Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Labyrinth at Saint John's

As I explored the interior of Saint John's Episcopal Cathedral, I discovered a replica of the famous labyrinth at Chatres Cathedral in France, printed on a giant canvas. The idea of walking a labyrinth intrigued me some years ago, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try it.

A table was set up near the labyrinth with a paper describing the process. It reads:

"The Labyrinth is an archtype, a divine imprint found in many spiritual traditions, in various forms around the world...

"There is no 'right way'to walk a labyrinth. The labyrinth has only one path so there are not tricks to it and no dead ends. It is not a maze, but a unicursal path that winds throughout. You have only to enter and follow the path. It becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives; it touches our sorrows and releases our joys. So walk with an open mind and an open heart. The labyrinth is non-doctrinaire, non-judging, and non-competitive. Persons are at DIFFERENT places on the path, not better or worse, right or wrong. They are all on the SAME path journeying toward the ONE! This labyrinth is very ancient, very traditional, and very Christian! It is also very Jewish (Kabbala - Tree of Life), Buddhist (Walking Meditation), Hindu (Mandala), Native American (Hopi Medicine Wheel); IT IS UNIVERSAL!"

The pamphlet then describes three stages of walking the Labyrinth; first comes a process of "shedding," or in other words, as the participant follows the path and walks toward the center of the Labyrinth, he or she releases all the mundane cares of life and clears the mind. The second stage is called "illumination," which occurs when the participant reaches the center of the Labyrinth. At this stage, the person enters a deep state of meditation and prayer. The third and final stage occurs as the individual leaves the labyrinth by following the same path used to enter. This stage is called "union" and is a time of connecting with the Higher Power.

My personal experience of walking the Labyrinth was indeed quite spiritual. I was surpised by how long it actually took to follow the winding path toward the center, and then reminded how impatient I can be in my day to day life. As I let go if my impatience, I reflected on how God provides for me and sustains me in all I do. When I reached "illumination," I literally felt the presence of God washing over my entire body. I felt a cool, tingling sensation start at the crown of my head and wash over my body like flowing water. I left the center more quickly than I entered, and felt new resolve in my life goals and endeavors. Then as I took the final step out of the Labyrinth, the church organ started playing the most beautiful music. The timing was so amazing I laughed out loud.

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