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Reflections from the 2023 TLS Annual Gathering

The Labyrinth Society sign taped to building
Welcome to the 2023 TLS Gathering!

I take my practice to my life and my life to my practice, and when I've experienced a period of focused practice (like attending a silent retreat, multi-day workshop, or the TLS Annual Gathering), it takes a while for me to be able to articulate some of the insights that arose. In no certain order, I'm sharing some of those insights today with the intention to model what I mean by taking practice to my life and my life to my practice.

contact information and photo for Ann Lentini's labyrinth in Hendersonville, North Carolina
World-Wide Labyrinth Locator entry for Ann Lentini's labyrinth

Insight #1: The possibility of making a new friend is ever present. Ann Lentini stood up and introduced herself during the "other business" portion of Saturday morning's membership meeting and invited all of us to come walk her labyrinth, which is just minutes away from where we were gathered. Ann also attended my kintsugi labyrinth offering on Saturday afternoon, so I had the chance to get to visit with her a little more. The workshop had reminded her of an image she wanted to share with me, so afterward, she handed me her phone so I could text it to myself. She then sent her address and a warm invitation to walk her labyrinth. I'm not sure I would've actually gone to walk her labyrinth if she hadn't taken the time to personally invite me. I'm very grateful for Ann's friendliness and hospitality, and I am reminded that there may be some conditioning that gets in the way of me receiving invitations made to groups I'm in.

Insight #2: Delights are ever present. The daddy long legs greeted me on a light post at the entry of the Kanuga labyrinth, and I noticed the leaf outline during my walk. The two horses greeted us as we parked and made our way to Ann's labyrinth. We were too busy being delighted by the houses and gardens of the fairy community along the path to Ann's labyrinth to take photos, but Mark did snap a photo from the bench beside the labyrinth that reminds me of the delights of the setting, the bird song, the creek, and all of the more-than-human kin who were present during our walk.

Insight #3: Always accept the invitation to sangha if I'm able. I was onboarded to my role of TLS Regional Rep for Indiana days before everything shut down in March 2020, and my Regional Rep practice has been a little dormant ever since. I was feeling embarrassed about that, and I also wanted to go to a forest bathing and labyrinth walk practice, which was offered at about the same time. What to do?

I decided to attend the Regional Rep labyrinth walk, and I'm grateful I made that choice. First, we gathered about twenty steps from the room where Mark and I stayed, so the journey there was easeful. Second, another Regional Rep, Tim, facilitated a sound offering, which was lovely AND provided an opportunity for me to practice rather than facilitate a sound offering. I met other Regional Reps, experienced a new practice, and had the opportunity to walk another labyrinth. (Bonus: That's a photo from the TLS Regional Reps Facebook page of my friend and labyrinth mentor, Karen Kelley, and me walking together!)

At breakfast, even more Regional Reps joined us, and I had a chance to visit with several people from different parts of the country. I also enjoyed the opportunity to get to be in the physical presence of Carmel Stabley, who coordinates our Regional Rep activity. I've talked with her on the phone, exchanged emails, and been on Zooms with her, so it was really lovely to have the chance to be in her physical presence.

The entirety of the Gathering was an ongoing sangha experience because it was a community of friends, practicing together. Whether I was in a workshop, at a meal, walking, or sitting and enjoying the goings-on around me, I was absolutely surrounded by friendly people who are intrigued by labyrinths. It helped me remember that as a human, a social being, I need to be in community with other humans in a way that allows me to experience a felt sense of connection. (Gentle reminder: We're all interconnected, but sometimes actually experiencing a felt sense of that interconnection is inaccessible to me.)

a yellow piece of paper with dates and times of offerings for the room Gooch C
Gooch C agenda

Insight #4: I never know when or how insights might arise in relation to a practice. In true lawyer form, this one is multi-part.


The only photo I have from facilitating the 90-minute offering on kintsugi labyrinths is the one above. As I wrote about earlier, I was really tickled to have the opportunity to share this practice with other labyrinth enthusiasts. And as commonly occurs in my facilitation practice, I imagined that some insights would arise in the midst of the offering. However, a question from one of the participants sent me down a path I hadn't even considered before. In wondering about responses to mending the labyrinth, a participant asked, "How do you work with people who are upset about the way the mending looks?" This question instantly made me realize: This isn't only a practice to work with grief, loss, and change, it's also a practice for working with perfectionism! (Pausing here for a deep bow of gratitude to Barrie for her question.)

Then, as everyone practiced, including me, I suddenly realized that this practice (and all labyrinth practices, whether kintsugi-ed or not) are actually boundary practices and communication practices. Maybe this arose in this moment because Loretta and I are facilitating two compassionate candor and boundaries sessions today-- one at a conference and one with The Inner Work of Judging Cohort 1?

Suddenly, these practices I thought I knew all about revealed some stuff I hadn't considered. (Note to self: Jill, being a learner serves you better than being a knower.)


Mark took the video above while I was returning from the center of Ann's beautiful labyrinth on Monday morning before we drove home. I didn't realize he was filming, and I'm glad that he did because I can use it as an example of how this walk provided embodied understanding of some stuff I practice with.

This labyrinth taught me a lot about boundaries because of how it's made. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that it was about the same dimensions as the labyrinth in the cathedral at Chartres, although the paths felt much narrower to me. The story I'm telling myself about that is the rocks created a boundary that's different than the boundary created by a path that is painted or inlaid. Between the physical size of my body, my stride, the shoes I was wearing, and the pathway, I kicked (and subsequently re-placed) several rocks on the walk. So, same size, different material, and I experience those boundaries differently. How might this apply to how I experience boundaries in life?

This labyrinth taught me about finding a Middle Way. In all kinds of traditions and fairy tales we learn about the Middle Way, even if it's not called that. This one is too hard... this one is too soft... this one is just right. I've talked about the rocks, but the pathway of the labyrinth is a bit rugged because of the turf, leaves, and I think I felt some stone under the turf, too. When I say rugged, I don't mean rugged like climbing a mountain. What I mean is that it's different than walking on a concrete pad or a canvas labyrinth on a hard surface, or hard wood. I delighted in this version of ruggedness because I was navigating the path, rocks, and experienced a very clear sense of embodiment that oftentimes alludes me. I felt pleasant and strong in my body, once I found my Middle Way-- not too fast, not too slow, medium stride, no need to rush. How might this apply to how I find and maintain the Middle Way in life?

This labyrinth taught me about clear communication. The pathway and center were clearly marked, which meant I didn't have to wonder if I was on the path or not, and when I got to the center, the rosette was clearly visible. How might I apply this insight to how I communicate to others and receive communication from others in life?

The labyrinth taught me about noticing the more-than-human kin that surround me all the time. There were trees, horses, a creek, rocks, air, insects, moss, fungi, birds, frogs, and many others I didn't even clock. How might I apply noticing the more-than-human kin that surround me as I go about my daily living?

The labyrinth taught me about the present moment by providing the time, place, space, and energy to allow me to experience that practice. Even if I walk that labyrinth again, it will be different because it will be a different time, the labyrinth itself will be different, and I will be different. Everything is always changing, as I know from the teaching of impermanence. It reminds me that if I'm not paying attention to what's happening right now, I'm missing out. How might I apply this invitation to experiencing the present moment as I go about my daily living?

Are you curious to learn more about The Labyrinth Society and beginning your own labyrinth practice? Good news! There are lots of resources available on the TLS website. You can also search for labyrinths that are close to you by visiting the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator. And stay tuned for more labyrinth offerings from me. I've returned home from the Annual Gathering feeling grounded, connected, and inspired, which means I'm well-resourced to offer new practices.

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