April 24, 2014

Engaging the Practice of Walking the Labyrinth

By Margaret Rappaport

After much experience facilitating labyrinth walks, I have a mantra that guides my interactions with people: engagement is caught not taught! I can’t teach it, only model it. I can’t motivate it, only encourage it. People come to walk the labyrinth with some inclination or curiosity but the level of engagement in the walk varies greatly.

With a reassuring, warm welcome and equipped with my own eagerness and high level of engagement I offer people the simple opportunity to know the walk. As is true of myself, no one knows everything about the experience. Through practice however, what isn’t known can slowly be understood and result in a deep personal understanding. I urge people to recognize that what you don’t know today, you might feel or know the next time. Engagement is a process. It demands attention, intention and above all practice.

There are at least two aspects of engagement that are part of the labyrinth experience. Firstly, the individual determines his or her level of engagement during the walk and subsequent walks. The context in which engagement happens is a unique combination of interior and external events. Since the ritual is focused on walking, not talking, a person has the freedom to proceed according to what he or she desires. Just as the pace of the walk is personal, the speed and depth of engagement is idiosyncratic.

Secondly, engaging others on a walk may be included or excluded as useful and important parts of people’s experience. Some walks may be more communal while at other times the sense of companionship may be more abstract. Enjoying a variety of different types of walks is probably the best advice I have for individuals and groups. Successful engagement in the practice of walking the labyrinth equals satisfaction either way, anyway.

Margaret Rappaport