Into the Heart of the Labyrinth


Contributed by board member, The Rev. Sarah Person

“One more step, we will take one more step, ‘til there is peace for us and everyone, we’ll take one more step.” Hymn by Joyce Poley.

“Ask your question.  Focus on your breathing, focus on the path, let everything else fall away, just your breath and the path before you.”

The labyrinth had been created by the simple measure of applying painter’s tape to the floor.  The words of my host were a surprise to me.   I had never walked one under guidance before.  The ones I had visited were outdoors, most recently at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham.  I tend to let my thoughts run free when I walk – I don’t pay attention to the world around me.  If there was a wrong way to walk a labyrinth, I guess I’d found it.  I mentally shook my head and considered the most pressing issue before me that day; a fairly thorny one of interpersonal relations and the possibility of much hurt feelings.  I took a step, and then another.

A labyrinth is an intricate pathway that follows a tight pattern of turns leading you to the center of the design and back out again.  Labyrinths are “unicursal” meaning they are straightforward – only one way to go.  Mazes, on the other hand, are “multicursal” meaning they are tricky – many ways to go and a lot of dead ends.   Mazes may have walls; labyrinths tend to have marked pathways.   Walking a labyrinth is often a relaxing or contemplative practice rather than a game.  They have existed for thousands of years all over the world and we see them everywhere; from cathedral floors to ancient Greek coins.

That morning I stared at the blue tape on white tile and wondered how walking this path was supposed to help.  I thought of all the what-ifs, all the should-have-dones, and then reminded myself to bring my breathing and my steps to the forefront, and leave behind where I had been a moment before.  Leave my steps behind.  It struck me how often I saw the past as having a stranglehold on the future – as if there was no room for change, for grace, for transformation.  I was fretting about the situation as if everyone involved, including myself, had no capacity for newness, new insight and understanding and compassion.  I can’t say that everyone has that capacity for newness at all times, but I can’t deny all possibilities, either.  My way was a little clearer and the possibilities brighter.  One step at a time, friends, one step at a time.

To find a labyrinth near you, click on this link:  Be sure to use all multiple spellings of the name of your town if necessary.