Walk a Labyrinth

On New Year’s Day 2007, I decided to try something new and different. I went to a Labyrinth walk.

The Labyrinth walk is a sacred tradition that goes back thousands of years and is found in many different Eastern and Western Religions. To read more about the history and spirituality of the labyrinth go to http://www.sacredwalk.com/.

Basically, there are several Labyrinth designs. The idea is to start at the beginning with an intention. An intention can be a mantra or a problem you want to consider during your walk. My intention was to completely clear my mind. I wanted a blank mind by the end of the walk.

A labyrinth is not a maze. A labyrinth has only one path. While the path is winding, it is very clearly marked and predictable. It is hard to get lost in a labyrinth. The idea is that getting to the center of the labyrinth is like leaving life and journeying to a heart of spirtuality. Often people have epiphonies at the center of the labyrinth. Exiting the center is like going back into life with your new-found clarity.

So, I went on this walk. It was at an Episcopal church. These Labyrinths were cloth and therefore, portable. We had to take off our shoes to walk on them. A lot of other people were there. Some prayed and rang a little bell when they entered the Labyrinth. I did not do this. Many seemed to pray as they walked. Some actually pressed their palms together in front of their heart, others did breathing exercises. I just walked. A lot of people stopped at the center to pray. I gave a respectful pause and moved along.

I’ve never been good at meditating. My mind is easily distracted. I read once that this is bad because I can never get close to God if I can’t clear my mind (this was not in reference to a Christian God, but in my world God is God – everybody pretty much wants to be at peace, have love, have a nice afterlife, and somehow reach a pinnacle of spirtuality). Of all the many things people have told me will keep me from God (and believe me I’ve heard a lot on this) this one actually bothered me a little. I’ve worked on using mantras, but I can never remember them and that distracts me! I just want to be able to totally zone out and have nothing in that noggin’ of mine. Pure, sweet, empty space. What a relief that would be!

Labyrinth walks are often done in silence, but at this particular event, a harpist was playing. She played Pachelbel’s Canon which was the song Hubby and I were married to. I thought this was a nice symbolic thing to happen during my walk. I had a little trouble not laughing during the walk. Hubby had threatened to leap into the room dressed as a Minotaur and yell, “Raaaarrrrrrrr!!” during this walk. The room we were in had an entire wall in clear glass that looked out on a garden. I kept getting an image of Hubby leaping through the glass, dressed as a furry huge minotaur – glass shards spilling over the labyrinth. The breathers and prayers shaking out of their reveries with screams and scattering in all directions. The harpist shrieking and running. Me standing there in the labyrinth, doubled over laughing hysterically. This caused a funny little smile to play on my lips during my walk.

I had no epiphony in the center. I did not burst into tears. No lightning struck. God didn’t tell me what the one true religion is or to start some new sect of worship.

Something a little strange did happen to me, though. As I left the center and moved back toward ‘the outside world’ I got scared that I was turned around and heading back to the center. I started to have a mild panic attack. My heart started to race, my breathing became shallow, and I felt dizzy. I took some deep breaths and tried to get ahold of myself. I stopped and looked ahead. I realized that I was ok. I wasn’t turned around, and I continued successfully out of the Labyrinth.

I don’t know for sure what this means – if you believe as many do that this meditation can be quite meaningful. My journey to the center was really happy and silly. I’d say I was almost giddy. My journey away from the center back outside resulted in a near panic attack. (But was my panic over fear of heading back to the center, fear of heading back out, or fear of just being plain lost?) While I can’t articulate it well, I think I might understand it a little. I certainly feel safer and happier closer to my center than I do outside. I force myself to reach outward and take risks. Boy – do I get slapped around a lot for that too! I also get rewarded for it. Still, I’d rather stay internal, at my center, and safe. Sometimes I’m afraid that I’ll get stuck at the center and become agoraphobic. I fear I’ll become the boy in Silent Snow, Secret Snow. That is why I force myself to get out and do things, meet people, try stuff.

Whether or not you believe in spirituality or meditation, a labyrinth walk is something you should try at least once. It really is mired in history. It really is a religious practice that crosses all walks of life (Buddhist, Hindu, Christian – and many more). Labyrinths are pieces of art, so it is an artistic experience as well. Also, it is a grand people-watching adventure.

Here is a great website that locates labyrinths near you. Give it a whirl! Take a window of time and try something really different and really peaceful.

One Response to “Walk a Labyrinth”

  1. uninspired says:

    Perhaps my panic upon leaving the labyrinth had something to do with the fact that I was meeting my in-laws for lunch directly after the walk! ;-) (Just kidding guys….)

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