Thursday, May 21, 2009

Take Your Soul for a Walk: Labyrinth Experiences

The labyrinth is an ancient meditation tool, dating back to at least 2500 B.C. Unlike a maze, which is meant to confuse, the labyrinth is a single path, which always leads to the center. There are no tricks and no shortcuts. No forks in the road. As long as you persist, you will reach your destination, the center, although there may be surprises along the way.

As a spiritual tool, the labyrinth can be a path to prayer, meditation in motion, a soothing place to ease the anxious mind, and a container for reflection and creative problem-solving. As you walk, your mind quiets, breath slows, time stretches out, insights or new energy or peace emerges. The intentional activity of following a labyrinth path gives an opportunity for a heart-to heart talk with your body and with your spirit.

This is the description I wrote this morning for a labyrinth workshop I'll be facilitating for the Madison Gilda's Club in July. Gilda's Club is an organization that provides support and services for those touched by cancer. I've facilitated many labyrinth experiences over the years and walked labyrinths many times in a variety of locations, and each experience reminds me that all meaningful spiritual work begins with coming back to the body and becoming grounded. Walking a labyrinth is an incarnational experience.

One aspect of incarnation or embodiment is meeting God, the Ground of Being, in myself and in my experience. I bring myself and my experience to a labyrinth, a being full of questions and fears and hopes. I am on a quest to get to the center and the clarity I hope I will find there. The questions vary, but are always some form of "What's next?" "When?" "Where?" "Who?" and I confess, "Why?" Now the labyrinth is not a Ouija board, but in the intentional slowing down, feeling each step, becoming aware of where I am on the path, allowing myself to settle into the pilgrimage, I open to the wisdom I know is within. The gifts from such times have included the permission to rest, the recognition of my steadfastness, the opening to uncertainty, and the shadow and light of ambiguity. Sometimes there has been a "go forth," and I have known just what I need to do. Other times I have felt myself breathe a bit more steadily and that has been enough for that moment.

I have sat on the sidelines, my hands on my knees, palms up, holding the space for all who walk. I have watched tears form. I have seen steps falter and the steadiness return. I have seen pain in tight shoulders relax. I have seen light descend and wrap itself where there had been darkness. I have seen rejoicing and embracing. I have not known what has been in the hearts of those on the path, but I recognize God in them, as I hope they have known God in my presence.

The labyrinth is a spiritual tool I have turned to often over the years, for even if I have left the labyrinth not feeling any change, any movement, I know the sacred has been at work within me and around me and I have taken steps to become more of who I was created to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment