Walking the labyrinth provides an opportunity to be attentive to God’s presence in new and fresh ways. For many, the labyrinth is a new tool but even for those who have experienced it before, each entry into the labyrinth can be an opportunity to encounter the Divine in a new way. The labyrinth has only one path to the center. There are no dead ends or wrong turns. Everything on the path is a metaphor for life’s journey.
Once a month we are offering a time to walk the labyrinth together in the Denver/Boulder area. A few who went in January share these reflections about their first experience.
AA: At First Glance
At first glace, the labyrinth looked like a regular maze design painted on a concrete floor. As I entered, however, I realized I was entering an experience that would reach into my very soul. I took a deep breath and began shuffling slowly through it. As I walked back and forth; following the path, I contested being distracted by the others who were also in the labyrinth. It was quiet in the room. I knew the path I was on would eventually lead me to my destination (the center). But I kept gazing towards the center, strategizing a faster way to get there. At the center, I would be able to sit down, reflect and refresh. But like my life, I had to follow all the turns, walk over all the cracks and stay within the path. I became cognizant I was not alone in my labyrinth journey. The others were also following each turn, crack and path; just as I was. It allowed me to remember that in my life journey, I am also not alone. I felt a sense of peace with this awareness. It comforted my spirit.
As I eventually arrived at the center, I felt ready to receive what I was going to take away from my labyrinth experience. If I had hurried or found a short-cut, I wouldn’t have had the capacity to fully refresh. Just as deoxygenated blood returns to the lungs to receive fresh oxygen, I was ready to receive. I did sit down in the center and began to reflect on my life. I was grateful for each turn and crack because they required me to slow down. My soul was finally quieted. I was still. I was at peace.
As I began to saunter out of the center and work my way back towards the outside of the labyrinth, I was like reoxygenated blood being pumped out of the aorta of the heart to the body. Ready to give.
MJ: Life’s Labyrinth
Reluctantly, I faced the path in front of me. Resistance flooded every part of me.
So unfamiliar the path. So alone. Grief washed over me, for the loss of all that was familiar. Tears came and went and I realized I could no longer stand on the sidelines of my life. And I stepped into this new labyrinth of my life.
Fear, uncertainty, irritation quickly came over me, at all the loops and turns. Then a nice long stretch brought some comfort to me. “This isn’t so bad”, I realized, about a quarter way thru, “I can do this.” Pausing for reflection, I felt the solidness of my feet on the firm ground. Trust began to flicker and grow stronger- from a source too Real to limit with human words or ideology.
My breathing slowed and a keen awareness of walking gently in my own space enveloped me. And yet I could sense the nearness of others and felt trust for their journey as well. Separate, distinct sojourners, yet so unified in spirit it was palpable. I finally reached the center—a place of rest and reflection. Must I leave? Despite the deep attraction to remain in the labyrinth center, a growing sense of joyful anticipation began to pull me back toward the path to the outer world.
My pace quickens, the longer pathways feel like I’m skating along, carefree and joyful.
Suddenly, the pathways are short with multiple hairpin turns and I must slow down. Wisdom whispers to me “go slowly in this season; see all the sharp curves still ahead for you.” I oblige, knowing the path will again smooth out in the distant future. Patience grows.
With each step back towards the outer labyrinth, the integration of my inner world with my outer world strengthens. Integrity and wholeness grow. Yeah, I made it! Back in the outer world, I rest gratefully in the sun. Peaceful, I felt a renewed confidence that my life’s labyrinth is a good path to be on, one step at a time.
JH: The Cracked Path Continues
In anticipation of a time of serenity I was eager to step on the path and have a little bubble of peace. It seemed like the labyrinth would be a good discipline for me to stay in the present moment, know God’s presence, and experience the metaphor of my journey in a way that brings peace and insight.
As I entered the labyrinth, instead of being able to find a nice meditative pace for walking and breathing, I noticed I was gasping for air and trying to hold back a cough, hoping my bad cold wouldn’t disturb others! I remembered the 3 movements on the labyrinth journey are “release, receive, and return.” I could be mindful of those. Soon I felt lost, unsure of the direction I was going. The labyrinth path winds around and doubles back over and over again. Each turn required courage to keep going. I seemed no closer to the center. It looked like the entire journey would be about releasing and relinquishment. Sadness and fear. The cracks in the cement seemed to speak of imperfection, things gone wrong, yet soon, this actually became a great comfort to me. In spite of the cracks the path was not deterred and continued on its way. I rubbed my foot over each crack as if to say, “The cracks are okay. They won’t prevent me from reaching my destination.” Eventually the assurance came to me, “God, you are with me in the ‘cracks’ as well as the ‘perfect’ parts of the path.” I needed to know that.
When I got to the center I didn’t want to leave, but after a few minutes gathered the courage to start out again. At the points where the path crossed over to the other quadrant of the design it seemed to be especially symbolic of my journey. I knew I needed God’s help and presence to cross over to what is next. When I exited the labyrinth path I was tired, but was enjoying the sense of God’s presence. It had not been the little serenity bubble I expected, but was an amazing time with bits of insight and surprise. There was no outcome to control or predict, so it was as it should be for this visit.
They say the labyrinth is very user friendly. You cannot get lost nor can you fail. You go along at your own pace and listen to the inner voice. After all it’s your metaphor!