I’d heard about the benefits of using a labyrinth for the purpose of meditations but, until his morning, hadn’t ever experienced using one for myself. Even the thought of using a labyrinth felt daunting; how fast/slow do I do this? How do I use it effectively in order to use it as a meditation? To be honest, I felt a little silly; there I was at 7am in the quiet of the gardens. The sun was already warm & cast its rays on part of the labyrinth. Thank goodness it was early still; less likelihood of anyone seeing me!
I sat on the stone bench near the labyrinth & decided to Google ‘meditations whilst walking a labyrinth’; I figured that by doing this I might gain some benefit from this experience:
As I move inward, what keeps me from…
…God’s love & care & way for my life.
On my way to the centre, breathe deeply, in…&…out.
Slow down & go to the pace MY body wants to go.
Listen for God.
Let go of everything else. It will be alright.
I read this through. It felt appropriate for me & so I kicked off my sandals & stopped at the entry of the labyrinth; I had no expectations – vulnerability to feeling silly almost resulted in me giving in to the thought of simply sitting in the warmth of the sun to meditate instead. But, I needed to do this…
I took my first few steps into the entry of the labyrinth…as soon as my feet began to carry me on this ‘inward ‘journey I regretted the decision to do this barefoot! The gravel beneath my feet was painful; at times excruciating as I trod over sharp, uneven pebbles. The soles of my feet screamed at me in pain & discomfort. I thought about darting over to put my sandals back on but that would defeat the point of walking the pathways of the labyrinth barefoot; to feel the ground, to partake wholly in the experience…I persevered.
As I concentrated on where I placed each foot I realised how in noticing the pain I was thrown off balance & felt clumsy in the way I moved; I was trying to increase my pace so that I could complete this ordeal as soon as possible. How apt I thought, in life that’s just what I do. When my life becomes burdensome through the demands of earning a living, my work or family I power ahead, full-steam. In the process though the things that are important to me in life get thrown out of balance as the demands on me take hold.
Despite the pain & discomfort of walking barefoot, I focused on my breath…long, slow, rhythmic breaths. My body felt centered, my pace slowed & in doing so I felt lighter footed…the discomfort & pain lessened slightly. I began to notice more because I’d slowed my pace…the flatness of pebbles where others had trodden …the small patches of grass that, through sheer determination had pushed their way through the hard ground & gravel thus providing my feet with temporary moments of relief on my journey. I had slowed my pace & now noticed more…it’s what had been missing in my life over the course of the past few months.
I noticed too the pleasure I felt when the sun’s rays draped their warmth around me. Walking in the patches of sun detracted from the pain & discomfort I felt treading barefoot probably because I preferred the sensation of something pleasant as opposed to uncomfortable…who wouldn’t! How many times in life had I been blessed with family & friends around me who, through the warmth of their love & friendship lessened the intensity of the pain & discomfort that life sometimes throws in our way?
For forty minutes I walked the labyrinth; in towards the centre & then retracing my steps to exit the pathway that had unfolded before me. The journey back was less fraught with thought…I began the outward journey far more settled; far less governed by concerns about how a meditative labyrinth walk should be completed & far more peaceful about allowing myself to give myself fully to being on retreat.
Looking back, my initial resistance to experiencing walking the labyrinth fell away once I trusted myself to the experience. The pathways of this sacred space, a tradition found in all religions around the world, took me towards my centre…allowed me to be in touch with me…& led me gently back.