I circled the church twice looking for parking, then got lost in its halls. When I finally made it to the entrance, I missed the beginning of the path, right in front of me. It was an inauspicious beginning. But Mike had said he thought I would chicken out, and I am just stubborn enough to prove him wrong. Which is surely why he said it.
When I took the first steps along the labyrinth, I realized immediately that you can’t look too far ahead, can’t anticipate the turn of the path. Instead you follow where it leads, taking the next step and then another. It is impossible to walk the labyrinth and not think about how it mirrors our lives: unexpected turns, doubling back, the goal within sight and yet out of reach. Being present where you are, one step at a time. The long outside turn was my favorite, a break from the twisting closer to the center.
A few weeks ago at the beginning of my yoga class, we were instructed to think about someone we love. I happily thought of Mike and Atticus, eating dinner together at home. At the end of class, we were supposed to send that love to someone with whom we have a difficult relationship. I thought of a person and felt my heart turn dark, my chest tighten. I breathed in deep and prayed forgiveness. The yoga instructor said it might be the hardest thing he’d asked us to do. While I hate downward-facing dog, I think he was right.
As my steps in the labyrinth grew more sure, I thought about the journey and the work I need to do. I breathed out prayers for wisdom, for heart-softening, for peace. One step at a time, I breathed the names of people I am angry with, trying to release them from my expectations. In the week since then, I have been able to think of them without quite so much heart-tightening. It is a beginning.
Why do people walk the labyrinth? It was so peaceful there, so intentional. I can be distracted from prayer by the slightest thing, but, alone in the labyrinth, I was able to focus. I imagine that it’s not for everybody, but I think it is for me. I will be going back.
Have you ever walked a labyrinth?