In the last twenty years or so the symbolism and healing experience of walking the labyrinth have returned to public attention. Used for stress reduction these pathways for walking meditation are being used in locations as diverse as churches, hospitals, prisons, retreat centers and community parks.
Traces of these convoluted paths have been found around the world in many divergent cultures from as early as 2500 to 2000 B.C.E... Historically they appear to have been used as an alternative to a spiritual pilgrimage, places to pace out prayers for healing and mercy, walking to reach a state of calm, clarity and inner balance.
Walking meditation is especially appealing to those who struggle with sitting still. Once you set your feet upon the path you let the steps lead your body along the way while your mind and spirit are free to contemplate deeper questions. .. or.. perhaps ..practice mindfulness in motion by focusing only on the present moment and savoring the rich sounds, smells, sight of grass, rock and sky…
I didn't really understand the labyrinth until I had walked the turning twisting pathway; circling round the goal of the center, confronting the challenge where the path swings back in the opposite direction. Theoretically I knew that the labyrinth way is different from a maze in that there are no dead ends, no chances of getting lost. There is one entrance, one path, one center… but many twists and turns.
So my first experience was not quite as enchanting as I had expected. When the path turned me back around from clear forward progress my logical mind protested. I wanted the straight route to where I was heading. Going another direction was not an appealing option. I persevered…..
I walk. I turn. I turn again. The desired end within sight of eyes, sighs of heart. The path circles back around, taking stubborn feet in the opposite direction. I question my progress/ feel ineffective. I keep walking/ pulling my attention back to the step just ahead. Finally with a prayer of relief I enter the center… calm.
Will I ever learn to trust the process?