Lesson from a Labyrinth
“Stories are medicine.” — Clarissa Pinkola-Estes
The message and money had arrived in the mail, out of the blue. The note, written on light blue stationary, was folded around a check for $243. I stared at them, incredulous.
The note writer said she had been walking the Labyrinth in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. When she reached the center of the sacred maze, she sat quietly, and heard a voice inside say, “Send Linda Sandel $243.” She described how she first brushed the thought away. But it came back, insistent. A faithful servant to intuition, she decided to send the check.
My gaze shifted to the small white statue of the Blessed Virgin that sat on my desk. Underneath it rested a blue business envelope, already stamped. Only I knew that it held my personal check, made out to the American Counseling Association, for a life insurance policy that was about to lapse. To keep the policy current, I needed to send $243, funds I did not have.
Dropping the letter to the desk, I reached for my worn phone book and found the writer’s phone number, entered just two weeks ago, right after I met her. I dialed it on my landline phone.
“Caralyn?” I asked. “This is,” she replied. We had met for lunch in a busy Applebee’s in a modest midwestern town. The cozy, popular grille was full to the brim and comfortable with the buzz of professionals and friends enjoying respite and repast on an early summer day. Drop-lighting, Tiffany chandeliers, shed a faint calico glow over our table. My ever-present prescription sunglasses sat next to my silverware
Caralyn was an employee assistance manager for a large multinational corporation. We were meeting to discuss whether I, a psychologist, met the criteria to provide counseling services to the firm’s employees.
We hit it off instantly, finding kinship in our mutual curiosity about intuition, synchronicity, dream work, and the common boundaries of spirituality and psychology. Caralyn in a simple blouse, and pressed casual slacks was kind, thoughtful, warm, competent, and professional. Shoulder length light brown hair framed an open, smooth face, intelligent eyes, and a gentle smile.
“I got your check,” I said. “What on earth prompted you to send that amount of money to someone you hardly know?”
She could not have known that I was scraping the bottom of my well, financially and emotionally. She could not have known that I saw my life insurance as the one piece of protection I could leave my family if something happened to me. She could not have known that, desperate to improve my circumstances, I had been reading prosperity teachings. She could not have known that I had written the $243 check, said a heartfelt prayer to the Virgin to find the funds for it and done my best to give it no more thought.
What Caralyn said next opened my heart to a new understanding of the abundance behind life.
“I was surprised at the precision of the amount I was guided to send you,” she explained. “I hardly know you, so I felt a little sheepish about sending the check. It’s a gift Linda, not a loan, with no expectation of return. I don’t need to know how you will use it. If you don’t need it pass it along to someone who does.”
I sat and listened, stunned still and barely breathing at the steel and vinyl card table that served as my desk, in my bedroom. Caralyn explained that for many years she had kept a small savings account, “a helping fund” to which she made regular deposits. Money in the account, therefore, was readily available when she became aware that friends or family, and sometimes strangers, were in need.
She had drawn the $243 from this fund and mailed it, trusting, trusting completely, the still small voice that had touched her consciousness about the transaction. That the guidance had come to her in the middle of a sacred practice, in the center of a labyrinth, was a reverent exclamation point that it was important.
“I do not live from the depth of this generosity of spirit,” I thought. I felt a mixture of embarrassment at my self-absorption and gratitude for glimpsing a deeper, a more loving way of being. Humility flooded my inner home. Sitting in my shorts and summer tee, hair pulled into a haphazard pony-tail, half-hearing the neighbor’s lawnmower droning beyond my open window, I knew this was a life-changing moment, a lesson of the heart.
I said the only thing to be said, “thank you.” I was too choked up to say anything more and she sensed that, I think, so we hung up. I mailed the insurance payment. Something inside had shifted. I knew I was taken care of by a sacred force. I knew it was ok to ask for help. I knew it was important to trust. I knew it was equally important to receive with grace.
Months later, my financial situation improved, and I returned $300 to Caralyn. I told her I hoped that amount would replenish and pad her “helper’s fund.” When she called to thank me, Caralyn expressed pleasure.
“A friend of a friend is leaving an abusive relationship and needs a $300 security deposit to rent a small apartment,” she explained. “My helping fund was depleted; your check allowed me to help. The Divine Order of the universe is delightful.”
I have never forgotten Caralyn’s faith in her intuitive knowing and her willingness to honor it. Her unpretentious giving, backed by a determined plan to share from a sense of abundance revealed a deep, fundamental goodness that I wanted to emulate.
If an intelligent essence behind life could connect me with someone able to share the gift of $243, could it not connect me, and everybody, with the information needed to respond to anything, ordinary to extraordinary.
I don’t just have faith it is so. I have experience.
Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D., a spiritual counselor and retired counseling psychologist, can be found at www.thedrspettit.com. She loves putting her intuitive nature, her spiritual understanding, and her clinical experience in service to others. She is available for individual consultations. Email her at email@example.com.