December 26, 2013

Walking the Labyrinth: An Imaginary Vantage Point

By Margaret Rappaport

To become deeply involved in the spiritual practice of walking the labyrinth is a simple matter for people. The desire to walk comes first. Then predictably we experience ourselves as figures on the pathways. Then we recognize others, real or imagined who may be walking with us. Slowly as we walk over and over for a period of time we go beyond the limits of our personal outlook. We begin to perceive everything as a wonderful whole. We identify with as many people as possible. We seek and search for an imaginary point from which we can expand our vision as much as possible. The vistas of human spiritual life spontaneously present themselves.

These steps along the path into and out of the labyrinth don’t happen according to a predetermined schedule. Walks may number in the hundreds before a sense of meaningfulness emerges. Years may go by before time changes our usual outlook. Transformation won’t be hurried and it can’t be faked. Walking the labyrinth doesn’t leave room for posturing or pretending. Spiritual practice demands a space and time of its own.

As we practice, entering the center of the labyrinth encourages us to take the time we need to exercise our imaginations. What are our sensations? What do we perceive? What is happening to us in this particular surrounding? What do we see and hear? What in our thoughts and feelings is clarified? Is walking really a prayer?

Holy Scripture tells us many stories of the kind of expansion of spirit that occurs when human beings strive to encounter God. The stories recount that God is also searching for us. These experiences occur in a variety of settings, although the time and place is always made sacred. Perhaps the Labyrinth can be viewed as a space that humans and God have agreed upon as having the potential to be sacred. The labyrinth looks and feels unique, as it has for centuries. In churches, especially it shines forth as poetical, artistic and it draws people forward on to its pathways, into its center. It’s not an impossible idea to think of it as an imaginary vantage point where human spirit meets divine glory, is it?