New Synaptic Pathways and The Labyrinth

Recently I learned about Labyrinths. Interestingly, although millions of people are familiar with them, I was not.

I had been reading something by Steve Rother, channel for "the group". He was talking about how to increase one's ability to connect with Spirit (always an interest of mine) and he mentioned the following:
Open new synaptic pathways. There are exercises you can do to open new synaptic pathways in the brain that help. The Group suggests simple practical things like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Driving a new route to work each day. Doing things differently forces your brain to build new synaptic pathways between the right and left hemispheres.

There are many exercises that help to accomplish this. Physical exercises that force both sides into action like tracing finger labyrinths are excellent. There is a program of study called Brain Gyms that teaches physical exercises that can help build these pathways. Many simple breathing techniques can help as well. Balancing both sides of the brain opens the door for Spirit to speak to you.
I'm not unfamiliar with the value of us generating new synaptic pathways, but the phrase "tracing finger labyrinths" was new to me. I wondered what that was all about.

Checking the internet, I found a wonderful and interesting site that explained labyrinths in some detail. The author, psychologist Dr. Dan Johnson, provided a lot of insight about labyrinths, some of which I've reproduced below. He also included a small labyrinth that can be traced on screen or printed out.

It looks like this:

For anyone who's walked a labyrinth this will be obvious, but if your first experience with a labyrinth is finger tracing, start the labyrinth in the white space at bottom left center of the drawing. The lines are the boundaries on either side of the path; the task is to "walk" the "path" with your finger or cursor. When you get to the center space, "trace" your way back out again. Do it several times for best results, and trace it with your non-dominant hand as well.

There are all sorts of finger labyrinths in varying designs available for sale. The most common ones are made of wood, pewter, or ceramic. There are even instructions for creating your own labyrinth from clay. Have fun tracing!

What's So Interesting About Labyrinths?

Here is some of what Dr. Johnson had to say. Visit his labyrinth site for more information.
The labyrinth is a symbol of wholeness, and it has only one path. We are all on the same path, and we are all equal on that path.
He quotes this passage from Caroline Adams:
"Your life is a sacred journey. And it is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path... exactly where you are meant to be right now... And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love."
And then he continues:
We are all on the path... exactly where we need to be. The labyrinth is a model of that path.

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools.

A labyrinth is an archetype with which we can have a direct experience. We can walk it. It is a metaphor for life's journey. It is a symbol that creates a sacred space and place and takes us out of our ego to "That Which Is Within."

Labyrinths and mazes have often been confused. When most people hear of a labyrinth they think of a maze. A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is like a puzzle to be solved. It has twists, turns, and blind alleys. It is a left brain task that requires logical, sequential, analytical activity to find the correct path into the maze and out.

A labyrinth has only one path. It is unicursal. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.

A labyrinth is a right brain task. It involves intuition, creativity, and imagery. With a maze many choices must be made and an active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center. With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not. A more passive, receptive mindset is needed. The choice is whether or not to walk a spiritual path.

At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

A Lesson From The Labyrinth

Dr. Johnson also provided this story about taking a group of children through a labyrinth. He shares a lesson, and we can all learn from his experience. I was so touched by his story that I had to include it here as well:
Recently, I had the opportunity to introduce a group of 20 children, ages six to eleven, to the labyrinth. They were attending a study group at a church which has an outdoor, classical seven-circuit labyrinth designed of stone. We talked together about mazes and labyrinths and to illustrate the difference, I gave them several simple mazes to trace. They all experienced getting lost by making a wrong turn.

Next, I offered them a three-circuit labyrinth and had them trace it. No one got lost. I asked about the difference between a maze and a labyrinth, and the children easily recognized that you couldn’t get lost in a labyrinth. There are no wrong turns.

For more of a challenge, I gave the children a large drawing of a seven-circuit labyrinth to trace with their fingers. As they were following the path, several of them inadvertently crossed over the lines and became confused. We talked about how you had to pay close attention when tracing the finger labyrinth, but I assured them that when we went out to walk their labyrinth, no one would get lost if they just stayed on the path.

One young boy, about eight years old, held up his paper labyrinth and asked if he could take the "Labyrinth Map" with him. I hastily said, "No. Just leave it here. You don’t need a map." And, with that we all went out to walk the labyrinth.

I told the children that they could walk a labyrinth anyway they wanted, but that for today we would walk it slowly and quietly. I had several parents with me who were helping to monitor the children. I decided to walk first, so I could model "slow and quiet" walking. The children were to follow me, and then the parents would walk.

Now, I have never actually seen children walk a labyrinth slowly and quietly, because the labyrinth has its own energy that calls to children and asks them to run and shout. All went well for a few moments of slow walking, but as more and more children entered the labyrinth the energy of it caught them. The noise level went up. There was running and stumbling, laughing and shouting, and "high fives" were being passed all along the path.

Parents, both those already walking and those waiting to enter, were loudly whispering to the kids to slow down and be quiet. They made a valiant effort at control but to no avail. The joy of the labyrinth was contagious. A few parents even smiled and walked faster.

Several children who had run through the labyrinth wanted to do it again. One was the young boy with the "Labyrinth Map." Secretly, he had put it into his pocket and was now taking it out for comparison. Back he went into the labyrinth with his map.

He was carefully comparing his position in the labyrinth to the map so he could tell where to go next. At each turn he evaluated where he was and how much progress he had made. He looked at his map to see where to go next. He would occasionally seem lost, but with the aid of his Labyrinth Map he made the journey to the center and back out again, where he seemed quite pleased with his success.

I watched this young boy with amusement as he struggled to find the path he was already on with the aid of a map he didn’t need. Suddenly, I realized what a wonderful image! What a metaphor! This is what we all do. We try to solve the labyrinth of life. We seek the experience of life in our minds through our thinking.

We want to understand the journey in advance. We want to be prepared and not be surprised. We want the security of a map. We want the map of intellectual concepts with the left-brain logical, sequential, analytical assurance that we are going in the right direction.

In reality the right or correct direction is always right before us, if we will just give up the distraction of the map. If we move from left-brain to right-brain, open our eyes, and drop the illusion of the map, then we can clearly see the path and recognize that we are already on it. It was there all the time. It is there all the time.

The path is one of intuition and faith, and it always involves risk. The path is full of creativity and surprise and inevitably takes us off the beaten path, the well-known path, towards where no map can go, and where no map is of use. Each path in life is unique. My path is not yours, and yours is not mine. We must each find our own way.

There is no Labyrinth Map, nor is one needed. This is an extraordinarily difficult lesson to learn. We already have what we need. We are where we are supposed to be. This is it, if we drop the illusion that it is not.

The map is not the territory. It never was. The map is not the experience. The map only points you towards it. Excessively relied upon, the map takes you away from the experience.

We are all like the young boy with the Labyrinth Map. We all have our strategies and plans and our schematic diagrams of where life either is or should be going. While clinging to the Labyrinth Map robs us of the lived labyrinth experience, such clinging may also be needed in order to lead us to the precipice where the trail disappears, and we are thrust onto our own resources. We may need the safety of a map until we learn to trust our experience and ourselves.

Such trust may begin at the entrance to one of life’s labyrinths, often disguised as one of life’s crises, where we are forced to discard the Labyrinth Map and step into the journey to our own deep selves through a leap of faith.

A Personal Note

I first became familiar with the idea of building new synaptic pathways from Seth. He provided numerous esoteric exercises, particularly in his book "The Nature of Personal Reality", that seemed .. well .. strange. He never mentioned why doing these exercises was important, just to do the them and trust that good things would come from it.

Those exercises were challenging, and I generally felt pretty silly doing them. Translated that means I did each of them once, some more than that, but eventually I couldn't satisfy my need to know why I was doing them and what was to be gained, and I stopped doing them. I wish I'd known where he was going with those exercises, and trusted in his wisdom more!

Now that I think about it, that's exactly the lesson of the labyrinth, isn't it?

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