Each New Year’s Eve that I am in town, I try to get over to the Unitarian Church to walk the labyrinth that they lay down in one of the church halls. This particular labyrinth is a copy of the Chartres cathedral labyrinth that dates back centuries. Because of its age and position in the cathedral, one can no longer walk the original French labyrinth, so experiencing this replica is an amazing opportunity that most people will never have.
A labyrinth differs from a maze in that the labyrinth has only one way in and one way out which is the same route only in reverse. Mazes have many choices of path, some leading to dead ends. But the labyrinth only offers you one journey; one that elaborately winds and turns in on itself, but always leading to the center- the only possible destination.
The idea of walking a labyrinth is to use the journey as a way of moving deeper into your inner consciousness. As you progress along the way, you can imagine that this path represents your life’s path. You are making the journey to the center, to your heart center and soul of your being. You can travel this path quickly and lightly or move slowly and contemplatively. But always, you are heading deeper towards your inner self and your core.
Along the way you may meet a fellow journeyperson, then you have to decide who will stray from the path to accommodate the passing of the fellow traveler. Or you may find the person in front of you is walking too slowly and you don’t want to go at their pace. Or maybe you feel like letting someone else dictate your speed of discovering the next twist or turn in the journey. I’ve seen children merrily leap from one part of the path to another, oblivious of the set route they “should” take to stay on their prescribed path. I’ve often marveled at the freedom a child allows him/herself, that as an adult, I have learned to contain. What would it be like to suddenly leap, as an adult, onto another part of the path? What would my fellow journey friends think? And if I leaped where would I end up and in which direction would I then go? The thought of that quite frightens me! I have learned to stay on the path that was set up for me… But what would it be like? Maybe this year I will chance the aghast looks and the whispered disapprovals and suddenly hop from one path to another!
I’ve also seen people veil themselves so that all they can see is the path immediately in front of their feet, unable to see in the distance as to where they eventually will end up. That is a good lesson in the “Be here now” philosophy, as well as not allowing the exterior world to distract you from your immediate journey. Traveling in such a manner would be a challenge to me. I love looking at what’s up ahead and all the options I can choose. I enjoy the scenery along the way and think that meeting and greeting people and watching how others go along is all part of my journey. But that is just me. And that is not to say at some point in the years to come, I won’t veil myself and try it a new way. I’m always open to the idea of new experiences, even if they don’t feel right in the immediate moment. It doesn’t mean that the challenge won’t feel absolutely comfortable sometime in the future.
And what happens when you reach the center? Some people sit and meditate, others spin or dance, some couples who have traveled together may kiss and hug, others just turn around and head out. The labyrinth does offer a beginning and an end, and the center is just that, the center. The center isn’t the end of the journey because you still have to get out. It is just a marker along the way to say, “Look you have arrived at this particular point, and now you can go on”. And yet, the center, when walking the labyrinth is very important because it is an arrival at the heart of the journey. Many people who state an intention before setting out on the labyrinth, feel that arriving at the center means that they have brought the intention to their core. That they have put the energy into it for manifestation. So, in that manner, the center can be the end.
What I love about the labyrinth is that there is no right or wrong way to experience your journey. The choices you make will not affect the outcome, which is to reach the center, but how you do it is the thrill of the experience.
If you can’t get to Charlottesville’s church on Rugby Road New Year’s eve, then maybe you might be interested in following a “guided visualization”:http://www.suzannebovenizer.com/meditations/spikenard-audio-meditation-on-labyrinth-walking of walking an imaginary labyrinth.