A Glimpse of Self-Awareness
Me, a type 8? Are you serious? That was my reaction when I attempted some enneagram testing the first time. I was convinced it was wrong, surely I had to be a 2. The Helper. That was me, all nurturing and stuff. The woman who presented this to the office, a woman with whom I had also been doing some spiritual work with, laughed at me. Well, she told me, I was most certainly an 8. I groaned. Read the description, it doesn’t look nice at all. POWERFUL and DOMINATING… I was a nice girl, at least that’s what I always told myself. Now this woman who did the presentation, let’s call her Bertie, she knew me pretty well. I was able to share things with her that I didn’t even care to say out loud. I had hit a place in my life where I could feel the potential for some serious personal growth, which naturally turned into a path of professional growth as well. The enneagram was the gate to a whole new world of self-awareness.
I started to listen and question myself, constantly gauging my reactions to everyday things in life. Through the next couple years I worked hard to pause myself and let people exist around me without telling them when, why, and how to do it, etc., it was tough at times. I learned how to empower people by giving them knowledge and decisions, instead of telling them how they should do “life”. I basically put my opinions in the back seat where I could keep an eye on them, but keep them in check while I worked on figuring out the big question “who I am”
My work changed from the focus of just my personality, to being more aware of all of myself. I noticed the more work I did, the more I was letting my walls down. Allowing myself to be vulnerable. It was weird and foreign, but I knew good things would come of it.
“Bertie” invited me to walk a labyrinth. Have you walked a labyrinth? Its a pattern in the ground, a path that looks like a maze, but there is only one way in and one way out, no wrong turns or tricks. There’s multitudes of religious and spiritual meanings that are attributed to this path, but here was my instructions. We were both going to walk it. She would start and I needed to wait a certain amount of time to give her space to be far enough ahead of me that I would not catch up. There was no talking, no interrupting. Once you cross the threshold, your mind and heart are open, you are to receive whatever is brought to you and spend time in reflection for things that come to mind. There was a small task of working on something that was causing an issue in your life, but not allowing it to take over. This was my first real exercise in Mindfulness.
I don’t remember every little detail of my walking experience, but I came away with some very profound insights. The task that was my issue to think about involved relationships with men and how they all seemed to turn to shit at some point and I was tired of the drag it was putting on my life and most of all my kids. I spent a couple years in a relationship that took my attention from my kids more than I would have liked, but I didn’t see it until it was over and I was reflecting back during this walk. I could have delved deeper and deeper, but decided that this particular situation had taken enough of my time. I wanted to receive the energy of the earth around me. It was mid-april so there were birds and sunshine and beautiful greenery. The labyrinth was set on Bertie’s friends property so it was private, it was just her and I. Once the conversation had stopped and the walking had began, the birds came back to what they were doing before we arrived. Before stepping over the line into the pathway, I allowed for my instructed time to let Bertie get started before my journey commenced. I took time to notice every little thing, the sounds, sights, smells, everything. Then as I was in the depth of my mind, my soul, walking the pathway, something weird happened that stopped me in my tracks. I noticed an alligator in the grass, it was just there out of nowhere, but had really been there the whole time. It was part of the decoration, I had walked by it at least a half dozen times, looking in its same direction at the birds around it and the trees that were behind it, but never, NEVER seeing it. It scared me. I stopped. I think back to the physical reaction, (heart rate through the roof, short scattered breaths) and then the realization that as I thought I was so aware and perceptive of my surroundings, there was an alligator that I didn’t even notice, what else in life do I not notice? After a minute or so, I decided I needed to get walking and could further contemplate the relativity of the alligator to my life as I wandered the path. There was just one problem. I had no idea which way was forward or which way I had come from. I was standing in the corner of the path in which I had been walking when I got distracted and I was LOST! The effects were crazy. The world silenced as my mind raced.The physical feelings of being lost rose in the back of my throat. I wanted to cry and puke at the same time. Now I wasn’t really lost, I could look and see Bertie as she gracefully maneuvered the path, still going towards the center, but there was no way even assessing her journey that I could figure out which way I was supposed to go. I couldn’t just stand there forever, I had to move my feet. So I walked the path, not knowing if the direction I was going was right or not. The physical manifestations of panic and fear and insecurity were so intense I could barely get a full breath in. Not wanting to be a distraction, I forced myself to hold all this in, abiding by no talking no interrupting the journey. It the first time in my life that I stood, feeling completely defenseless to the world and SO completely lost, not knowing where I was going. I had been scared before, beat down emotionally, left with nothing, questioned my direction, and had never felt anything even mildly close to this. Maybe because I never allowed myself to reach this level of vulnerability? I don’t know, so I walked. slowly. This time it wasn’t because I was absorbing the world around me, I was in a stupor for the first few sections of the path. Still frantically trying to figure out if I was going towards the center or back to the start. Well, as it turns out, I ended up back at the start. By the time I got there, my breathing and heart rate had returned to normal. The frantic, panicked thoughts subsided as I reflected on how great the impact of this lesson was. When I reached the starting line, I did not step outside the path. I stayed. Inside the labyrinth. My journey was not over. I turned around and completed what I had set out to do, still taking my time, still abiding by the rules, but with a new and raw sense of awareness.
I could probably write another 2 or 3 pages on the rest of my walk towards the center and what I found there and my journey back out, but I’ll savor some of that as my own and save you the extra long read. Bertie sensed my strange energy, she knew I had started over and we discussed it in depth after we both had stepped outside the path. Describing what I felt and how my body reacted brought involuntary tears to my eyes. She could relate. We finished conversation and left. I was high. On spirituality. This was new for me and I craved more.
I should set the picture of the setting maybe a little more. During this walk, I was never out of sight of my vehicle, my Bertie, or the birds and bugs that were bouncing around. The labyrinth is set in a small yard that is secluded from onlookers, nestled up on the hillside with trees and fields on every side. The path laid out in the grass, identified by stones that line the grassy walkway, with a pile of stones and tokens brought there by the journeys of others marks the center. You can feel the energy of the land the minute your foot makes contact. I wish I would have walked it barefoot. Maybe its due time to walk it again….
This is not the actual labyrinth that I walked, but the depicts the correct pattern and feeling of quiet and natural space.