Walking the Labyrinth
By Ron Feldheim
"How do you walk the Labyrinth?", I was asked. "I heard that you do one practice going in and a different practice coming out. What practice do you follow?" I thought for a moment, because I was not expecting to give instruction on how to use a labyrinth. I had just finished walking the labyrinth during the lunch break of the annual meeting of the A.R.E. Southeast Region Core Team. We were at Simpsonwood Lodge outside Atlanta, where we have met for years. A number of years back they built a labyrinth, and I make a point of walking it each time I visit this retreat center. When we came back into session after lunch I shared my enthusiasm with the team, encouraging them to walk the labyrinth, too.
I answered that I did not have any set routine, or any prescribed prayer ritual, that I took into my walk the first time that I tried it. I developed my own practice. It just seemed like the right thing for me, and still does. I don't think about it in advance, but find that I pretty much repeat the same routine every time. It is so satisfying. To reach the labyrinth I climb steps cut into a short slope and immediately enter shady woods. A memorial walk takes me to a rustic wooden archway that marks the entrance of the circular maze. I look for a stone to carry into the center. I feel that when I leave the stone there, I am leaving a symbolic part of myself, a contribution to the energy of the place. This year there is a basket in which to place it. Going through the archway, I step into the initial section of the path, having to turn left to follow it around almost half the circumference. The circle is maybe sixty feet around. I am constantly amazed at the length of the entire path, coiled and twisted and bent back on itself, that fits within. I step slowly and deliberately. Years and ages and realms pass beneath my feet. At each point that marks a new direction I pause to reflect and honor my past. That first long passage seems like my early childhood, the foundation upon which all subsequent development rests, but distant, hazy and sketchy after all this time. Each new section of the path I think of as the progression of my life, remembering milestones and honoring each in turn. There is no regret or sorrow allowed in this circle; I only bring honor and joy. By the time I reach the center I have retraced my entire life, at least symbolically. I cannot link every turn to a specific time or event, but overall I have brought myself to myself, here and now. In the center I find myself vibrating with spirit, and my vision blurs with tears of joy. This time, I felt the urge to walk around the basket of stones after placing mine within, making one turn clockwise, then one counter-clockwise. I don't know why, but I always give in to those kinds of urges.
Now it is time to go back. It is the same path I used to get here, but in reverse, which makes it feel both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. In this direction I walk into my future, taking shorter pauses, quicker steps. Yet, it seems to take a long time to reach the...
BEGINNING. I am changed, at least for a little while. I love performing this ritual in solitude, just myself -- and the birds and the squirrels and the whisper of breezes through the trees. I have never tried this in a group, yet I imagine that brings its own magical energies with it. How do you walk the labyrinth? Your way.