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Walking in Circles

I found myself with an unexpected opportunity to walk a labyrinth today. I’ve been to NaCoMe before, yet somehow I had missed the labyrinth.

Dappled in light and shadows, the circular path is marked by rocks and stones of all sizes. It is a 12-circuit path that brings walkers into the middle and out again. Walking a labyrinth is a prayer practice that was adopted by some Christians in the Middle Ages who could not afford either time or energy to make a sacred pilgrimage to Jerusalem or other far away holy sights.

A labyrinth can be walked and experienced in three phases. On the walk in to the center you can let go of all that crowds the mind and heart. Leave it behind and focus your attention on breath and walking and being present to the moment. Upon reaching the middle of the labyrinth, simply rest in the presence of all that is, in the sacred presence of the time and place, in the feeling of having released all that you carry. After resting at the center, you are called out again. In this third phase of the practice, you can try to sense the calling and gifts that you take with you from the experience.

I wrote the following passage several years ago as a part of a Holy Week Reflection guide for walking a labyrinth. It was published by Seeds of Hope Publishers, which produces worship and educational resources for those working to overcome poverty and hunger. Here is what I said:

The labyrinth looks like a maze, a series of tricky turns and passages. In reality there is only one way in and out. It is deceptively simple. As you walk it today, put your mind and heart in touch with the mysteries of life and faith . . . the wonder of birth  . . . the inscrutability of death . . . the unexpected twists and turns of your path. Ponder the paradox of accepting death in order to live life to its fullest . . . the way suffering and trouble are sometimes a path to joy and meaning . .  .  how life is a strange mixture of light and shadow.

God of mystery, paradox and shadowy light, teach us to walk in your ways and embrace the fullness of life.