Wounded Healers: Labyrinth

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By Tim Stein

Meditation from Gifts of Recovery.

Labyrinth –Therapy metaphor

A labyrinth is a formation that looks like a maze. However, unlike a maze, which presents choices to make regarding pathways that branch out from each other, a labyrinth is one continuous path and the only choice is to continue going or to turn back. Labyrinths have been used in various spiritual communities as guides to prayer and meditation. When we move through a labyrinth, we typically move in a circular pattern that sometimes takes us closer to the goal and sometimes takes us away from the goal until finally we arrive in the center of the labyrinth. The brilliance of the labyrinth is that it mirrors the pattern of change and progress in life. At times we feel close to our goal and at other times we feel as if we are moving away from our goal, but as we follow our path we eventually arrive. The labyrinth teaches us that progress is not a straight line; we understand that perseverance and trust, even when we feel disheartened, are the keys to progress in life.

When have I given up on a goal? Have I accepted that progress is not a straight line? What gifts await me as I persevere along the indirect path of progress? 

I have found labyrinths helpful in my work. Clients rarely create the change they are looking for in a smooth, consistent pattern of growth. Most often, growth in life takes three steps forward and two steps back. It is not uncommon for clients to feel frustrated that change is not happening as quickly as they want. As an addict in recovery, I understand this impatience well. (Early in our relationship, my wife nicknamed me “Mr. Instant Gratification.”) A labyrinth can help your clients recognize that growth in life is a journey that has many twists and turns and is full of joys and disappointments; persistence is key.

I currently find this message personally helpful. I am writing this in February 2021. Having endured almost a year of limited in-person interactions due to the pandemic, I was excited at the prospect of a vaccine. Now that we have a vaccine, it turns out that it is more challenging to get the vaccine than I had optimistically anticipated. And, it turns out that even though I will be vaccinated, I could still be an unknowing carrier of COVID, so returning to relative normalcy in my office is still out of reach. It felt like we were getting so close only to find out the journey has more twists and turns in store. If this isn’t a labyrinth in action, I don’t know what is.

So, as wounded healers, what do we do? We keep moving forward. We recognize that the sense of moving away from our desired goal is often part of the journey to our destination. We accept that even though our desired destination and the destination we arrive at may not be the same, there is still value in the journey and the unexpected destination. Through our discomfort and fear, we believe that there are gifts waiting for us. We stay present during the journey because it gives meaning to our destination. Lastly, we model and teach these lessons to our clients, adding another layer of meaning to our own journey.