by Rita Canning, Development Coordinator
As we continue to celebrate Veriditas’ 20th year, for this month’s newsletter I had the joy of interviewing Nancy Ayer. Nancy is a Certified Facilitator and major donor with a great sense of humor. She lives half the year in St. Croix, Virgin Islands and half the year on Orcas Island in upstate Washington. In both these areas she has built labyrinths which she’ll tell us about in her interview.
When did you first encounter the labyrinth?
I first encountered the labyrinth at Kanuga Retreat Center in North Carolina about 12 years ago. I just discovered the labyrinth on the property there and thought, “Look at this, isn’t this interesting.” So I walked it and it was so silent. I grew up in a house that wasn’t silent at all. I didn’t know what silence was, really. The silence was such a powerful experience for me. It was quite a revelation.
A few years later, in 2006 to 2008, I was in graduate school in Santa Barbara. The motto of the school was “For the sake of tending the soul in the world”. Oh, my God! It was a most marvelous place. There was a final project that I had to do and the labyrinth returned to me in something called “an active imagination” which is a Jungian form of dream work – awake dreaming. The labyrinth returned to me for this project. My degree is in mythology, psychology and education. So the labyrinth returned in the form of a spiral in my imagination and that became the project. I ordered a canvas labyrinth and gave it to the church on Orcas Island. That was the beginning of the birth of the permanent labyrinth that I spearheaded at the church. That’s how I got involved. This labyrinth is built in the center of town on church property and it’s quite beautiful. It was a perfect spot. I just saw it and knew that was the spot. It was a five year project. We had our difficulties and ups and downs but people kept jumping on board and joining our wonderful, working labyrinth committee. During those five years there was a lot of stress. People would say that maybe it wasn’t supposed to be built there. I realized that this was where it needed to be. It just was and it is. After it was completed a lot of the public just started using it.
How did you get involved with Veriditas and Lauren?
I can’t remember how I first heard about Lauren. It might have been her books. What I do remember is that this woman named Lauren Artress seemed to be the perfect blend of what I could relate to: psychology and the fact that I am a cradle Episcopalian and that got to me. Here was a woman who was both. And I thought. “Now, isn’t that interesting, that’s a possibility.” So I went to my first training with Lauren in Grace Cathedral. I just jumped right in. Then I went to Chartres on pilgrimage with Lauren. Chartres experiences were completely powerful for me. The reason I love the labyrinth so much is that I love the metaphor. I remember walking in Chartres with just a few of us on a Wednesday night. I found a string on the labyrinth. I picked it up and I realized that this string was telling me to untie myself from my family, which I needed to do to find my own way. It was very powerful. It still brings tears to my eyes.
Will you tell us about your very special labyrinth on St. Croix?
We restored a 1750 sugar plantation on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. It has the names, distribution and jobs of the slaves and what their religions were. So it had a great deal of pain in the stones of the ruins. We have our house up on the hill and the ruins are down below, which is where the labyrinth is. I really built it to heal the stones and the energy of the property which has been successfully done. I can just feel the energy shift on the property since the labyrinth has been built.
It’s an example of the power of the unseen world, the power behind the labyrinth and the number of prayers that have been said around it and in it. I’ve also chosen to open the part of the property with the labyrinth to the public. It’s not advertised because, in my mind, you don’t advertise the soul. People who need to find it, find it. And I recently read somewhere that this labyrinth is now one of the top ten places to visit on the island. Clearly this speaks to something, doesn’t it? All kinds of things have occurred there that have been very healing. I have brought in a group of people suffering from muscular sclerosis and it’s been a very powerful experience. Extremely. The labyrinth is made of mulch and sea stones which I collected myself with a friend and it’s a 7 circuit Chartres style. Many people have come and it amazes me. It’s letting it speak. I had no intentional designs on what it was going to turn out to be. I just built it to my use and to heal the land. Somebody has recently done a study of the seven chakras in different parts of the island and they put the crown chakra up in our area. I know that it’s not about Nancy, it’s my gift to the property, to the people. You have to share it, you can’t keep that to yourself and that’s what I’m doing.
Would you share some more of your experiences and stories about your labyrinth experiences?
This summer I did a series of workshops at the labyrinth on Orcas Island and brought Robert Ferre. We did three open walks that were all about the history of the labyrinth. In between these workshops we did another three focused workshops, including one on dreams and one on the labyrinth with the sacred feminine focused on Mary Magdalene.
Metaphors on the labyrinth are amazing for me, that’s what makes it work for me. I consequently had metaphors on my own labyrinth in the Caribbean. I had a big decision to make and was walking the labyrinth. As I was ending my walk I was about ready to step out and there was a snail on the labyrinth. I’d never seen a snail on the labyrinth before. I saw that the snail’s head had stuck way out of its shell. I got down on my knees and said “Okay, I’ll stick my neck out”.
Why do you donate to Veriditas?
I see the power behind the labyrinth. I see that it shows the way for the new paradigm, the great power of supporting the soul in the world. The soul is tended through the labyrinth. So with all that knowledge, why wouldn’t I want to donate? That’s my question back. Why wouldn’t I want to donate?
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We are excited to announce that as a result of a new initiative introduced earlier this year, in which Advanced Trained Facilitators can apply for accreditation to offer "Veriditas Approved Qualifying Workshops" we now have four approved Facilitators!
Congratulations to Maggie Perrone, Catherine Anderson, Jan Sellers and MJ McGregor! We look forward to sharing their unique areas of expertise around the labyrinth. Look for their Veriditas Approved events to be listed on our website in the coming months.