The following essay that I wrote was published by Underwired Magazine www.uwmag.com in December 2006:
Is it possible that, despite my attempts to mature into a directed, self-aware woman, I could inadvertently choose not to walk my authentic path? Could I behave just as irresponsibly as Anderson’s ill-fated young mermaid and ransom my own True voice?
The labyrinth quietly whispers "Yes" as it beckons me closer to listen to its ancient wisdom. Gradually, I am learning to trust its gentle, winding path even though it has led me in some curious directions these past years. Still, it has never failed to lead me to its Center or to my own. Its call to me simply is to walk by faith and not by sight. My challenge is to do just that.
I first began walking Louisville-area labyrinths five years ago. The leader of our church’s spiritual formation group implemented a plan to set up a canvas labyrinth in our gymnasium once a month for open community walks. A labyrinth is a circular structure about 40 feet in diameter with one circuitous path that leads from the outside to the center. Unlike a maze which has dead ends, tricks and intersecting paths, a labyrinth’s singular path always leads the walker to its center and back out again.
The labyrinth invites us to move at our body’s natural pace as we follow its path. We are encouraged to view what happens during the walk as a metaphor for life. Each step moves us through cycles of releasing, receiving and finally returning back to the entrance. There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Each experience is unique.
The type of labyrinth I was introduced to at St. Paul United Methodist Church which has now become one of my favorite spiritual tools is the medieval eleven-circuit labyrinth. It is modeled after the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral which was installed in France in the early 1200's. The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress explains the fascinating history of this and other labyrinths in her book, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool. Dr. Artress is the President and Founder of the non-profit organization Veriditas, the Voice of the Labyrinth Movement.
Through an unlikely series of events, the labyrinth connected me with Dr. Artress in a way I never would have believed possible. Now, however, I recognize that challenging my beliefs is the very way of the labyrinth in my life.
I had visited Grace Cathedral in San Francisco back in 2002 while on vacation. The idea of the labyrinth was brand new to me then but I was intrigued enough to walk both the indoor and the outdoor labyrinths with my family. At the time, I didn’t know that Grace Cathedral was where Dr. Artress served as Canon for Special Ministries. Then, the following year, there just "happened" to be an outdoor labyrinth near our friend’s home in Arizona where we were visiting. By then, I had been walking the several Louisville labyrinths more regularly and feeling a connection that was appealing yet difficult to explain to others.
Shortly after moving to South Florida in 2004, I found an outdoor stone labyrinth just minutes from our son’s new school. A few weeks later my husband called from where he was staying on a local business retreat in Del Ray Beach to tell me excitedly that the retreat center had two labyrinths on site. Even more amazing was the fact that Dr. Artress was actually coming to the Duncan Center to do a rare regional training workshop for new labyrinth facilitators through Veriditas!
Though the synchronicity was undeniable, I began to listen to the negative voices of my intellect that told me I was not qualified to share the labyrinth with others. After all, my degree was that of a physical therapist and not a spiritual director. Sure, walking the labyrinth had begun to free the long-buried creative side of myself. Poetry was flowing from me faster than I could write it down but sharing the labyrinth with others? That just didn’t make sense...
Thankfully, I continued to walk the labyrinth while I wrestled with these voices until, finally, I just filled out the application and sent it off before I could change my mind. The resulting four days I spent training with this remarkable woman and the rest of our group were among the most rewarding days of my life.
So, what I’d like to say in my own voice with the help of the labyrinth, is that sometimes you just have to take life on faith -only faith- because faith is taking what can’t be proven and believing it anyway (just because you do). Faith is beyond believing. Faith is knowing, despite all the voices both external and internal, that the impossible is possible. Faith transcends the realm of reality and transports us to the kingdom of possibility. It is there that we may find the very heart of our dreaming.
There is no wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Everyone is invited...
(For more information on labyrinths, please visit http://www.veriditas.org/. A World Wide Labyrinth Locator is available at the website to assist you with finding labyrinths in your area. Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice and The Sacred Path Companion: A Guide to Walking the Labyrinth to Heal and Transform both written by Lauren Artress are published by Penguin Books, LTD).
Copyright 2008, Robin Bradley Hansel
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