Years ago, sometime in the 1990s, I had the privilege to attend the Women’s Dream Quest at Grace Cathedral. It was during this time of much strife and uncertainty that I discovered the labyrinth in this cavernous gothic cathedral. Not knowing what to expect I entered this sacred space nervous and scared but hopeful of finding a sense of spiritual peace. Sleeping bags, pillows and overnight bags lined up against one wall, eighty women gathered around the labyrinth for the opening ceremony.
I took my place in the circle, skepticism growing as we began with chants, songs and dance. Not being gifted with a pleasant singing voice or rhythm to dance I followed in awkward evolution hoping no one would notice I wasn’t verbalizing the words. When the time came to draw cards for smaller group assignments, I was relieved and yet worried knowing I would have to participate. I was assigned to the turtle group. My first thought was at least I can stay hidden within the shell.
We tossed the talking ball back and forth as each woman volunteered to reveal her purpose for being there. I waited to be last whereupon I blurted out, “I just want to sleep overnight in the cathedral.” It wasn’t exactly the truth but I wasn’t willing to share with these people I had met only a few minutes before. I’d have to sleep on it. That was okay.
After changing into our night clothes and having a light snack, we returned to the cathedral for the nighttime activities – pretty much whatever you chose to do – some art projects, meditation, blessings, journaling, walking the labyrinth. Not blessed with much artistic capability, the doll I made was simply a head with a purple robe. I still have her tucked away in my nightstand. As I snuggled into my sleeping bag on the hard concrete floor, the building was abuzz with action. Women walked, danced and crawled the labyrinth. I waited, wanting to walk the labyrinth in the dark peace of night. Soon the lights dimmed.
I slept for a bit, waking up to loud husky snores echoing from a cot on the other side of the pews. I wondered if the woman would be embarrassed if she knew. It was dark except for the candles around the labyrinth and only a few women were still wandering around. I picked up a small green rock that I had brought with me and headed to the labyrinth. Slowly I made the circuits into the center, dropped to my knees in meditation and made the journey out of the maze. I placed the rock on the altar.
At daybreak as the sun shone through the beautiful stained glass windows, Judith Tripp (our leader) strolled through the cathedral with her guitar singing Morning Has Broken. Soon she had a parade of women behind her. My sleeping bag was warm and I chose to stay cuddled up as I watched the procession in awe. When the call came for our first group, I stopped by the altar and picked up the green rock, surprised by its warmth in the chilly environment.
By noon we had finished up our small groups, had breakfast, and performed skits related to our animal cards. I felt blessed, at peace, and at ease – ready to make the journey to the hospital where my son lay deathly sick. I placed the healing rock in his hand praying that good health would return. He still has the rock.
I bring this up over two decades after the experience because I was checking the Grace Cathedral calendar for the labyrinth walk schedule. I was surprised to find that Judith Tripp has a Women’s Dream Quest this coming October. It might just be the nudge I need back into spirituality.
For more information see CircleWay and Grace Cathedral websites.
4 thoughts on “Circle Way”
I learned a lot by you sharing this experience. Thanks so much! I’ve never visited a labyrinth yet have always been intrigued by their call. When I was designing my quilt to reflect my memoir chapters, I loved the idea of using a labyrinth pattern I discovered, then found that technically I had problems, so went in another direction.
As I looked around the sites you provided links for, I discovered something that took my breath away. Next February there will be a retreat here in Charlottesville, VA, and I’m feeling strongly drawn to the experience. So, two thank yous today, Margie! 🙂
Great! I hope you go for the experience. You might want to find a labyrinth to try it out before February. Peace.
This post touched me deeply, though I can’t isolate which of your words and thoughts penetrated my heart. I just know that some did and that I reread the post several times. Thank you for a post that struck a real chord in me.
Sorry for the delay in responding – on vacation internet was slow. Thank you for your comments. Glad to hear my message struck a real chord.