Yesterday I visited a labyrinth with a friend of mine from work. She teaches at the school I where I work and she is a fan of meditation. When I told her that meditation was my Healthy Habit #2 for 2014, she offered to take me to the labyrinth at a local church and to show me how she does movement meditation as she follows the circular path. Yesterday, we finally made the trip over there on our lunch hour and she introduced me to walking a labyrinth. I loved it!!
For those of you that aren’t familiar with what a labyrinth is (I sure wasn’t…I thought it was just an 80’s movie with David Bowie!), labyrinths were a feature of many medieval cathedrals. One of the best remaining examples is found in Chartres Cathedral in northern France. The one that we visited today was a replica of that one. Unlike a maze they have only one path – there are no dead ends. You exit at the same spot where you entered, after winding your way along the path to the center, and then making your way back out the way you came. People walk the labyrinth slowly, as an aid to contemplative prayer and meditation, as a spiritual exercise, or as a form of pilgrimage.
When we got there, we sat and my friend briefly told me about how she meditates as she walks the labyrinth. Often she uses little cards that have one word written on them – words like inspiration, light, peace, hope, etc. She chooses a card at random and uses that as her focus for meditation as she walks. So I chose a card; mine was “inspiration.” That seemed perfect, as I was feeling inspired already just being there.
The church where we were was one that I had been to before, for an AA meeting. When I was there, I had probably walked right across the labyrinth and not even noticed it. If I had, I wouldn’t have known what it was anyway. There were quite a few people around, maybe some 12 step meeting had just gotten over, or some other sort of gathering. There were people milling about, talking to one another, there was a guy riding around the church campus on a bike, and someone across the street at a house talking to the mail man. It wasn’t quiet. It was warm outside, the sun was at the top of the sky and while there were some really nice, big trees around, the labyrinth was getting full sun.
We made our way to the entrance, my friend going in first and me giving her several feet before I started. I carried my little “inspiration” card in one hand and my prayer beads in the other. I was surprised as how quickly I was able to shut out all of the audio debris around me. I was soon able to concentrate on what I was thinking and praying. I was able to hear the gentle breeze as it whispered through the trees and I was able to hear birds singing that I hadn’t noticed before. As I progressed inward to the center of the labyrinth, I prayed for inspiration. Inspiration for me in my writing and I prayed for the ability to inspire others. I prayed for inspiration for my husband and our friend as they talk about starting a new church plant. On my way back out, I prayed prayers of thanksgiving for all that God has inspired me to do and to be. I thanked Him as I always do for the life He has given me.
When we finished the labyrinth we sat down again to talk about it. It had become quiet, I felt very peaceful and relaxed. My friend said that was almost always her experience; that at first there is noise and distractions, but by the time she finishes, there is a quieting of those distractions and noise. There is peace. I wonder if it’s really quieter, or if we are just choosing to hear things differently, as we’re in a different state of mind?
Overall, my labyrinth experience was a wonderful one. I will absolutely do it again. I love that I am finding new ways to find serenity and express my gratitude, and growing my friendships with others as I do it. 🙂