mayor firmly behind it!

After a long three-legged trip we arrived jet lagged but in good spirits. An old fifteen-seater van picked six of us up, the second group of six to arrive the same day. Dinner and a good night’s rest make miracles but nothing prepared me for today’s gifts: the beauty, the warmth of the people and the star lit Southern hemisphere.

The “Chartres Itch”

Every time this year I get the “Chartres Itch”. As the spring blossoms scent the air, I feel uplifted as I anticipate returning to Chartres, France. Veriditas has been creating and sponsoring our Walking a Sacred Path Program for 15 years though I first entered the cathedral earlier on a personal pilgrimage to uncover the labyrinth in 1991.

I love walking the cobblestone streets, shopping at the market for fresh vegetables and securing a fresh loaf of French bread for dinner. Down the hill, the once bustling L’Eure river quietly flows. I spend many hours walking along it or sitting quietly on its banks. Though my abilities with the French language leave a lot lacking, I feel at home in Chartres not only in the village but also in Chartres Cathedral itself.

Our Lady of Chartres Cathedral is still an active sacred site. It contains one of the most magnificent labyrinths in the world. I have walked it countless times and over the years it has become a womb that gives new life. It is a place for pilgrims to commit their lives anew, to release old wounds, grieve losses and to chart a fresh course for the years ahead. My hope is that everyone who needs this sacred experience finds their way to this Cathedral.

I feel privileged to do this life-changing work and this reoccurring “Chartres itch” simply says I’m ready; it’s been long enough. It is time to return to Chartres. The labyrinth is calling…