Labyrinth walk: coming home?


Entering a labyrinth is a way sort of coming home. Standing at the doorway to a labyrinth feels natural, deep and comfortable, and yet also an adventure. Though I’ve painted quite a few labyrinth paintings as a form of meditation, the most satisfying way to interact with a labyrinth is to walk it. So I’ve sought out labyrinths wherever I could find them, homing to sites as diverse as desert mesas, churches, cancer centers, and beach bluffs. That sense of returning, of going deep into who I am, is always there, no matter what materials it is made out of, or how it has been personalized by the makers. While I might have learned that its organic nature mirrors specific aspects of our bodies, its spiral pathway a macro version of our DNA, my attraction to labyrinths is instinctive. I encountered the basic labyrinth diagram in my studies of other mandalic forms. I had been working with more linear sacred geometric forms of various types for years, all spinning out from my first investigations of the Flower of Life.

Fascinated by circle-based architecture, rock art and 2D art, I was simultaneously exploring how the human body and psyche interacted with geometry in ritual and ceremony. The labyrinth seems to have sprung from the earth, unlike the elegant linear mappings of the universe known to thousands of mystics and geometers. It feels feminine.

After years of labyrinth experiences, I had the chance to build a full-size labyrinth, and I leapt at it. As part of a mandala seminar in JFK University’s Arts & Consciousness Program that I was teaching, my students and I created our own portable canvas labyrinth. The collaborative process of planning, designing, physically creating, and then walking the 18’ square mandala connected us in a way the seminar hadn’t touched. The intelligence of that ancient form guided us from the get-go, as we crawled all over it: achieving full body contact with it as we measured, taped, and painted. Afterwards, we used it not only for ourselves, but for events and workshops and seminars at the school, and afterwards I used it as a facilitator with other graduate programs, for in-services, and for retreats—a literal magic carpet that could be unrolled and beckoned into service at will.

The earliest architectural labyrinth sites were created about 6000 yrs ago, and are situated in the arctic circle. The initial labyrinth diagram seems to have spread south across the earth from its first appearance in the north, filtering down into the Mediterranean, and from there, to other continents. Vestiges of labyrinth art can be found world-wide: in myths, recorded on ancient coins, stamped onto cloth, woven into baskets, etched in rock, and built into the earth, but no vestiges or record of labyrinths have been found that pre-date the site above the arctic circle. As it has been honed and refined in the years since, adopted by designers from roman villas to cathedrals to public parks, it has continued to beckon to human seekers. One way into center, one way out.

always new...

Not only do I begin each intended painting fresh every time I start to paint a new canvas, I come to each canvas fresh EVERY TIME I PAINT, and some pieces have as many as 20 or 30 applications of color. Sometimes I walk into my studio and simply inquire (in my head) “who needs something today?” and then “what do YOU need?” I essentially listen to them, and dive in with whatever I’m sensing a particular piece is wanting or needing. Some pieces can be pretty bossy, as pictures form in my mind’s eye of something that needs to be added or changed in a piece, something that my personality or rational mind doesn’t want to do. It could be that the action I am being pestered to add will cover up a part of the painting I really like, or that it seems impossible to make such an addition work successfully, or it just seems ugly. If the image continues returning to my mind, I usually acquiesce and just go ahead and do it, and see what will happen. The worst thing that could happen is that it will ruin the painting, right? And its all just cloth and colored goop, in the end… 

I have found that when I paint Sri Yantras, they are particularly emphatic about what needs to be painted in what order, and what colors. Each one seems to dictate what it will look like, as if the painter is not part of the decision-making process.

shri 2.jpg

why make art?

Why paint, sing, write, dance, act?

•     to know our own knowing, to engage fully with what we are learning

•     as inquiry: to investigate issues and express solutions/opinions about them

•     to express our feelings and personal responses to the world around us

•     for joy, and because the world needs beauty

•     to interact with community to create social change

•     to celebrate, mourn, pray, and heal: individually, and collaboratively

•     to connect with spirit

•     to transform consciousness, to understand

•     to problem-solve creatively

•     to develop kinesthetic intelligence

•     to develop empathy and perspective on the human condition

Try meditating with the Metratron's Cube that accompanies this post.
Let me know what happens.

The original is 24" x 24", acrylic on unprimed canvas, completed 9/2014