A birthday labyrinth

I found and walked this labyrinth on my last morning in Germany back in June before coming home, my birthday.

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This past year in particular has been such an amazing year of exploration for me into the person I am, and could be. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about myself, been changed, challenged and stretched in all kinds of ways. Keeping this blog has been part of the process, learning to open up and try to become the same person in all circumstances. Work (and working for what matters, rather than for money) has been incredibly challenging and humbling as I find myself struggling with all sorts of questions around success, failure, pride, identity, vocation, ambition, apathy and money. I’ve been pushing myself creatively, letting God work through some of my failings and become a slightly calmer, hopefully nicer, person (but gaining some new character flaws in the process!), and making peace with myself, coming to accept all parts of my life, beliefs, eccentricities, and all my influences are a part of me, and that somewhere underneath I make sense.

It seemed really appropriate to have ended this year with a pilgrimage, and the pilgrimage with a labyrinth, the tiny journey of the labyrinth bringing into focus my thoughts on the physical and spiritual journey I’d been on over the last couple of weeks, and the wider journey of the year.

A labyrinth is not the same as what we usually think of as a maze. There is a single path, usually with one way in and one way out. A labyrinth does not have any dead ends, and you can’t get lost in it. It’s a tool for meditation, for stilling and/or focussing the mind and listening to God. The physical act of walking allows you to put aside distractions, as you concentrate on the labyrinth just enough to stay on the path but not so much that it occupies your mind. Sometimes I find it helpful to do something active but ‘mindless’ like this to stop my mind wandering when praying.

There is a long tradition of labyrinths being used in Christian worship, particularly in Celtic and medieval Christianity, and they were sometimes included in churches and cathedrals to be walked as part of a pilgrimage or prior to confirmation as a symbol of new life. Walking a labyrinth for a Christian can be a way of meditating on redemption, letting something go, the journey of life or faith, a particular story (from the Bible/ of a saint for example), an aspect of our own life or character, or can be simply a space to meet with God in the everyday, to take time out of the busyness and spend some quality time doing nothing in particular, to experience a ‘thin place’ where heaven feels very close to earth, or just as a focus for prayer.

I had a few quiet minutes to give to the labyrinth so I decided to prayer walk it properly. I stilled my mind a little at the start and opened myself up to have God speak to me as I walked and guide my thoughts. I decided to just listen to the thoughts that came as I walked. I’ve walked this design before, and there’s something about the way the path winds around it that really gets to me every time, but this time it really resonated with a lot that I’ve been wrestling with recently. I noticed how I kept on doubling back on myself, going round in circles, finding myself back where I started. It felt a bit like I was trying multiple dead ends to find the centre, only to find myself going back the way I’d come. But it’s a labyrinth, not a maze. All the time I kept walking, regardless of where the path took me, I was approaching the centre, and it was at the point the path seemed furthest away that it finally brought me in.

Is life like this? Are all my dead ends getting me somewhere? Is it when I’m furthest away that I can find the centre? I stopped in the middle for a moment to listen, and felt a sense of God’s affirmation, and with it an encouragement to keep on going. I sensed a little of who God made me to be. I want to put into practise what I’ve been learning of love and grace. Feeling energised, I made the return path at a run:

God, help me put all I have into giving You back what You’ve put in me!

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