Call of the Labyrinth


For the past couple days, I have been preoccupied with thoughts about labyrinths. I awakened yesterday morning with the vision in my head of having a garden labyrinth next to my house. It could be the fact that our new home is only 2 miles from a cancer retreat center called Harmony Hill, a place that is no less than magical. I have been attending yoga up there once or twice a week.

Labyrinths have existed for more than 3,500 years. They have appeared in many cultures and geographies, from Europe to Asia to South America. They have been used for everything from ceremonial pathways to meditation rituals and spiritual symbolism. There are many variations in form. If you are interested in the history of labyrinths, the website Labyrinthos offers a wealth of information.

Harmony Hill has three labyrinths. Today, being sunny and in the mid-50’s, I decided to go on a walking meditation. I drove up the Hill, and it was deserted since no events or workshops were going on. I walked both labyrinths. The third one, their lavender labyrinth, has not been maintained so wasn’t really usable, for whatever reason. But the other two were in fine form.

The one I enjoyed the most was an 11 circuit labyrinth, maybe 45 feet in diameter, lined with pine needles and bark, with chalky white oyster shells forming the boundaries between the paths. A pine tree stood in the middle, surrounded by three little benches. People had left various adornments for the tree, like heart-shaped rocks and even a little wire sculpture with a note that offered free hand-made caps to anyone who wanted one. No caps remained, only a remnant of the kindness someone had shown the cancer victims.

As I walked this labyrinth on the way in toward the center, I thought how perfectly the meandering paths mirrored my spiritual journey. As I got closer and closer to the center (ie, my divine-ness), I became more relaxed and free of pain and worry. Just when I thought I was almost there, the path would take an unexpected detour. Labyrinths hold no choices…there is only one path, and you’re on it. So it is the right path. Give up the resistance and just go with it. Eventually you’ll get there.

I took note of how difficult it was for me to walk without thinking about what was coming up, how long before I would turn, how far was I from the end, where does the path go next, etc. For me, this reflects how easy it is to get caught up in the future and lose the Now. So I set aside my own need for control and refocused myself on the steps I was currently taking, the smells I was smelling, the sounds I was hearing, the feel of the pine needles under my shoes. Good practice for staying present, not missing one’s life by getting caught up in the past and the future.

I am pretty sure that there is a labyrinth in our future on our new little homestead. But for now, I will enjoy Harmony Hill and an occasional virtual labyrinth on my laptop. Vicki Keiser has a wonderful virtual labyrinth on her website, which is why I have added a link to her site to my Favorites.

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