Tonight at belly dancing, I had a really beautiful experience.  We dance in the gym at an Anglican church, over the lavender-painted shape of a Medieval labyrinth. I don’t know why it’s lavender, and its presence looks to me to be the culmination of a series of committee meetings: Do we have a gym, for the activities, or a labyrinth,  for spiritual edification?  Well, they chose both.

We’ve been dancing on it all year. We meet at its center every beginning for warm-up and ending, for our zagreets.  But tonight we took time out from dancing and walked it.

We all had brought tealights from home and spaced them around the outside of the circle, turning off the harsh overhead lights. The labyrinth was a shadowed pool edged with little gold flickers.

One by one, each woman stepped onto the path. We did it without any music, our usual soundtrack that moves us in common. We followed each other along the switchbacks, some perfect, some imperfectly turning corners or walking a little outside the lines.  Our eyes were downcast, we were in attitudes of prayer.

Except it was hard for me to concentrate on my given thoughts. I kept catching the shimmer of a coin belt in candlelight, the quirk of a mouth in grimace or humour, the way light caught on beads and silk and the pearl shine of skin.  Eventually I gave up thinking about anything and just gave myself to the images and the subtle soft jingle of our moving.

After we were gathered in the middle, all together, Kim put on some music.  One by one, we danced our way out. Sometimes we cut corners. We jumped paths, made our own paths.  We danced our own ways out of the labyrinth, step-toe-stepping, grapevining, sometimes bunnyhopping. We had snake arms and giving-away-our-hearts arms, and any damn arms we wanted.  We Turkish-bumped, and hip-circled and sashayed out of there.

The tradition of walking the labyrinth while meditating, dates back to early Medieval times.  But what was so great was that we didn’t hold with tradition. We went in the way so many other walkers go into the meditative walk. But we came out individuals: Whatever way we wanted to.

And that was the best part of all of that beauty: We took the tradition and we moved however we wanted. We danced in the flickering candlelight.

It was perfect.

7 Comments to “Labrynth.”

  1. By rachel, December 12, 2008 @ 10:52 am

    It was really nice, that labyrinth walk, and the dancing afterwards. The dancing made me a bit sad, however, that the 8 o’clock has been going the way of the dodo ever since she switched over to her iPod exclusively. I miss really cutting loose.

  2. By cheesefairy, December 12, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

    It sounds wonderful. You have written it with obvious bliss.

  3. By Beth, December 13, 2008 @ 9:37 am

    What a great experience. But, as I have many times before while reading your blog, I come away with one main thought.
    You are a damn fine writer.

  4. By Liz, December 13, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

    Rachel, I miss the Eight O’Clock as well.
    Cheesefairy, it was gorgeous!
    Beth, thank you.

  5. By Gecko Bloggle, December 13, 2008 @ 10:12 pm

    A fine piece. I’ve always walked past the church around the corner from our place with the labyrinth and thought “maybe I’ll just stick my head in and see.”

    Maybe soon, I will.

    Also, If “The Eight O’Clock” isn’t a band, it should be. What’s it mean?

  6. By Liz, December 13, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

    The Eight O’Clock is when Kim invited anyone who had a song on a CD to put it on for us to dance to. Lots of times it wasn’t even Middle Eastern, just a lot of fun.

  7. By jo(e), December 19, 2008 @ 6:42 pm

    I love everything about this post.

    (The labyrinth is one of my favorite spiritual practices — and the idea of combining it with belly dancing is just wonderful.)

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