Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Labyrinth

For at least the last five years I've had an interest in labyrinths. There was a time when one might say I had a mini obsession with the concept of the labyrinth; reading books, researching this ancient archetype, walking the labyrinth at SFB Church on a frequent basis, drawing miniature labyrinths on paper, and even exploring what it might take to build one in my back yard. The passion gradually fizzled out but the general interest never faded away. I keep my eyes and ears open for outdoor labyrinths which are my favorites. I stumbled upon a new labyrinth over the weekend; it's been in existence for several years but was new to me.
Located at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on lower Queen Anne, this outdoor labyrinth is part of their Centennial Garden. I walked the labyrinth in the chill fall air accompanied by crimson and sunset colored leaves swirling at my feet. I plan to return. After all it is literally steps away from the 24 hour Bartell Drugs and Metropolitan Market which I frequent several times a week.

Every time I walk a labyrinth the experience is different. Sometimes it just feels like walking, turning corners, and making a loop to the center and back out again. Other times the journey is more mindful and I have thoughts that are meaningful or insightful. Whatever the experience, the labyrinth is a powerful symbol for me, a vehicle for turning my gaze inward if only for a brief time.

The beauty of the labyrinth is what it is not. It is not a maze or a puzzle. Instead, there is a single path to the center and then the steps are re-traced. There are no dead ends. It is said that the path can be perceived as a mirror for where we are in our lives. We are asked to walk it with an open heart and mind. According to the labyrinth lore, there are three stages of the walk:

Releasing: shedding distractions and quieting the mind, the path to the center
Receiving: illumination, meditation and prayer at the center
Returning: joining with healing powers, empowering the soul, and reentry into the world

One of my favorite labyrinths is on Whidbey Island; a lavender labyrinth complete with buzzing bees in summertime. The view of Puget Sound, the aroma of lavender everywhere, and the soft grass beneath my feet offered a unique experience for the labyrinth lover in me.

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