Labyrinth #47: Church of the Presentation, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey

I enjoy walking labyrinths. Labyrinths are maze-like structures that have been used as spiritual tools for centuries. There are many of them around, and I am in the habit of trying to visit a lot of them. For more information about labyrinths, check out The Labyrinth Society. Find where labyrinths are in your area at the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator.

I was on my way to a four-day retreat at Holy Cross Monastery, and decided to stop on the way to walk a labyrinth or two. I was only able to walk one, partially because it started to rain, and partially because the second labyrinth I sought appeared to no longer be there. But the one I did walk was great.

It was at the Roman Catholic Church of the Presentation, in Saddle River, New Jersey. The church grounds were rather large, and a glance at their website showed me that this is apparently a thriving, active congregation. The labyrinth seemed relatively new, and well-maintained. It’s a large eleven-circuit Chartres-style, made of bricks inlaid in the ground, the path marked with light bricks, and darker bricks for the walls.

One thing that’s been on my mind a lot is integrity, and what it means for me to have it .I haven’t been thinking of it so much in terms of being sincere and honest, but rather what it means to have integrity in my life, how to discern whether there are inconsistencies in my life, in my faith, in my understanding of God, myself, and others. Of course, we all have such inconsistencies, but I was curious just what mine are, and perhaps if there was anything I could do to address them. So, the question I carried into the labyrinth was this: Where do I lack integrity?

As I walked, two answers came fairly quickly. First, I lack integrity in putting my faith into practice. I say that I believe in God, and I say that I believe God will always provide for me, that I can always trust God to be with me no matter the experience. Yet, in practice I often don’t act like I believe these things. One very recent example was yet another power outage at our house last weekend. It only lasted for about two hours, but that was more than enough time for me to completely flip out. The instant I realized the power was out, I felt a terrible scratching, dry, empty feeling inside me; the same feeling I have felt every time the power has gone out since we moved here ten years ago. I couldn’t concentrate, and I was convinced that it would last for days or weeks. After a while, I decided to turn on the generator we have, but something was wrong with it, and it wasn’t putting out enough power for the heat to work in the house, or even some of the lights. This made me even more upset, and I got irritablity and snappy with my famil, I felt completely out of control, and started to talk as though the whole universe had conspred against me to cause this. Meanwhile, the rest of my family was playing games together, talking and laughing. I couldn’t – to me, a power outage is very, very triggering. I knew deep down that I was supposed to trust that I would get through this alright (which I certainly did), but I acted and thought as though it was the absolute worst thing that could have happened.

In retrospect, this power outage would have been a perfect opportunity to practice some of the REBT or DBT methods I’ve learned over the past few months, but I simply didn’t have access to my higher critical functions. The way I respond to power outages really seems to be almost a PTSD response — I really wish I knew where that came from. I didn’t used to respond to them this way.

The other lack of integrity I found while walking the labyrinth was in regard to my friends. I talk a lot at church about the importance of relationship, how God has made us to be in relationship with one another, and I truly believe that as well. But in practice, keeping up with my friendships has been the most difficult part of my rhythm of resilience to keep up with. I don’t know why this is — again, I wasn’t like this years ago. In high school and college, and for the first few years out of college, my friends were just about the most important thing to me. I would drop anything to see them. I would spend hours talking or emailing with them. But somehow that’s changed, and it’s become a challenge to keep those lines of communication open. It’s become harder for me to seek out the depth and breadth of relationship I once found so important.

Identifying those two areas wasn’t a surprise to me, but it was helpful to think about it this way, as places where there’s wiggle room between my beliefs and my actions, places where I can invest some time and work. Since I was headed to the monastery for a retreat, I figured that would be a good use of my time there — perhaps I could work on integrity more during the retreat.

However, that was not to be. My spiritual journey at the retreat went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. I’ll blog about that in coming days…

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