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by by Jane Allen | March 10, 2009


Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," the Cat says.

"I don't much care where-" replies Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," says the Cat.

"-so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice adds.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," the Cat says, "if you only walk long enough."

Can you see yourself in these lines from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Are you uncomfortable with what is right now, not sure what's next, not OK with the unknown, feeling overwhelmed, impatient and dissatisfied, but still in a hurry to get somewhere else (even though you don't know what "somewhere else" could be)?

At a church near my home there is a labyrinth. Unlike a maze which is designed to confuse and deceive, a labyrinth is a walking meditation tool with only one path to the center. Reversing that path takes you back out. The first time I walked the labyrinth, I was struck by how that mimicked the process of change - of being on a journey and not knowing quite where I was going (lots of twists and turns) or how soon I would get there. Some aspects of that may apply to your career change.

Impatience. Standing at the beginning, I already felt the need to finish quickly. How long will this take? I thought. I really should get back to work. Already I was avoiding the journey and leaping toward a destination! Making changes will be easier if your mind is open to possibilities. Sometimes you must stop the "future thinking" and just be in the present.

Uncertainty/Distractions/Staying Focused. My dog Clementine was a distraction. Her attention span is short for anything that doesn't fit her immediate needs (food, water, sleep, play). Forced to walk with me, she became an obstacle because there was no instant gratification and she didn't understand this new experience. I didn't know exactly what was going on either, but I was open to finding out and willing to allow the uncertainty. Clementine was blocking my steps and breaking my concentration. I could almost hear her thinking, What are you doing? Hurry up! I don't like this. She represented things standing in my way and reminded me of the need to remove obstacles gently and then refocus.

Things to Take with You. I knew Clementine would wander off on her own exploration once she got bored with mine, so I had to hold onto her leash. In any change there will be things to leave behind and things to take with you, which can also include people. Take with you the ones who offer support and encouragement. "Leaving behind" doesn't have to be the end of that relationship. It can mean distancing yourself mentally from another's non-constructive criticism or negative thinking.

Standing Still. Pausing in mid-walk helped me to refocus on now and deliberately let go of my own "hurry up!" In any journey there is standing-still time - time just to be and to ignore the urgency to produce results or make decisions or find answers. When you aren't sure which direction to go, isn't that a good time to sit with the question for a bit? Stopping helps you to notice signposts or people who can help.

Congratulating/Collecting. The path had both gentle curves and hairpin turns, so I didn't know how close I was to the heart of the labyrinth until I rounded the last corner and saw that it was just a few steps away. While in the center, I turned slowly and saw the ripples and lines of the circuit swirling around me, representing connections, possibilities and movement. The peace and comfort of that spot made me think of T.S. Eliot's "... the still point of the turning world." I didn't want to leave that calm, grounded feeling, so I decided to take it with me. I collected up what I had learned, congratulated myself on trying something new and walked out enveloped in the stillness.

Some questions for you:

  • What are you avoiding by urgent activity?
  • How can you find your still point?
  • What constitutes a comfort zone for you? Do you need to leave one or find one? Or both?
  • What do you need to finish or let go of?
  • Who will support you in your journey?
  • How can you be more present and minimize distractions?
  • What small successes can you celebrate along the way?
  • How can you make room for more possibilities?

Learn more about the what and where of labyrinths at


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