"Lose yourself to find yourself." - Rudolf Steiner
The Labyrinth, a continuous unobstructed unicursal path leading into a center. At the center the path can be retraced leading back out to the exit/entrance which resides on the outer edge of the pattern. Unlike a maze there are no dead ends or forks in the road. The labyrinth structurally assures the participant one way in and one way out. With this in mind, enter into a labyrinth, observe what arises upon the screen of your inner experience.
Beach Labyrinths, which I have taken to digging, have served me in my quest for healing and wholeness.The process has grown out of my interactions with the Pacific Ocean and the thoughts, feelings, and memories of this journey I find myself on.
Each yearly celestial quarter I have been digging at a local beach here in Santa Cruz. It’s at the west end of Sea Bright Beach at the river mouth of the San Lorenzo.This historical and cultural stretch of beach is recognized as the birthplace of surfing on the mainland. The sand stone cliff landscape here offers a natural amphitheater and vantage point for viewing the surf and the beach below. From this vantage point I begin my initial survey of the conditions. The center or point of generation of each labyrinth varies according to tidal and weather conditions. Once I decide on the center, I create a compass rose. The arms of each direction ray out beyond the field of the dig.The mounds of the labyrinth are piled up from excavating the paths. Once the sand is distributed evenly with a shovel, the grooming and fine tuning is brought about with the use of a garden rake.
My very first labyrinth at this spot was the ancient Cretan labyrinth. This labyrinth is known as the mother of all labyrinths.The geometry, symmetry, lawfulness, and beauty of this form captured my imagination years before when I was a Eurythmy teacher at a Waldorf school. As a Halloween activity in my lessons I would draw out the Cretan labyrinth with chalk on the floor of the classroom. Depending upon the class, I was able to experiment with many ways and variations of walking the labyrinth. This proved to be very helpful in understanding subtle rhythmic occurrences that often arose when observing individuals or groups as they walked the labyrinth.
The creation of these sculptural labyrinths became an exploratory exercise that furthered my work with “the water body”. I needed a rhythmic movement activity where I could practice the field work for discovering, articulating and harnessing the healing power of my own fluidic nature. Each of these creations take anywhere from ten to twenty hours to dig, if done solo. Here was a perfect activity. I could be alone in my world of listening to “the slosh effect” of my “water body“ and its learned vacillation between the expansion and contraction of blood and nerve balanced over the bones and warmth of my being. I found myself able to float and glide within the waters of my own fluidic self while shoveling sand. The dig took on forms of dance and play as I experimented with technique after technique. In time, I gained enough familiarity with the slosh effect to surf and push within the leading and lagging edges of my own watery nature, thus allowing the possibility of recycling, conserving, driving, and enduring long periods of rhythmic movement.
Since the ripe age of nineteen I have struggled with chronic PTSD: post traumatic stress disorder. It went undiagnosed for over twenty years. As I have had time now to reflect upon those years it has become clear that the various forms of movement and exercise that I engaged in were activities that I gravitated towards as an intuitive path for relief and healing from my injuries. Running, golf, skateboarding, surfing, and rock climbing all have a common thread, they are individual sports. These activities have allowed me the personal space and focus to slowly and quietly go about listening to the stresses and strains of my body and mind. My body was compromised due to my injuries. The largest physical handicap is the permanent and partial drop foot in my left leg. I have had a life time of compensating for the fatigue, pain and unresponsiveness of my foot due to the injury. The physical and emotional hindrances stemming from my active duty injuries in the military has in essence forced me to seek ways to heal my wounds. After years of searching for answers to my living conditions, I received a diagnosis from a psychiatrist who specializes in PTSD. Since then I have slowly begun to unravel, understand, and start taking charge of my healing. I am now in my early fifties and as my already weary physical and emotional bodies come along the extra burden of growing old only complicates the trajectory of my life. Discovering and understanding the nature of my “water body” has given me the necessary hope and drive to age and heal with some amount of dignity and grace.
The sheer mass and proportion of a beach labyrinth is stunning. Yet beneath all the beauty and grandeur of these temporal sculptures is another principle at work. Here on the west coast most of our beaches are comprised of silica. Like water, silica is a very unique substance. The inherent properties of silica are what make our information age possible. Silica is used to create micro chips. Solar panels use silica to convert light into electrical energy. Naturally occurring quartz crystals are a pure form of silica and have been used for ages by people around the planet to enhance their consciousness and well being through the wonders of this substance. For almost one hundred years Bio-Dynamic farmers have utilized the properties of silica for their 501 preparation. In these examples and numerous others that could be sited, what stands out for me is the fact that with each application of silica, a reconfiguring and orientation to the substance happens. I have chosen to reconfigure the beach not just by scratching at the surface creating two dimensional designs but by digging into and pulling out a deep relief which is the regular and ordered pattern of the labyrinth and humanities primal, pagan, remedial design. Our California beaches have an unusually high concentration of silica. This abundance of silica in the landscape effects the sheer energetic quality of the human experience. My experiences with this activity have lead me to imagine, ponder, and believe that this process creates a temporary focal point for cosmic and earthly influences to coalesce into a rhythmic formative union. The deeply dug, uniform pattern of the labyrinth opens up a window into the matrix of these forces. The human being steps into this portal of forces and is not only in communion with their own inner process but are continually weaving within the flux, flow, and field of the cosmic and earthly dance of the beach labyrinth.
The beach labyrinth, if understood as a technique for corralling earthly and cosmic influences, is a form of earth acupuncture, or as I would see it earth acupatterning. Our earth is a living organism. This knowledge has been lost to a large number of people in our materialistic era. Thankfully indigenous peoples, pagan religions, and enlightened citizens still pass on this primal knowledge. As the industrial machine is busy turning our planet inside out, acupatterning will help the earth maintain its own connection with its mother, the cosmos.
Opposed to the inherent “out streaming” qualities of light and energy found on the silica beaches here in the west, the east coast beaches of Florida have an unusually high concentration of lime, due to their coral reefs. Lime, qualitatively, bears the mark of “in streaming” which is heavy and absorptive. Beach labyrinths are a polarity of forces and are a site specific creation that naturally resonate with the local geography.
Both processes, the creating and the walking of a beach labyrinth, naturally evoke a mindful attitude of soul. A listening to self and environment, the foot fall and the observant head, and the above and below are continually being mediated by the rhythmic patterning and processing of the middle realm of hand, heart, and lung, the center of our feeling life, and the point of generation of our selfless being.
“Prayer is not a old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.” - Mohandas K. Gandhi.