Walking the Labyrinth

This past Friday I was locked in at the Unitarian Universalist church as part of the Coming of Age program that brought adult mentors (me being one) together with their high school youth to be together for an all-night spiritual and communal experience. I have to say it was unforgettable.

We ate dinner together and then moved on into different workshops. The youth I’m mentoring has similar tastes to mine so we had no trouble choosing our workshops: spiritual journaling, then mandala making. Both truly wonderful experiences, but the highlight of my night was walking the labyrinth.

The intent was for mentor and mentee to walk the labyrinth together yet alone. By circumstance, my youth and I made our journey late at night. While everyone else was upstairs getting ready to sleep, we found ourselves alone in the sanctuary. Rain drummed the ceiling of our church and the Earth outside–a rhythmic noise that helped still my mind and slow my pace.

There are 3 parts to the labyrinth: The journey toward the center, the releasing; the time you spend in the center, the receiving; and the journey back to realm outside the labyrinth, the returning.  

I found the labyrinth practice to be soothing and centering. From the beginning of the journey, it gave me comfort to let go and walk the path clearly defined–heading toward a safe destination. It allowed my mind freedom to deeply explore what my intentions could be. 

I didn’t discover what my intentions were until I reached the center and meditated. My mentee arrived there shortly after I did and we sat together in silence. Sacred. As I breathed slowly and deeply to the thrum of heavy rain, I formed my intentions. 1.  Narrow my focus, with love, to the things always present in my heart–family and friends; making music; writing; doing good. 2. Live by the one law of love 3. Do no harm. 

The last part of the journey was the returning–to slowly rise from the center and make my way back to the everyday pace of life. I did this slowly, purposefully holding my intentions like precious gems in my heart and in my folded hands. 

As I walked, I passed the occasional stain on the carpet: some small, some wicked large ones too (what makes that sort of stain in a church sanctuary?). They became symbols of imperfection in the sublime–the imperfections that make whole the sublime.

I reached the end, at peace with my intentions and the release of all I can’t carry with me. I poured a cup of tea and sat, breathing and writing and sipping in turn until I felt ready to reintegrate with the larger world.

What is the relationship between this sacred experience and the regular rhythm of my life? I feel my daily mind often is racing to prepare for the next scheduled commitment. I have to figure out each step along the path, and it’s a complicated dance that includes my partner and 2 young daughters. The majority of the time, I am not intentional or deep with my thoughts like I was during the walk. It’s clear that I need this ritual to help me free my mind to plunge deeper and be more aware of the way of thinking that moves me forward–toward something sublime. And so the journey is sublime too. Stains and all.

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