Forest Labyrinth

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I love labyrinths. Walking through a labyrinth is so meditative. So, I decided that I needed a labyrinth in the forest behind my house. It’s a large enough area, and the bush is not too dense. I now know why labyrinths are always made in open fields! It’s bleepin’ hard to make one in a forest! Here is a photo of my labyrinth so far:

Can’t you see it? Ya, I know, you can’t see the labyrinth for the trees! 😛 Here’s another photo, a MUCH better photo! 😛

Sorry I’m so cheeky! I should say right now, this blog post is not meant to be a tutorial or any sort of helpful instructions! 🙂 I have been out several times stomping in the snow — winter is slow to go this year — trying to make my curved paths between trees, around fallen trees and in the deep snow. It’s hard to really see where the middle of the area is. I can’t very easily see where my other paths are, and they all need to be made relative to each other. Let me explain.

I looked at several labyrinth designs and considering that I already have some curving paths, I settled on a round one. The photo at the beginning of this post is a replica of the Chartes cathedral labyrinth (at the Centre for Spiritual Living in Edmonton, Alberta). It has 11 circuits (count the rings from the outside to the inside).

I found a simplified one with only 5 circuits:

I knew even 5 circuits would be too many, so I went with 3. At first it was a sketch, but I did up a proper drawing for this blog post:

And, on my second or third time out, I took a GPS tracker out so I could see my awesome labyrinth! It’s amazing! My sketch is on the left and you can CLEARLY see how perfect my labyrinth is.
It looks like a squashed turtle! Subsequent GPS tracks did not come out better. If anything, they were worse. Apparently, GPS tracking is not very accurate in this part of the world. Or I walk too fast. Or there are too many tress. [shrugs]
It was clear that some legs of the path were not long enough, so I edited the labyrinth. This makes it interesting every time I go to walk it. I have to try remember what parts to use and what parts were the old route. Here’s another photo, this time of the outside track on the right:

That’s Sammy out with me! He loves to go exploring. Sometimes he climbs trees!

So, last time I went out, I flagged some trees to help even this crazy thing out. I marked the major turnarounds in orange tape and the mid-points of the labyrinth area, to the best of my estimation, with blue tape. I also decided to expand the area, so that it would go all the way to the neighbour’s fence, which is currently covered by a 5-foot-high snow drift! No kidding! It’s epic! As I was working in the SE quadrant, I realized that I had done it wrong! I had an extra turn! Did you notice that on the first drawing? So, here is the correct path:

Let me just say I am quite pleased with my work! In the end, no one will ever know if this thing is asymmetrical (which I suspect it always will be) because GPS tracking will be strictly prohibited while walking meditatively on the forest labyrinth. It’s kind of neat walking among the trees, where you can’t see the whole labyrinth at once. You don’t know the path is going to fold back on itself, until you get there.

Once the snow melts, I will put down wood chips to mark the path and try to keep the flagging tape or signs to a minimum. I plan to preserve every tree (although some smaller shrubs may get squashed). Wish me luck! This thing isn’t finished yet.

If you have an open area, I encourage you to look at labyrinths you can make with rope or stones to mark the path. But if you have a treed area, GOOD LUCK! 😀

Now Doing Inspirational Presentations!

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Hi everyone! You are my best supporters, my blog readers! So, I wanted to let you know that I am unveiling two presentations about my paddling experiences this summer. If you know of an event looking for a speaker, please have the organizer contact me using the comments form below. Comments are not published until I approve them, so I will not publish any requests. As for everyone else… What do you think of my idea? Would you like to hear about my trips? Would you find it interesting? Leave comments!

800 Kilometers on the River — Insights from my Summer of Wilderness Paddling

30-minute presentation
Join outdoor enthusiast and owner of Flow North Paddling Company, Teresa Griffith as she shares the challenges and triumphs of canoeing and kayaking over 800 km on the beautiful Peace River. In total, she paddled for nineteen days — ten days solo, nine days with a canoe partner — steeped in the beauty of the wilderness river. She overcame shoulder trouble, thunderstorms, shallow water, strong wind and waves throughout her journey. She spent seven continuous days alone on the water, with only herself and her kayak, and she wasn’t the same when she finished. She shares inspiration which came to her on that portion of the trip, when time stood still and every paddle stroke was a meditation.

800 Kilometers on the River — Lessons in Independence

50-minute presentation
Join outdoor enthusiast and owner of Flow North Paddling Company, Teresa Griffith as she shares the challenges and triumphs of canoeing and kayaking over 800 km on the beautiful Peace River. In total, she paddled for nineteen days — ten days solo, nine days with a canoe partner — steeped in the beauty of the wilderness river. She overcame shoulder trouble, thunderstorms, shallow water, strong wind and waves throughout her journey. She spent seven continuous days alone on the water, with only herself and her kayak, and she wasn’t the same when she finished.

A dynamic speaker, Teresa gives an outline of her past experiences which led her to make this journey. She reviews her trip preparation and practical aspects of the journey. She also shares inspiration and insight which came to her on the solo portion of the trip, when time stood still and every paddle stroke was a meditation. Sitting out a severe thunderstorm on the river’s muddy bank, nowhere to hide, wisdom and poetry surfaced from somewhere deep within. You’ll be encouraged, uplifted, and inspired to stretch yourself beyond what you thought possible.

Arriving in Fort Vermilion

Three Hundred Kilometres…

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Well, yesterday afternoon at about 3:00 pm, I finished my paddle. I kayaked by myself all the way from Peace River, AB to Tompkin’s Landing (where the ferry crosses highway 697). I sprinted the last hour (about 11 km) because I saw a thunderstorm approaching and didn’t want to get caught in it. Here are a few stats for ya!

    – My GPS says 305 km paddled, but it was tracking while I walked around a bit too, so it’s probably about 295 km paddled or so.
    – My GPS says I spent about 40 hrs 49 min moving and 20 hrs 28 min stopped. But of course it doesn’t account for time it’s turned off (at night, and at some stopovers).
    – My gear weighed 86 lbs (39 kg).
    – My kayak (a Prijon Kodiak) weighs 62 lbs (28 kg).
    – I weigh 130 lbs (59 kg).
    – Therefore, my arms and core body transported 278 lbs (126 kg) approx 300 km! (The current did help!) And I also lugged that 148 lb (67 kg) kayak up the shore repeatedly!
    – I spent 6.5 days and 6 nights on the river.
    – My average was 46 km per day. I aimed to do 50.
    – I sat on shore through 2 thunderstorms, with nothing but a raincoat for protection! (That’s also why I didn’t make 50 km every day.)
    – I used 1 bear-proof container, 6 dry bags, 1 mesh bag, and about 30 ziplock bags!
    – Of the 6 times I camped in the wilderness, 4 times were completely away from people (more than 20 km). The 2nd night I camped at Sunny Valley with a farm and cottages nearby, and the last night I camped on a new friend’s yard (wonderful Metis man I just met). 🙂
    – I did all this with no rifle, only a can of bear spray, but I didn’t see any bears. I don’t think I could have kept a gun dry anyway….
    – I didn’t lose or break a single item I brought along. I think I only had to hunt for something once (I wasn’t sure where my hair elastic was).
    – I had 1 bath, 2 “washcloth baths,” and washed my hair 3 times.
    – I saw deer, moose, elk, wolf, various bird and beaver tracks. I saw actual deer, including some fawns, elk (one calf), beavers, bald eagles, other eagles/hawks. No wolves or bears.
    – I heard all sorts of interesting sounds and birds that I wish I could identify! I’m pretty sure I heard an elk calling — it’s like a moo with a question mark!

I’ll post pics soon — I haven’t downloaded them all yet, as I suspect I might not have enough memory left on my computer to handle them all. I’ll have to clean it up a bit and delete some old stuff! There was some truly unbelievable, beautiful scenery… and I hope my much-zoomed photos of the elk cow and calf turned out! You can check out the progress map Darren made for me here.

Tidbits of wisdom from the water:

    – You can’t check if something is dry with wet hands!
    – Don’t make fun of a small cumulonimbus cloud, saying it’s “cute.”
    – One stroke at a time, you get there.
    – Every stroke counts. If you can make a little thing you do over and over again more effective, it adds up fast!
    – Wind does not have to stop you — it may slow you down, but progress is progress.
    – If you’re passing somewhere you may never be again, stop and explore!

Some other revelations:

One day, I was hunting through my clothes to find my a shirt to wear. I came across my long-sleeved purple striped shirt and said “yay! I love my purple striped shirt! I’ll wear that!” And I realized that I don’t say “yay!” about many of my clothes. So, I am getting rid of the ones that I don’t absolutely love.

I have way too much STUFF! I lived great for a whole week on 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, 2 pairs of undies, 1 set of PJ’s, and minimal other stuff. Why do I have all that stuff at home!?!?

I spent 2 whole days in very meditative paddling, partly because my shoulder was sore so I had to pay close attention to make sure I wouldn’t hurt it or pull a muscle. It was so enlivening! Now, I find I am doing everything more meditatively. In fact, even just walking around making camp was meditative in a way, because I had to watch every step, make sure I wouldn’t twist an ankle on a rock, or put something down in such a way that would allow it to fall over and roll into the water. Or thinking about where to put each and every thing my hand touched — because if I put it down in a bad place, it could get muddy, wrecked, lost, or simply be too far for when I needed to reach for it. So my every action became a meditation.

Initially, I had an attitude of independence and exploration. Later on, I had a feeling of harmony with nature (not independence or separation or being apart from nature) and discovery. In this sense, discovery is more “let’s see what’s out there” and exploration is more “let’s find stuff and claim territory” (more ego).

There are so many more things I learned/realized…. some will be whole blog posts of their own! But it’s getting late and I was going to go to bed early, so I’d better get to it! 🙂 And I plan to paddle the last 130 km soon (from Tompkin’s to Fort Vermilion)! It will take about 3 days — let me know if you want to join me! I wouldn’t mind company!

Related Posts: Identity Crisis of a Magical Pixie | Finished the Paddling Trip | Peace River Expedition


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heavenly-cloudsA conversation with a friend recently, as we relayed our experiences and generally pondered life, reminded me that life is full of contradictions. Here are a few:

Believing in heaven (some sort of happy place after death) can create the feeling that life here and now is purgatory — something to be endured, perhaps move up a level, or try to buy a way out of.
In this way, believing in heaven creates discontentment.

little-cemeteryFear of Death
Death is certain, and you’d think we’d have learned how to face it, yet the fear of death is the most universal of all fears.
We don’t like it when we re forced to realize our time on Earth is limited, but it can make us appreciate our life, and all the sweet moments, that much more. Or it can make us fearful, materialistic, and petty.
Many fears can be equated to the fear of death — for example, wanting to be accepted by peers = fear of rejection = life is “over” if we aren’t popular = fear of death. In this way, we blow things out of proportion and amplify our anxiety. And being accepted by our peers (as adults especially) probably just means we know how to toe the line, kiss the right asses, talk the talk, and avoid offending people who are probably too sensitive anyway!
Facing the fear of death is the one thing that gives the most freedom and life, yet most people don’t do it until they are old and don’t have much time left.
Some people seeking eternal youth get plastic surgery that makes them look old and fake. Youth (young people) are natural and real, not old and fake… and they’re also uncoordinated and inexperienced, but for some reason people don’t seek that!

The opposite of happiness is not unhappiness but boredom (This from Timothy Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week). Yet I can be bored and happy at the same time (go figure)!
If you can face intense boredom and “stare it down,” you reach a place of happiness and peace.

Meditation and Seeking the Spiritual
Meditation, for long periods of time, is facing boredom (see point above).
If you are trying to “get good at meditating,” you’ve missed the point.
People try really hard to “find God” or connect to Spirit, when it’s omnipresent — everywhere at all times. It’s like searching for water in the ocean!

We all have struggles we are going through (or have gone through), so we should naturally be compassionate… yet we aren’t (usually).
When we go through the toughest times, and don’t avoid the pain or deny what’s happening/our feelings, we break through to a place of peace, grace, and compassion (even if the trial is not over).

Those who speak of the innocence of a child don’t know children. They can be extremely manipulative… and I wonder where they learn that!? The things that drive us crazy about our children they probably learned from us!
The people most likely to give advice for raising children don’t have any.  🙂

What if…

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Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while… I have been quite busy, and I also was a little tired of poetry. Writing a poem every day was not easy (or even just posting every day). But I have an idea I want to get out there!

What if there was no good and evil? What if there was only good? We tend to polarize things a lot–give them 2 extremes–when there really isn’t. Take for example light and dark. We think they are 2 things, but in reality, dark is just the absence of light. Light is the only thing that is real; dark is just an illusion. Same thing with hot and cold – there is no substance or force called “cold,” it just feels cold when there isn’t enough thermal energy around. Heat (thermal energy) is real; cold is an illusion (tell yourself this at -30 and let me know how it works for you)!!

What if the same were true for good and evil? What if good, like light and heat, was the only real thing and evil was just an absence of good, an illusion? This is what I have been reading about and pondering lately. What if the only power was good, or love, and the “force of evil” is just an illusion! Like a hallucination, it seems very real, and there’s no way to tell the difference between reality and the hallucination as long as it is going on. Something has to break through to show what the illusion is. In psychotherapy, that would be drugs; in life, what is it? What can break down the illusion of evil having power? Meditation, perhaps, leading to an awareness of an alternate reality, one where God is the only power for good? That makes sense to me, but I can’t say I’ve read anything specifically about that. Ideas anyone? Another way to think of it–we all have a connection to God/good, but some connections are rustier than others. So in a bad connection, not much good flows, i.e. God doesn’t work through some people as well/much as others. But if the connection is cleaned, the good starts to flow. Maybe this is oversimplified, but it makes sense to me! But I guess it hinges on the belief that we are all the same, and that no one is fundamentally better than anyone else… no one is “favoured in God’s eyes,” and we all have the potential for a great, clean connection to God.

That’s not to say it’s easy to just start ignoring evil necessarily. After all, dark and cold seem real, so evil/bad does too. When bad stuff happens, sometimes it seems like it is premeditated, or that there is an intelligence behind it somehow. But this could just be us imagining it (hallucinating again!) and you can re-program yourself to think differently. Why not think that this “bad” thing is happening to help you learn something, or to be more compassionate. It could be thought of as good in disguise. You can change your thoughts at any time, at will, and all you have to do is want to. A change in thoughts creates a cascade reaction of changes in our bodies too, and in our surroundings, whose evidence may or may not be seen immediately. I’ll have to talk more about changing thoughts another time!

Don’t get me wrong; I still struggle with thinking “there’s only good” when really nasty stuff happens in the world, like sexual assault or murder. But I still keep my thoughts from dwelling on it, and that seems to help. I guess if there’s enough people in the world believing in evil as a power, maybe that gives it some form/strength/momentum. But if we all stopped, it would disappear completely!

Yesterday, I read the chapter on meditation from Practicing the Presence by Joel S. Goldsmith. What a great book, and what a great, deep chapter! But I can’t tell you about it, because it says that the deepest spiritual things should not be talked about, not shown off, but kept secret and private, and that makes sense to me. I may have said too much already! 🙂

Take care everybody! Leave comments if you got ’em!


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I wanted to share some wisdom from a very good book I read lately, called Peace is Every Step. It is written by a monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. He was born in Viet Nam but has spent many years in North America and Europe, so he has a good outlook on western culture. This book talks about inner peace and meditation and does so using everyday language and modern analogies. In it, he quotes 14 precepts that most Buddhists live by. There are a couple that really struck me because they are totally opposite to how many of us think. The first precept is “Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology. All systems of thought are guiding means, not absolute truth.” The second is similar: “Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.”
Isn’t that interesting? Most people, in North America at least, are quite single-minded in their beliefs. They seem to think that the more narrow-minded they are (or the better their blinders are), the better the proof of how dedicated they are, therefore proving they are good people. Many even become fanatics to a certain belief, no longer questioning it at all, until they are completely unable to see someone else’s point of view. But imagine if most people were the opposite – not bound to a belief but willing to listen and learn about others’ beliefs at any time, not feeling that doing so challenges their own beliefs or faith, and even be willing to let their beliefs be challenged and change them if necessary. Some people would have us believe that too much tolerance is evil, but I know from experience that too little is not the answer either.
The third precept is about how we relate to others’ beliefs. Many modern Christians/Evangelicals could learn from this: “Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.” How much indoctrination is done in the name of education!! Not that all education is bad, but unfortunately in the course of that education and by watching those around them, children are also learning how to be intolerant, stubborn, narrow-minded and judgemental – not qualities we should be cultivating. Think about it – these traits also lead, in the worst cases, to racism, sexism, and religious extremism, and in the lesser cases, to insensitivity, unkindness, and living with fear of judgement. Why can’t we let people have their own beliefs without feeling threatened in our own?
Just some things to think about, and if this sounds interesting, I’d encourage you to read “Peace is Every Step” or Hanh’s other writing – like “Living Buddha, Living Christ” which I am currently reading! It’s another great one!