“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. ” ― John O’Donohue,
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
I’ve been doing a lot of labyrinth walking lately while working with women in early recovery. Each time I introduce the labyrinth as a mindful meditation tool, I remember my first experience with labyrinth walking – entering the labyrinth in a state of despair, with the intention to be open-minded, and leaving the labyrinth in a state of hope.
Hope was all I needed to find the willingness to move forward and to begin tackling all the hard work that was ahead of me. I’m amazed how much my perspective shifted that day. I found this very mysterious at the time but today I know that while simply being in the right place at the right time, I experienced the power of the labyrinth – an ancient symbol for the Divine Mother, the God within, the Goddess, and the Holy in all of creation. The winding and meandering path allowed me to relax and to let go. I felt a comforting energy engulf me, allowing me to tap into parts of myself that had always been closed off – or so it seemed.
Most people assume that labyrinths are mazes and the words are often interchanged but they are actually quite different. Labyrinths are unicursal, having only one well-defined path leading to the center and back out again. Mazes, on the other hand, have a choice of paths, dead ends, cul de sacs, and some with multiple entrances and exits. All of these choices create riddles, challenging our thinking minds and our logic. Some people love this kind of challenge and others, like me, find mazes very scary.
In describing these differences, the Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, labyrinth scholar and author of Walking a Sacred Path, Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, says, ” The unicursal path of the labyrinth is what differentiates it and sets it apart as a spiritual tool. The labyrinth does not engage our thinking minds. It invites our intuitive, pattern-seeking, symbolic mind to come forth. It presents us with only one, but profound choice. To enter a labyrinth is to choose to walk a spiritual path.”
A spiritual path was what had been lacking in my life before my first walk in 2007 and since then I’ve continued on this path, understanding that I am a spiritual being living a human existence.
As I invite the women I work with to enter the labyrinth, I recite a verse that I wrote which reflects my experience:
If you feel that a maze could be a metaphor for your life, imagine it as a labyrinth instead, with one path, no dead ends, only questioning curves. ALLOW the labyrinth to lead you deeper into your own truths. LISTEN in the twists and turns. LISTEN with openness and curiosity. LISTEN to the wisdom that is already within in you.
As 2021 draws to a close, give yourself the gift of a labyrinth walk. See what happens and where it leads. If you’d like to talk with me about your experience, I would love to hear from you. Peace be with you on your journey.