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Saturday, November 8, 2014

What I learned from walking the labyrinth

Earlier this week I met a woman who is a labyrinth designer. A labyrinth is a circular path that is intended to give you a place to reflect, contemplate and otherwise be quiet with yourself. Walking a labyrinth can be a calming exercise, a spiritual experience, or annoyance if that's not your kind of thing. When I went on my first silent retreat, I thought the labyrinth wasn't my thing.

It seemed cliché, a forced activity and kind of pointless. As I walked the grounds of the retreat center, I avoided the labyrinth like it was the dentist. Yet on the last morning of the retreat, I found myself walking toward the maze. I decided to give it a try. While I wasn't struck by lightning bolts of revelation, I did learn a few things from the experience, things that I think are life lessons.

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1.  Patience is a requirement. I expected there to be twists and turns in the path and that was ok. But once I got to the center, I was frustrated to find that to get out, I had to walk the path in reverse. Sure, I could have just walked out, but I'm a rule follower and not finishing "correctly" didn't seem right. Patience is something I'm working on. I want answers, I want a plan, I want results and I want them now. But walking the walk provides lessons and experiences I would miss if I just rush through.

2.  It's important to keep my eye on the path. Several times, I looked up and away from the path -- toward the sound of a bird, to nod at another person, to look over the wakening grass and trees. When I looked back down, I was momentarily lost and confused, unsure if I had stepped into another "lane" of the path or if I was where I was when I'd first looked away. I'm not a great goal-setter. (See "patience" above.) In walking the labyrinth, even though I knew where I wanted to go -- the center -- I still had to keep watch to make sure my feet where taking me there.

3.  Even good things can be a distraction. I stopped to look at a tree blooming with pretty little purple flowers, then again to turn my head toward a busing of birds suddenly calling to each other. Once I stopped just to feel the sun on my face. When I returned my focus from the labyrinth, I was momentarily unsure of where I was. Good things. Facebook. A movie. A nap. They all can be good, but they all have a way of derailing me from where I want to be. It's ok for me to indulge from time to time, but I need to be aware of when my path has room for those distractions.

4. The path is not straight. Sometimes the path brought me so close to the center only to lead me far away again. But I persevered and made my way back. Of course, perseverance was easy when I was sure of my destination. Life isn't always so obvious. But I learned from this experience that if I keep my life's destination set on God, then no matter where my path takes me along the way, I will find my way home.

5.  The center is the sweet spot. When I reached the center of the labyrinth, it seemed the sun was focused right on that spot. I stood for several minutes, bathed in the warm, golden light, thanking God for the "reward." I wonder what other sweet spots I have missed because my eye was drawn away from the path?

6. Never enter a labyrinth when you have to pee. Honestly, I wrote this because a.) I did have to pee while I was walking the labyrinth and b.) I wanted to lighten this post up a bit with some humor. But now that I think about it, there is a message about taking care of myself and my needs in order to reach my destination. Maybe that need isn't always a bathroom break. Maybe it's the need for some daily quiet time or the need to spend time with friends and family (the need for community). See, even after time has passed, the labyrinth is still teaching me things.

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? What was your experience like?


CWMartin said...

Now THAT was profound. One of your best posts!