I recently created a seven-circuit labyrinth in my backyard.
Since I first walked the 11-circuit labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in 1993, I have been drawn to it — especially the experience of quieting my monkey mind and the peaceful silence in my heart. As Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, said, “Silence is the language of God. All else is bad translation.”
A labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool that can be traced back 3,500 years, but has been forgotten for some 350 years. There are many known labyrinths in different cultures and religious traditions.
One known labyrinth is on the floor of the 13th century Chartres Cathedral in France. Used as a pathway of prayer, it afforded medieval pilgrims the chance to make a condensed version of the sacred journey to the holy city of Jerusalem.
Labyrinth is a sacred geometry with one path to enter and exit. Unlike a maze, it has no tricks to it nor dead ends. Upon entering, it becomes a metaphor for our journey through life, sending us to the center and back out again on the same path.
My labyrinth helps me to become present and connected to my day, my life as it unfolds
Even on a day with my mind-chatter, I always feel that peace, that quiet presence of God once I reach the center. I always look forward to this moment. With this labyrinth in my backyard, I begin and end the day praising and thanking God for his love, for the beautiful sunrise and sunset — for everything!
Speaking of metaphor, the labyrinth has shown me myself and how I do things my way.
When I created it, I thought that I could just eyeball it because, after all, I was only doing a seven-circuit labyrinth and not an 11. But what do I know? After almost a month, I still could not figure it out. Then one morning, I decided to follow the sacred geometry and, voilá, I did it in less than an hour! I laughed out loud; the labyrinth showed me my stubbornness and I realized how this has caused me trouble and suffering.
My friends who have walked a labyrinth have shared how they recalled the blessings in their lives as they walked, and how they gave praises and thanks to God when they reached the center.
One person shared how she felt her usual fearful self as she entered the path, then felt calmer as she came closer to the center, finding peace and assurance of God’s love and protection. Another told how she found her friendly, helpful self when she helped people walk the path. One woman who had quite a day at work then took time to walk the labyrinth. As she stepped along the path, she felt light and easy on her feet, even humming to herself. After the walk, she was surprised that her mind was clear of her preoccupations.
“Why of course,” I said to her, my voice resonating with delight, “you are on a sacred path!”
Everyone may not have a labyrinth nearby, or in their yard like me, but do you feel God present and alive as you walk your path? Does your path have a heart?
Having a daily spiritual practice that leads you to the heart of God makes all the difference in the world.
Onie Mision-Reed is a board-certified chaplain by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and a certified spiritual director. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.