The simple act of walking the pathway of the labyrinth has remarkable consequences. When you take the initiative and persist in regularly scheduled follow-up walks, the action results in new momentum for your life. This newly acquired attitude quickly begins to foster perspectives and goals that were not even on the horizon. Outlooks are expanded. Outcomes are facilitated. In other words, you become a new you.
People who say it cannot happen should recognize those who have done it and are doing it!
There was a woman, for example, who long ago gave up on persistent weight gain. As her body mass increased her health deteriorated. Still she wasn’t motivated to get control of the issues that were contributing to her obvious problem. Once she began to acquire the discipline of walking the labyrinth, the issues became more apparent. Then she felt on the brink of addressing some of them. Persevering, she sought both spiritual and practical advice. Finally she made plans for changing her way of living. She kept walking until she succeeded.
There was a man whose self-imposed loneliness caused him to try walking the labyrinth. The first few attempts made him feel uncomfortable but he valiantly kept coming to the labyrinth at his church. Most of his walks were solitary, so he wasn’t walking for company. He developed a habit of talking to God on his walks. Gradually, he was able to examine some of the unexamined feelings he had stored inside and had left un-communicated for years. Finally he joined a men’s coffee club in his town. A few friends and a predictable social calendar raised his confidence but he is still walking the labyrinth. He has acknowledged that he may be a spiritual seeker of sorts.
Well, if any and all of us are sincere seekers, walking the labyrinth is a simple action that provides a gateway to growth and change and vision.
“The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose of life is to give it away,” said Picasso. I often think of his remark when I stand at the edge of the labyrinth before stepping into a walk. The labyrinthine design draws me to recall Picasso’s paintings at certain periods of his work. Looking at these paintings has a similar effect on my thoughts and feelings as walking the labyrinth affords.
Finding our gifts is not easy. We have to reflect on our possibilities and potentials. We have to practice our choices. We have to grow into our excellence. Finding our gifts and their meanings is a task for us as individuals as well as a communal effort. No one finds his or her gift alone. The world in which we live helps to form our self awareness and our self appraisal. We succeed in a context, whether in spite of it or because of it.
Sometimes, as we go about living and working our gifts come naturally to us, or so it seems. Sometimes something stops us in our tracks and we have to take the time we need to consider our gifts. Walking the labyrinth provides an opportunity for discerning and for envisioning our gifts. The experience of walking forward to the center and returning clarifies the direction of our lives, its meaning and purpose when we seek it.
Finding, however, is not keeping. That brings up the matter of giving our gifts away. Walking the pathway of the labyrinth we may dare to consider “if” and “how” we are to share them. Gifts are not important when they are hoarded. Gifts are of no benefit if they are scattered. Our gifts have a purpose to serve when they are given in gratitude to others whether in formal or informal ways. Walking the labyrinth provides encouragement for finding and giving.
Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator
“When the mind, divided and torn, is drawn into so many and such weighty matters, where can it return to itself, so as to recollect itself…?” Pope Gregory the Great was guiding us to prayer in sacred spaces by acknowledging our desperation. He was pointing us to our inner spirit of serenity that comes as a gift from God and is always on offer to us. Only our choice to access it is limited, never the potential to experience it.
Walking the labyrinth encourages us to bravely link our human desperation and our God given sense of serenity. Attaching ourselves to God’s presence and promise in prayerful contemplation becomes an active, heartfelt choice. As we retreat from specific daily cares into meditation on our walk, we encounter strengthening thoughts and feelings. Desperation may frankly be seen as an all too human “sickness” that comes as a result of emotions that have no ready spot in our life situation. Serenity may be recognized as courage, a cardinal virtue manifested by many others in times of peril. We may reflect on our heroic but limited capacities for human struggle. We may humbly enlist God’s power through the wisdom and revelation of Scripture.
Changes in our perspective are the experiences we seek in bringing our lives into the labyrinth. With God’s help we may be as startled as St Paul or as relieved as occasionally being glad we are alive. Change of any kind, however, may be counted as success. Recollection doesn’t result in all or none or sick or well, miserable or happy. More likely we experience more or less, better or worse. We only do what we can to handle something better, to suffer less. To gain the most from walking the labyrinth and gain it more quickly, we must have the heart and will to keep going forward in our lives, in conversation with God.
Margaret Rappaport Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator
You may have heard the labyrinth called a tool. I know I have used this idea to guide people in understanding the reasons we walk the labyrinth in a variety of settings. I’ve also suggested that the labyrinth is a metaphor. I have asked people to consider the labyrinth an imaginary and mystical space. I’ve told people that artists and gardeners claim the labyrinth as part of their work in the world. Obviously, the labyrinth can be seen in many different ways.
Today, I’d like to comment on what it means to use the name “tool” in the context of describing the labyrinth. I think the labyrinth is a “tool” because it it’s something that can be adapted at whatever level that might be appropriate for those who seek to benefit from it.
Walking the labyrinth can be an exercise in meandering relaxation. It can just as well facilitate concentration or aid clarification regarding some issue or problem. It affords contemplation time without interruption. It can be an attractive meeting place for purposeful activity.
In sacred settings the labyrinth can be used as a meditation tool that tunes prayer and more broadly spiritual growth. Walking the labyrinth clears the mind of the extraneous and the everyday matters as a broom, a mop or more efficiently a vacuum would do.
In secular settings walking the labyrinth focusses the mind like a camera or microscope. When I’ve asked groups to free-associate to thinking of the labyrinth as a tool to use for transforming their experience, they offer wrench, hammer, drill, screwdriver and other common mechanical tools. Often their imaginations take them in an electronics direction. The bottom line: the idea that the labyrinth can be useful is familiar to people.
Finally, I think seeing the labyrinth as a “tool” gives it a more every day appeal. The easier it is to feel comfortable walking the labyrinth, the more often people will seek out the benefits of doing it. Responding to the appeal and popularity and usefulness of labyrinths is bound to motivate people to include them among life’s best things. as they have proven to be over thousands of years.
Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator