June 9th, 2006

Labyrinth

#44 - Walking a Sacred Path

by Lauren Artress

This is a wonderful book, which I found to be filled with all sorts of spiritual wisdom. Artress gives a good overview of the benefits that can be had by labyrinth walking, and using the labyrinth as a tool or “blueprint” for tapping into your inner wisdom, and connecting with divine wisdom, as well. (Although I do agree with the previous reviewer that the book is light on historical information and details of sacred geometry; and I myself was put off by the focus being almost entirely on one type of labyrinth, with little mention of others. So if these were the things the reader went in hoping to find, I can fully understand her disappointment).

What I liked best about the book, though, was reading Artress’ general ideas about spirituality, religion, and self-development. As I was reading, I came across gem after gem that made me think, “Yes!” or, “Oh, I GET it now.” Her worldview and vision of the Divine is closely aligned to my own; something I found surprising, since she is a member of Christian clergy (and yes, I have some “issues” with what that has meant to me in the past). If I’d known someone like her in my youth, though, and been offered a vision like hers of what Christianity can be, perhaps I wouldn’t have turned away from the church at a young age.

For me her central topic is the paradigm shift that happened after the Middle Ages, when human society (at least in the West) switched focus to a “scientific” view of the world, with belief in only what can be seen, touched, and measured by the rational mind. When the invisible and mystical were no longer valued, this stripped most people of the ability to relate to the Divine in a great number of meaningful ways, and the ways the church responded to this did more harm than help, leading to the rather dark and dire times in which we find ourselves living today. Artress feels that by coming back to an acceptance of the mystical (wih the labyrinth being a powerful tool for doing this), humankind can begin to find the healing we so desperately need for ourselves, our fellow beings, and our world. Also, while she writes the book primarily referencing the Christian church, she makes it clear that the labyrinth can be used by people of all traditions and belief systems.

As I said, I think the most powerful aspects of this book for me had little to do with labyrinths, or walking them, but just her overview of spirituality. I’m now reading her new book, which is a workbook about various specific ways of using the labyrinth, and I’m interested to see how (or if) her approach has shifted during the eleven years between books. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in an introduction to the labyrinth, and also to people who are interested in what I’d consider to be progressive ideas about spirituality.

Oh, and I think it’s also worth mentioning that Artress is affliliated with Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, a church I have visited (although I have not had the opportunity to walk any of the labyrinths there – yet. I plan to make the effort to do that sometime this summer). Perhaps this was part of the reason I connected so strongly with the author – she feels more “accessible” to me than many other authors (as there’s a chance I could walk into the church one day and actually be able to speak with her). She’s also helped to inspire me with the labyrinth project I’m doing at my son’s school (a week from tomorrow, the children will be able to walk it for the first time).

I truly enjoyed this book. I found it meaningful and powerful, and would not hesitate in recommending it to others. I also intend to keep this one in my own library, as I’m sure I’ll want to refer to it again in the future.

Labyrinth

Grace Cathedral

I’ve just finished reading the first book by the woman who is responsible for the labyrinths at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and while I’ve visited the cathedral before, I’ve never had the opportunity to walk any of the labyrinths (I think there are two, or maybe three, on site). It’s something I’d like to do – there is a labyrinth here in my neighborhood to which I have access, but I think it would be nice to make a small “pilgrimage” to the cathedral for the purpose of walking there. One of the things I got from the book was the concept of “pilgrim” rather than “tourist,” and in reading I realized that I have more often than not approached my travels as the former, rather than the latter. Oh, that’s actually something I intended to discuss in my review of the book, and forgot. Ah well. Maybe I’ll make a separate entry about it one of these days. In any case, I’d like to walk one of these specific labyrinths both for myself, and as a way of saying “Thank you” to Dr. Artress and all the work she’s done to promote labyrinths in our modern society.

WTF?

Help Save Sesame Street!

I've just learned that House Republicans have voted to slash funding for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service; they would lose one-quarter of their funding right away, with funding to be eliminated entirely in two years. I've watched public television throughout my entire life, and can't believe that anyone could be short-sighted enough to want to cut funding for the EXCELLENT programming and resources it provides. I do understand that PBS is a "liberal" voice in the media, but the educational and entertainment programming provided by public television (and radio) stations goes WAY beyond any sort of party politics.

If you agree that public broadcasting is worth saving (and I very much hope you do), please go here and sign this petition, urging Congress to oppose these funding cuts:

http://civic.moveon.org/publicbroadcasting/

If you're interested in the personal message I sent, Collapse )
Yoga

#45 - The Bathtub Yoga Relaxation Book

by Marjorie Jaffe

I picked this up on a whim at the used book store. It’s a thin volume which didn’t take long to get through. I enjoyed it well enough, although it’s very basic. The idea is that combining a hot/warm bath with stretching, breathing exercises and meditation can be condusive to much deeper relaxation than many of us ever take the time in our busy lives to experience. There’s some nice information here – a few breathing techniques, some suggestions for easy meditations, as well as sections on asanas and stretches that can be done in the bath.

I did two practices in the tub with this book – the first, the asana series that goes through each of the chakras with very simple poses (obviously, it’s not possible to do anything strenuous, or requiring balance in the slippery environment of the bathtub); and I did a second practice with the stretches in another section. I doubt I’ll use this information much in the future, since my bathtub doesn’t really work well for many of the exercises – it’s enclosed in a small space, so there’s no room beyond the edge of the tub for me to relax my head back. I found it very hard to actually get comfortable enough to relax as they were suggesting (and Savasana in the tub? Not working for me). But that doesn’t mean that others might not have better success than I did.

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