Monday, June 14, 2010

No Way To Get Caught In A Labyrinth

While a maze can be defined as a 'tour puzzle' in which its easy to lose your way, a labyrinth will always return you to your point of origin.
A maze has complex branching passages through which you must find a route.  Its many branches are designed to confuse and lead astray.  Mazes are not comforting.
Prehistoric labyrinths are believed to have served as traps for malevolent spirits or as defined paths for ritual dances. In medieval times, the labyrinth symbolized a hard path to God with a clearly defined center (God) and one entrance (birth).
Labyrinths can be thought of as symbolic forms of pilgrimage.  People can walk the path, ascending toward salvation or enlightenment. Many people could not afford to travel to holy sites and lands, so labyrinths and prayer substituted for such travel. Later, the religious significance of labyrinths faded, and they served primarily for entertainment, though recently their spiritual aspect has seen a resurgence.  Labyrinths are used to help achieve a contemplative state. Walking among the turnings, one loses track of direction and of the outside world, and thus quiets the mind.
The god of the Tohono O'odham Nation, I'itoi, is depicted as a man caught in a maze.  I'itoi lives on Baboquivari Peak, (19 miles north of the Mexican border and about 90 miles southwest of Tucson).  He is rarely is a good mood.  That's because he's caught in a maze instead of peacefully strolling on the paths of a labyrinth always to return to his point or origin.
I work in community mental health.  There used to be a vacant lot next to my building.  The lot was overgrown with weeds and strewn with broken bottles and old mattresses and all sorts of life in poverty detritus.  The empty lot is now a community garden.  At its center is a labyrinth.  Nothing fancy.  Just a good place to wander for a few minutes confident that no opportunity exists to feel trapped.

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