I felt a sense of arrival
My friend Rob Hardy sent me Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice last week. I read it in three days. I’d never heard of taking a labyrinth walk and felt drawn to experience it after reading the book.
The labyrinth at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is lovely, made of grass and brick, and modeled on the one at Chartres Cathedral.
I stood at the labyrinth entry and prepared myself for a moment. I read the plaque. I looked around me, observing and feeling the beauty of nature around me. Before taking my first step, I asked Heaven to allow me to use this time to seek clarity about my life path – to help me understand what to do amidst two years of confusion and frustration.
Entering the labyrinth, I felt calm and breathed easy. Notes of songbirds came to my ears as the east-rising sun emerged through the trees sheltering the main entry to the Seminary. I heard so much bird song, although I could identify none of the birds by sight or chant. But I felt as if Nature called to me during my entire walk. I paused a couple of times, taking in deep breaths. I kept looking down at the clovers – again, I could not find a four leafed clover. I felt tightness in my left chest – not as the pressure of a coming heart attack, but almost as an attempt to halt my forward stepping. But I took a step, then two, and the sensation withered away.
My shoes became damp with the morning dew, then the bottoms of my jeans. On and on I walked, twisting and turning, simply following the path. One step. One step. One step. I kept going.
Nearing the center or rosette, I noted a sense of peace. I had entered the labyrinth open to any experience – from no feeling at all to a thunderbolt of revelation. What I actually felt wasn’t dramatic. I simply felt peace. Peace with the movement of my legs, peace with my increasingly waterlogged shoes and pants. Calm and peace, yet immersed in the path.
I came to the center. For the only time during the walk, I looked at my watch - more than 12 minutes had passed and I’d walked a quarter of a mile. I had arrived at the center. I felt a sense of arrival.
A subtle feeling washed gently over me. All would be well on this path. No matter the twists and turns or time elapsed – all would be well. I would come to the center, to the heart. I could stay there as long as I wanted, from a few seconds to all day. I could stay in the heart of things as long as I wanted.
I departed and re-entered the labyrinth, to retrace my steps and exit. Still I heard the birds calling from all around – every direction calling to me. Every step radiated a verdant glow – a nature of wonder. Step. Step. I still felt the peace of the walk inward. I felt all would be well on the walk outward. I had reached the heart but even after coming to the heart of things, twists and turns would unfold beneath my feet. I felt serene in the awareness that the path would always twist and turn – and it would be alright. I would be alright. My family would be alright.
Nature – even of this manicured sort – called from all around. The grass and clover sprung back as my feet lifted to take the next step. Mature trees stood variously around the labyrinth space. The sky and sun promised a swarthy day. The birds in their unbridled flight sang to me. Nature swelled, not distant or separate, but subsuming me in a unifying embrace.
I stepped out of the labyrinth. I turned to face it. Closing my eyes, I placed my hands together in prayer. I bowed in reverence to the labyrinth. I bowed again in gratitude. Then I held my hands aloft, feeling the energy of this place as a radio dish might listen for the meaningful mysterious echoes of the universe. I called in the beauty and wonder of this place, not for my greedy solitary use, but to feel it directly enshrouding me.
I opened my eyes. Then I turned, and without looking back, I silently slipped away.