Posted by: smstrouse | October 13, 2010

Falling Off the Labyrinth

I fell of the labyrinth today. Rather, I stepped off the path at some point as I was walking in because suddenly I found myself back at the beginning. It was very disconcerting!  I started over again and wondered what it meant.

I was aware that I had gone onto the path with a heavy heart. I returned on Sunday from my third experience of helping to lead a retreat for care providers to military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over four days I listened to the stories of nurses, social workers, chaplains, mortuary workers – some of them vets themselves – who deal day after day with the aftermath of war: caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds of the living, washing the bodies of the dead and preparing them to be returned home, comforting the families of vets who’ve committed suicide.  These awesome people are burning out too. There are too many wounded vets, too many bodies, too many suicides. Hence this opportunity just for the care providers.

It was a wonderful experience. I’m always amazed at the transformation that can happen when people come together to listen to one another’s stories of suffering and in the process find healing. But I know that as I walked into the labyrinth today, my prayer was for the members of the small group I had facilitated. They are all back at work. And the war goes on.

Frankly, I’m angry about that.  And I feel the need to do something. But what?  That was my question as I made my way around the circuits of the labyrinth. But then, suddenly, I was back at the beginning. It seems that I had stepped off the path toward the center.  Oh!

So I began again, this time with the desire to get to the center of the labyrinth, to the center of me. And when I got there, I found a small ceramic cross. On it were the words: “I am the vine; you are the branches” – my favorite Bible verse!  Then what came to me were the words, also part of that passage from John: “for apart from me you can do nothing.”  Oh!  I sat for a few minutes holding that cross in my hands and meditating on the gift of insight I had received. As I walked back out, those words were my mantra.

I’m still angry about the war. I still want to do something. But I also know that when I’m connected to the Vine and all the branches, when I’m centered in the Ground of my being, then the paths of justice, compassion, healing, and wisdom will open up to me.  And I will not fall off.

PS ~ The retreat was part of the Coming Home Project ( They do wonderful work and you should check them out.


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