A Twisting Path

The other day, my lunchtime walk led me to a part of town unfamiliar to me. Strolling along Left Hand Creek in Longmont, I passed a churchyard situated on the other side of the road. Since my mind was focused on the path directly in front of me, I didn't notice what the churchyard held until my return trip.  On my way back, though, I stopped and stared at the open lot: a full-sized labyrinth. 

Photo of Chartres-style Labyrinth by Nancy McClure (creative commons license)
I had never seen a walking-sized labyrinth in person before. Large stones defined the twisting path toward the center while crushed limestone gravel formed its surface. I was due back in the office soon but the pull of the labyrinth was too strong to resist. I crossed the street and stepped into the churchyard. 
A labyrinth isn't a maze. It holds no dead-ends to frustrate the walker and it's impossible to get lost. One very twisty path leads into the center and one path meanders back out. You simply walk, letting the path guide you back and forth. All you need to do is to place one foot in front of the other. 

I paused at the entrance. Should I go in? Was there time?  

The winding path called. I entered. 

My first steps were quick and sure but I soon changed the rhythm of my walking. My steps slowed, and with them, my mind quieted. At first it seemed the path led me directly to my destination in the center, but soon the way twisted and I found myself heading in a completely different direction.  
The labyrinth was a metaphor for my life. 

At one point, my mind wanted to take over and tried to scan several turns ahead to "figure it out." But I noticed that if I tried to anticipate where the path led my mind became confused and I started to feel a little dizzy. While I could see the center, my brain couldn't get a clear idea of how I would get there given the apparent confusion of the path ahead. Trying to anticipate the twists and turns got in the way of simply focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I found that the best way for me to proceed was to simply focus on where I was right now and maybe a few steps just ahead of me, then I could let my mind relax and trust that the path would lead me to the center, my destination. 

Walking the labyrinth isn't exactly straightforward, at least from the point of view of our logical brains. My mind thought I would neatly finish one quadrant before moving on to the next, but that doesn't happen in a labyrinth. My steps led me into the first quadrant, then I found myself leaving before finishing it, proceeding to the next quadrant for a bit then back to the first. From there, I moved on to the third. 
In a way, walking this labyrinth reminded me of life on a spiritual path: twists and turns were normal. The path often led me five steps forward, two back, then three ahead again followed by four in a direction I didn't expect 

Finally, my feet stepped into the center and I stopped, realizing that what I thought was my destination was actually just a wide spot in the road. The center simply gave me time and space to pause and reflect before continuing on...back out. 

I've heard from others that they have different insights each time they walk the labyrinth, that it's often best to simply go in with a quiet mind and let the insights come. 

Have you walked a labyrinth? Did you experience anything spiritual or gain any insights? 

Posted by Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light ( http://NancyRynes.com )

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015

More information on the labyrinth in Longmont, Colorado: