by miriam louisa simons
Miriam Louisa Simons is a retired artist and educator, and the creator of several excellent blogs on the non-dual journey. I’m happy that she is the first friend invited to contribute here. Out of a lifelong dedication to art and spiritual inquiry, she invites us to delve into the image of the Labyrinth, uncover its connections with our life, with grace, until ‘we arrive naked at the freedom that was always there’…
~ Alain Joly
“Do you think I know what I’m doing?
That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself?
As much as a pen knows what it’s writing,
or the ball can guess where it’s going next.”
The Labyrinth is a familiar symbol. Its enigmatic presence has left footprints that fade back into the beginning of the human story. Its origins and its purpose have been rich fodder for research and speculation.
I don’t pretend to know the truth of its tale, but see the archetypal labyrinth as apt visual shorthand for the map of a life, and that’s how its symbolism is used in this little essay.
The many lanes of the Labyrinth are in fact only one long path that winds and twists and turns back on itself as it explores all the territory of a life before arriving at its Heart.
By ‘Heart’ I mean the natural essence of the ‘walker’ of the Labyrinth – beyond both conception and perception – the unknowable and ineffable awareness we nevertheless recognize as our changeless Being.
As an artisan, I call this path the Via Creativa, but please don’t think I refer to any kind of laid-down, mapped-out path.
The path is a process, and the process creates the path. It is the Via Creativa itself that teaches me how to make art and live Life.
I imagine it like this: As an impersonal energetic continuum, one enters the Labyrinth called Life, again and again, time without end. The journey is always to the Heart, always into remembrance of what one actually is. The process is Life’s exploration of the infinity of ways it can experience itself as form and emptiness, and return to home base.
(Which, paradoxically, it never left!)
We are formed and framed by genetic and environmental factors. These are the ingredients that fuel the process. They are the ‘what-is’ of this life. They will unfold us as we walk the Labyrinth, and like it or not, we will find Heart’s song within them and nowhere else.
As a child, what was the activity that you could have done ‘forever’? That brought joy and wonderment? That you leapt out of bed to get on with? The key to your path will be found in your answer.
The unique, one-off path unlocked by that answer will be juicy and wholesome. Will see us rise in the morning eager to meet the day’s work. We may or may not be successful in the eyes of the world, and it may or may not be a direct hit on the Heart of the Labyrinth, but we’ll be conscious of at-one-ment with the Via Creativa – at least for a while.
If the juice dries up we can be sure a dead-end is looming; we must change course. But which way to go?
Perhaps we explore a dozen scenarios and possibilities but remain confused. The solution is simple, but the last thing we wish to hear: we must stop. Sit down. Breathe in and breathe out. Notice now. Touch this. Be fully here. Return to Life’s pure presence. And wait.
Waiting withers the will. Waiting opens a chink in the armor of the supposed separate ‘self’ with its visions and versions of a glorious personal future. It won’t be happy – be assured it will complain bitterly!
Waiting welcomes Grace. Yet contrary to what we might have been taught, Grace isn’t always sweet-ness and light. Grace is innocent and totally amoral. Just like Life…
Perhaps while you wait Grace will come and destroy your lofty cerebral visions. Perhaps it will make you wait until your will has utterly withered and you think you want to die. Perhaps it will bring you a phone call, a visitor, a letter.
It will always be something unexpected and uninvited – these are its hallmarks – something that will, if you are attentive, reveal the way. And it will be so obvious you’ll wonder how you missed it.
Grace is commonly thought of as a state, but this isn’t correct. It is a non-local phenomenon that acts in response to a decline in the activity of local (me-centred) mind.
The state we call Grace is actually the happiness experienced when we are One with it. To “be in a state to receive it” as Krishnamurti suggested, is to be empty, open, and abiding without expectation.
The Via Creativa makes it evident that one step gives birth to the next, even when the apparent dead-end scenario mentioned above kicks in and it’s impossible to move. The trick is to keep one’s instincts on the step under one’s foot and not become over-or-underwhelmed by any imagined version of a ‘big picture’, a meaning or a purpose. This is hard, unless the waiting cushion has become a good friend. The next step is always forming underfoot – the only crippling leg trap is one’s conditioning. So really, the Labyrinth and the Via Creativa are about deconditioning.
No sweat, you say, let’s get on with it!
It’s good to have courage and confidence. It will be needed, because the heinous thing about conditioning is that one is largely unaware of it, and the most deeply hidden beliefs are very touchy about being scrutinized. (In particular the one about being an independent ‘self’ of some kind.)
On the positive side, Life is going to provide ample opportunity for all this to be explored without your shifting so much as a neuron. And meanwhile, it will support you and nourish you – for if you are at this place in the Labyrinth, it is because Life put you there. (Sorry, this will come as a great shock to the one who presumes to be running the show, fully in control and making all the choices.)
Come on, you say, what about the times when one wanders into an alley where there’s an apparent absence of support and nourishment? Where one’s altruistic ideals propel one into exhaustion, or one’s lethargy plonks one on the sidewalk? Where one is seduced by ideals or dreams or drugs or lovers? What about those times when it feels as though Grace has given you a dropkick out of the Garden?
Well, look at it this way: wherever you are, whatever you are experiencing, you’re still on the Via Creativa. You’re still transiting the Labyrinth. There’s nowhere else you can be if you’re alive, for the Labyrinth is just another word for your Life.
You’re in the Labyrinth whether you like it or not, and the severity of your suffering will always be proportional to the neglected insistence of Heart’s call. The heat from the core flame at the Labyrinth’s Heart is intense. The more pain, the more darkness, the more depression – the closer you are to Heart and Home. And as always, nothing ‘you’ can do will take you there. Life has its own agenda; a vast and incomprehensible intelligence is working. It brought you here, and it will bring you Home.
But. Yes, there’s a ‘but.’ Only, only if every other desire you could possibly entertain has disappeared. For when that happens, ‘you’ disappear as well.
This is the ultimate paradox – our absence is the presence of the freedom and creativity we seek! The Labyrinth transit has been like a strip-show – at every bend and dead end, a layer of the little self’s costume has been discarded. We arrive naked at the freedom that was always there – at the beginningless beginning. We fall into the arms of the Beloved of a thousand names.
It feels like we have been unshackled, have awoken from the sleep of ages. Yet the shackles were only the claws of conditioning, and the sleep only the drug of indifference.
Life took a spin around the Labyrinth and the ‘me’ you believed yourself to be was its taxi. En route you lost your belongings but the taxi travels on. Only now, you’re wise to the fact that Life – aka – Grace is driving. And it’s wearing your very own name on its cap!
© miriam louisa simons, 2013
Miriam Louisa’s different blogs:
– this unlit light (with more of Miriam’s writing and poetry)
– The Awakened Eye (Miriam’s blog on Art and the unknowable)
– Echoes from Emptiness (from Miriam’s notebook)
– Miriam Louisa’s poetry page on ‘One The Magazine’.
Miriam Louisa Simons is an auto-didactic artisan and a teacher of art and design, textile art and craft. Over the years, she has also been a facilitator of workshops exploring creativity and consciousness. Out of a lifelong dedication to spiritual inquiry, she is the creator of several excellent blogs on art and the non-dual journey. In her own words, she is now gloriously retired to studio practice, scribbling and quiet wonderment. “My work, as I see it, is to cultivate the garden of creativity by being so wholly present that I am absent, disappearing entirely into the movement of making, and marvelling at what gets made. Later – often much later – meaning might arrive. Or not.”
– Wondering Mind Studio (On Miriam’s artwork)
Le site de Kevin Lucbert
– Back to Pages