Mindfulness In Motion: Discovering Lessons Through Labyrinth Walking
Sunshine greets me as I enter the retreat center grounds. Befuddled birds tweet their spring songs, confused by the warm autumn day. Kids at the adjacent playground squeal and chase without jackets slowing their pace. I join their excitement. It’s an unseasonable day, and winter is rapidly approaching.
On the back end of the property, I find the perfectly arranged, circular stone path. It resides in an open field next to the woods. It’s a peaceful spot, tucked away from highways and shopping malls. It’s prayerful. Meditative. Today I needed the break from my overflowing calendar. A nearby errand may have brought me to the neighborhood, but my heart beckoned me to the labyrinth.
“Slow down,” it said. “Take a moment. Just be.”
I’m learning to listen to that wise inner voice.
A labyrinth is a circular path arranged in a precise, maze-like formation. It’s meant to be walked contemplatively. The meandering path takes you to a center, where you can pause for prayer or intention, then follows in reverse to walk out. Although the origins are unknown, many can be found in the paving stones of cathedrals dating from the middle ages.
I was first introduced to the labyrinth in my early twenties when a work friend invited me to her home. She and her husband built one amongst the beautiful landscape of their backyard. It felt strange and mystical to me, anachronistic in her suburban neighborhood. Yet my pace slowed as I walked the circling path. I became mindful of every step. It felt calming and nourishing.
Over time, I’ve learned when walked with prayerful intention, something happens: a solution is discovered or a truth is revealed.
On this day, I step barefoot onto the first cool stone, breathe slowly, and begin. When my thoughts wander toward my to-do list, I remind myself to stay present. Mindful, not mind full.
The autumn sun sits low on the horizon. Tall pines shadow the farthest side. I notice it’s colder there. Darker too. My pace quickens through the shadowy sections. Who wants to be slow and contemplative where it feels cold and dark? I want to return to the sunny side.
At the labyrinth’s center, I pause to feel the sun warming my face. Then the lesson hits me.
Every journey has light and dark.
Ah-ha. That’s true.
My heart echoes the famous verse, “To everything there is a season….A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to cry, a time to laugh; a time to tear apart, and a time to sew together.” Yes, I think, every journey has light and dark.
Slowly I begin my walk back out of the labyrinth. I try to keep my pace even in the shadows and the sunshine, attempting to appreciate both. Afterall, it’s human nature to desire the sunny side of everything. Find the answer. Solve the problem. Move on. Our culture encourages us to race through difficult times. While staying mired in darkness can be unhealthy, so can believing we must rush ahead, never fully investigating what is there.
How will I understand the lessons if I rush ahead? Can I walk just as mindfully in shadowy parts of my journey? How about you?
To everything there is a season. As our daylight diminishes bit by bit toward solstice, I hold vigil, knowing there is room in my heart for lessons from both light and dark.
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