Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Walking the Labyrinth

There is a labyrinth near the place where I drop off my daughter for orchestra practice every Saturday. I knew it existed, but had never visited it until a few weeks ago. It is a nice way to de-stress and get centered (pun not intended, but it is true in both instances). I have walked a few labyrinths in the past: the one at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco was the first one I experienced and that was many years ago.
Grace Cathedral Photo by Nancy McClure with CC Attribution 
I also visited one in Milwaukee that was indoors a couple of summers ago. That was a completely different experience with candles and multiple people using it at the same time. I think there may have even been music playing. I liked the feeling of being part of a group, yet still being alone in the space.

The first time I visited our local labyrinth was a warm sunny day. I didn't try to meditate or pray or anything. I just focused on being there in the moment to experience the feeling of the place. There was still greenery on the walls surrounding the labyrinth, flowers blooming and many plants crowded the corners of the courtyard. The labyrinth sits below street level so it feels very secluded and peaceful even though there are muffled sounds from the traffic. I loved that feeling of peace. There aren't so many times in my day when I give myself permission to just "be" without a task. I have time for thinking when I am running, but then my body is also quite occupied and I am very conscious of my movements and am making decisions often. With my feet on a prescribed path, my body and brain don't have to make decisions. I think that is what I liked the most. I was there with no time constraint so there was no question of how fast to go just at a comfortable pace - no question of which way to go either. There was time to feel the sun on my face, listen to the birds chirping, hear the ivy rustling against the brick wall, notice the plants courageously growing in the cracks between the bricks and settle into the moment. 

The second visit the weather was cooler and I had a companion - a black squirrel who kept following me around and chattering. Again, I had to periodically remind myself to stay in the moment and not think about other things, but it wasn't hard to stay right there. Once again, I felt at peace and had a relaxing time.

This past Saturday was challenging though. I had difficulty keeping my mind off of the many things that I need or want to do in the coming week. Afterward I thought that it might be a good idea to take along a journal and use one of the benches to sit and write down a list of things I need to do and thoughts that I am having before I begin. I guess I needed to following Grace Cathedral's instructions before starting. I didn't realize there are instructions for these things. There is always more to learn.

I look forward to experiencing the labyrinth through different seasons and different times of the day. If you haven't done it, I would highly recommend trying it at least once. If you wonder where to find a labyrinth, there is a directory to find one near you.

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