Today I facilitated a labyrinth walk at Evanston Friends Meeting, where I attend. About twenty-five people walked the sacred path with me, and afterwards some of us went to eat Thai food together nearby.
The handsome portable canvas labyrinth is in the Santa Rosa pattern, and was created by my friend Evelyn Ward de Roo, who lives in Ontario, and is an interior re-designer. She loaned the labyrinth to me until we see each other this coming March. I am planning another walk at Friends Meeting in March, and possibly another for my friends with the Evanston Home Educators.
Labyrinths (not to be confused with “mazes”), have been used in spiritual practices by many cultures, for thousands of years. The Christian world’s use of labyrinths began in the Middle Ages, as a symbol, and even substitute for, longer, more expensive and dangerous pilgrimages to Jersusalem. The Roman Catholic church selected seven pilgrimage cathedrals to become focal points for pilgrims. The walk into the labyrinth in many of these cathedrals marked the ritual ending of the physical journey across the countryside. It served as a symbolic entry into the spiritual realms of the Celestial City.
Melissa West has written a book called Exploring the Labyrinth, in which she says, “The labyrinth’s ancient power derives from the fact that it is an archetypal map of the healing journey. The walk itself is a potent physical metaphor for the journeys of healing, spiritual and emotional growth, and transformation. In walking the labyrinth, we start at the perimeter. The path of the labyrinth, like any journey, has its own twists and turns, sometimes drawing near to and then away from the center . . . It is only by keeping to the path, step by step, twist by turn, that one arrives at the physical center of the labyrinth, which signifies arriving at the center of our own livs and souls. Reaching the center of the labyrinth represents reaching the center, not only of our own hearts and spirits but of the goal we seek: Spirit, release from emotional or physical pain, a solution to a challenging problem or creative task, the unobstructed self. Walking the labyrinth can help people step foot once gain on their own paths, helping them to remember their own lives as spiritual journeys.”
Today, as I was walking along between the painted purple lines I thought often of my friend Evelyn, visualizing her on her hands and knees, painting the lines. The walkers bunched up frequently and I felt a little stressed, and even a bit panicky, wondering if I had lost my way by stepping around people, and scared that I wouldn’t get to the center of the labyrinth. But I kept walking, and I did reach the center, which was sort of anticlimactic. On the way out I kept thinking of the lines from Antonio Machado, “Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.”