The labyrinth

January 19, 2012

Authenticity, Experience

No, this isn’t a metaphor. I actually walked a labyrinth yesterday.

It’s not what you think, or at least it’s not what I thought. It is not a maze. You are not lost, surrounded by high walls conjuring images of the beastly Minotaur on your tail. A labyrinth is a circular pattern of pathways laid out on the ground that guides you on a walk to the center and back out again.

I’ve wanted to try it since I read Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind about opening up our right brains. Labyrinths are surprisingly common in churches, schools and hospitals. I found one near me via www.labyrinthlocator.com. (Yes, that exists.)

After arriving at the Methodist church, I walked to their outdoor, open-to-the-public labyrinth in a side garden facing a parking lot. I hesitated. There was a little too much bustle in the parking area and the labyrinth itself, formed of gravel corralled by painted metal edging, appeared untended and unused. But, I thought: I’m here. I’m doing it.

When I stepped onto the starting point, I felt conspicuous. (Hey everybody, there’s someone walking that messy path in the garden. Doesn’t she know we don’t actually use that thing? What is that thing anyway?) But after a few steps, I forgot all about those people who didn’t actually exist and I was in the moment.

The pathway is about a foot wide, winding with hairpin turns that appear at odd intervals so you can’t anticipate the pattern and get into a rhythm. I guess that’s the point: you must stay focused on the path, looking down and taking small, careful steps.

Distractions effortlessly diminished. I stopped hearing the children playing and the cars whizzing. That bossy, judgmental voice in my head shut up, too.

My mind became quiet and focused. Continuing step by step, I had a feeling like I didn’t want it to end. I felt peaceful. My whole body felt calm and quiet, like every process had slowed to a comfortable pace. Pausing briefly in the center space, I followed the same path back out.

When I finished and stepped off the path, my gut said: Let’s do it again! But I did not, deciding that as a first-timer I should keep it simple and follow tradition.

Here is my conclusion: It’s a perfect meditation for people who don’t meditate. Meditation can be nebulous and uncomfortable: how do I start, where do I sit, what do I think about, how long, how do I know when to stop… The labyrinth removes all these worries. Just walk along the path – the labyrinth takes care of the rest.

You will get 20-30 minutes of calm and focus.

I don’t know the long-term benefits of labyrinth-walking on one’s creativity. But I am convinced that trying new things and having new experiences helps us find and explore new creative paths. Well, lookie there – a metaphor was in there after all.

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2 Comments on “The labyrinth”

  1. Debbie Says:

    There’s one a few miles from our house. I’ll muster the courage to get on it. I can’t sit still to save my life. Alternative mindfulness! Love your posts, Gretchen.

    Reply

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