Dear Shepherd of Valley Friends and Family,
In her book Walking the Sacred Path author Lauren Artress writes, “All great world religions contain teachings that articulate the journey of the spiritual seeker; the path one must walk to grow in compassion and to respond in the world with clarity and wisdom. In essence the task is to grow the ‘substance of the soul.’”
This is just as true for Christians as any other faith traditions. Those of us who follow Jesus are called to find some form of way of opening ourselves to the kingdom of God, the love of God, which is within us. To that end I want to encourage you to take the opportunity to try using our Labyrinth this summer. The labyrinth is a form of walking meditation that allows you to empty your mind of all the overwhelming busyness that is so much a part of our daily lives and be available to that still small voice deep within our hearts that is connected to the love of God. When we find ways to make that sacred connection we can find our lives filled with more contentment, hopefulness and generosity.
Since we have installed the labyrinth several folks have shared how special and satisfying the experience is. I recently had the opportunity to run a labyrinth workshop with our boy scouts, many of whom are not church goers. I was delighted by their responses to the experience. They went in like puppies, wound up, silly and bumbling. They came out quiet and centered. It was truly remarkable to hear them say things like “I feel peaceful” “It was holy” “I feel empty.”
One boy said, “My mind was quiet and it’s never quiet.” Then they asked if they could do it again! When they started into the labyrinth I guided them when to go in, but as they continued on the younger boys began to clump together. They all ended up in the center as a big clutch of boys. At first they looked around in confusion as to what to do next.
Finally one of the boys stepped out on the path and took a couple of steps. When he looked back the others were still in the center so he returned to them. After the walk I asked him, “I saw you start to lead the others out but then you turned back. Why did you turn back?” He told me that he thought about leading them but when they didn’t go he thought he was doing something wrong and went back. He said, “Sometimes I want to take the lead but I worry about what other people will think.” This gave us an opportunity to talk about what it means to have the courage to be a leader. This is an example of how, so often, our labyrinth experience can be a metaphor to bring unconscious truths into our consciousness so that we might grow as spiritual beings.
It’s important to note that even people with mobility issues can have a labyrinth mediation experience. Feel free to ask me if you don’t feel you can walk it but want the chance to participate.
For now I want to give you some guidance so that you can walk whenever you want. Also if you would like to make an appointment with me I would be glad to guide you in a walk. Here are some simple guidelines for doing a labyrinth meditation on your own.
Before you begin it is important to remember that a labyrinth is not a maze. A maze has false openings and dead ends. You have to stay mentally alert and strategize how to get out. A labyrinth has a clear path in and out. This allows your mind to be at peace and walk without worrying about which way to go. You can suspend your thoughts and just be.
Begin by standing at the opening of the labyrinth taking some clearing breaths. As you begin to walk, setting a pace that feels comfortable, allow yourself to empty your mind, releasing all the things that are occupying your thoughts. For many this is not an easy task. Our minds move rapidly from one preoccupation to another. The Buddhists call this “monkey mind.” Don’t get frustrated if this happens. Focus on your breath and just
let the thoughts flow through and out like passing clouds. Follow the path towards the center releasing, releasing, releasing the busyness of your mind.
When you get to the center you might want to pause, breathing deeply. Receive the peace offered at the center of your soul. Receive the loving grace that God is always offering you. Receive any insights that your inner voice, the voice that connects you to God, has to offer. At the very least receive the peace that comes when we can let go of the past, suspend worries of the future and be fully in the present.
When you are ready you may step out of the center. As you return back to the world outside the sacred space of the labyrinth, allow the peaceful centering experience to become part of you. Breathe deeply knowing that you are perfectly created by God and perfectly loved.
Many people like to take time to sit and journal about their experience. Remember that sometimes experiences on the walk can be metaphors for something we need to understand about ourselves. Very often insights can come to us even days after we actually do the walking meditation.
I am so excited for you to have this amazing experience of taking a sacred walk with God. I hope you will not miss the opportunity. “The Labyrinth introduces us to the idea of a wide and gracious path. It redefines the journey to God: from a vertical perspective that goes up from earth to heaven, to a horizontal perspective in which we are all walking the path together. The vertical path has gotten mired down in perfectionist associations, whereas the horizontal path communicates that we are all in this together.” (Artress, pg. 44).
May you have a wonderful summer and may you live fully and love wastefully!