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You are currently browsing articles tagged labyrinth.

November 1, 2009
Seton Northwest Hospital
11113 Research Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78759 view map

A few days ago, I shared how I came to find myself ready to experience the walking mediation of a labyrinth (see Labyrinth Meditation).  I will try to give you some sense of the experience.   I share this with some trepidation. Keep in mind, dear reader, this is my experience so it may seem strange in the light before you.  I hope you won’t consider me a loon!? Whoops – too late.   Ah, well, if I have to be a fool, I will be a fool for Christ.  Of course, it may be some of my brothers and sisters in Christ – the fundamental, the pious, the moral; a few good men, that might think I’ve gone AWOL and immediately dispatch the MPs (Ministerial Pharisees) to drag me back to the pew.  Fear not friends, I haven’t gone all nuclear or even new age – I’m merely experiencing a new expression of communion with Christ, the holy Son of God.

When researching labyrinths in preparation for the visit, one suggestion I uncovered was to traverse the trail meditating on a specific word – something like forgiveness, peace, worship.  You want to make sure you eat before you arrive so your word isn’t “hamburger”.  Of course if you eat and drink first, you should take care of all the associated post processing so your word doesn’t become a bodily function.  It’s exceptionally hard to walk a labyrinth with your legs crossed and it makes you want to hurry which defeats the point.

All kidding aside, I found myself at the mouth of the labyrinth considering which word I would digest during this contemplative feast.  I had barely opened the menu in my mind to survey my options when the smorgasbord that is the word RENEWAL was served up to me.  There has been so much going on in my life and renewal was needed in every department and compartment.  But the word was as accurate in the macro-economics of my life as it was in the day-to-day.  As I stand, precariously on the pivot point to the see-saw of my life looking at the plank that got me here leading back to the ground and the plank ahead of me stretching upward to the heavens, renewal is the one thing needful.  What got me here cannot take me there – further up and further in – Christ, renew me.  I implored the Lord to meet me in this place at this time. Then, like a child anxious to ride the big-kid rollercoaster despite fluttering trepidation of heart, I stepped into the labyrinth.

I felt a bit awkward at first, like a child wobbling along on its bike just after its father removed the training wheels.  But I expected this, so I embraced it (then strangled it and left it gasping for air on an early, outer circuit).  One of the brilliant things about the labyrinth is you have enough rings in your path that you can afford one or two just to get your head in the right place – to empty your cup of all the junk our busy world has served up so you can receive fresh, cool water.  In fact, that is the very point, to lay aside all the noise of the world for a few minutes so we you hear the voice of the heart and the eternal.

photo Because the labyrinth I chose featured beautiful trees amongst the path, I found myself running my hands across their trunks as I passed by.  It was an incongruent experience; attempting to gently caress the contours of their form as a man might caress the face of his beloved or or woman might touch the cheeks of her grandchild, only to be met with the rough, scratchy, unyielding texture of the bark.  Even so, it seemed correct so as I continued the course, the practice progressed from this timid touch to a daring dance, a do-si-do circling around and in between my various oaken tango partners.  It reminded me of Lucy’s midnight dance with and through the trees to rest with the lion, Aslan in Prince Caspian. I deeply love these stories in the Chronicles or Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The Lord has spoken to me many times as I read and reread these stories to my children.   I thought, “Just like Lucy, these trees and this labyrinth are waltzing me to the center to meet my love and Lord, Jesus.  It was then that I slid out of the moment, the way you might encounter a temporary reprieve from the drama of a movie or play for a detached thought, and I became aware that I was indeed sliding into renewal. And with that revelation of heart, I ceased to think about it and yielded fully to this ballet of the labyrinth.

About half way through the labyrinth, I came across a fallen branch from from one of the trees and picked it up.  It looked a lot like a dowsing rod, the type used to divine the location of water.  A flood of ideas poured into my head about this.  First, I considered how the labyrinth with it’s unicursal path was a type of dowser experience – the path in and out, the participant’s part, like the two forks held by the dowser while the purpose of touching the spiritual, God’s part, was like the outstretched arm in its effort to find water, and water, of course, is a symbol for the spirit. But for me, the experience drilled deeper than the near-surface layers of these general observations.  

When my parents were divorced from each other and married to other people, my mother and step-father ran a business called Dowser Consulting so this idea of dowsing is intrinsically tied together with some of my deepest heart experiences.  It would be impossible to share with you here the myriad and depth of emotion and thought interwoven in the fabric of this part of my life.  Still, it is distant in the day-to-day of my life. My parents are no longer married to others. In fact, they have been married to each other again now for more years than they were apart.  Generally, I don’t often think about my parent’s 15-year long marital detour or how it impacts me.  There were extremely positive and extremely difficult aspects of that chapter of my life which I now fully embrace as an essential part of the fabric of who I am and for which I am thankful to God. However, holding this fallen dowsing gift from God in my hand, a flood of deep, resident joy and grief exploded from it into my hands and through-out my heart and soul. I wondered if that was akin to the dowser’s sensitive touch, but mostly I felt deep reserves of emotion that connected with much of my current experience in a way that was clearly significant if not outright electrifying and shocking. I thought of a poem I wrote once called Point of Rest, that included the verse, “

Yet pure the silver water flows
Where the patient surgeon waits for those
Ready to trust his steady hand
To cut out the stone beneath the brand

Here I was finding the pure silver water in this labyrinthine dowsing rod of renewal and the surgeon was quick to touch me and cut out this stone beneath this scar tissue on my soul.   It was most unexpected. I simply was unaware that there was any more work needed in this area of my soul, but I could not deny the raw, tenderness of this wound now that my Lord was probing it and healing it in new ways.  This was clearly renewal. 

I continued to the center amazed with this encounter as God guided me into renewal, but I will share the rest of this experience in the next post.

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Labyrinth-entry I can be somewhat type-a in areas of my passion. This includes the practice of my faith.  I tend to play the role or Martha rather than Mary – sometimes even having a bit of disdain, just as Martha did, at Mary’s seemingly lackadaisical attitude toward service.

The deep surgery Christ performs on Martha during her ailment is not lost on me.  For quite some time, our Lord has been prying my hand from my prideful plow and and healing me to the place where, as Mullins puts it, “I’m lost enough to let myself be lead”  For a variety of reasons, the Lord lead me to take somewhat of a sabbatical from church activity.  As I did this, I realized how easy it is for me to be over zealous about Christian activity.

Putting me in the middle of a ministry driven church is like putting a cat in the middle of a floor surrounded by tuna fish and telling it to stay. There is an element of my zeal that is pure, but to be perfectly honest, my insatiable drive toward ministry is often more fueled by my need to feel good about myself.  I am capable of saying no and sitting down but I don’t want to very often.  So, consequently, I anxiously fill up my time with many good Christian duties but neglect the one thing needed that is so much better. Luke 10:41-42

But our Lord is teaching me.  A variety of experiences over the last few months have taught me more about prayer, meditation, solitude, silence, journaling and other disciplines. I’m a horrible student but He is a great and patient teacher.  Recently, he persuaded me to take up listening to many books, podcasts and other audio material.  It was a way to push me out of the nest of what I know and into the wild blue expanse that I do not know, to add new wonder to my life, and to prove to me how very limited all my knowledge really is anyway.  It’s kind of ridiculous that he has to go to such extremes to show me what is so obvious. 

In listening to the audiobook, “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel H. Pink – see my blog about it – I learned about labyrinths. Contrary to the 1986 film by this name or even the Greek mythology that made them famous, it is a general misconception that labyrinths are the same constructs as mazes.  A maze is a puzzle to be solved with many paths that are dead ends, keeping you lost.  A labyrinth, on the other hand, has a singular, connected journey to the center and back.  They are not puzzles to be solved but an intentionally elongated journey designed to slow your pace into a state of meditation. Mazes are analytical and left-brained where labyrinths are contextual, spiritual and right-brained.  A labyrinth is a walking meditation, a devotional act of worship, and a sacred celebration of life. It’s power is in its simplicity – it presents an orderly path to quiet the mind enabling deeper communion with God as the body moves in a peaceful walking rhythm. With each step, we are able to diminish the cares of the world and tune into the illumined voice of God. Walking the labyrinth is not something to learn or memorize, but something to experience.

LabyrinthLearning all of this, God immediately and strongly impressed upon my heart to visit a labyrinth, so I set my heart upon doing it the very next day.

First I visited the World-wide Labyrinth Locator at http://labyrinthlocator.com/.  There are different layouts, sizes, construction types of labyrinths. After learning about them and reviewing the one in Georgetown and 13 in Austin, I decided I wanted to visit one based on the medieval design then settled on a beautiful labyrinth at Seton Northwest excited by the feature of trees actually growing in the path of the labyrinth. I wasn’t sure what to expect – should I go for silence or bring some meditative music.  I decided to bring it just in case and to decide there whether or not to use it.  I loaded the best candidates in a special playlist onto my iPhone and then headed for the labyrinth with the feeling in my heart of embarking on an epic saga.

As I walked the labyrinth, I found myself in a deeply stirring encounter with God. I will share the experience in my next blog entry.  In the mean time, I thoroughly recommend walking a labyrinth as a form of prayer and mediation.  I hope you will experience it soon.

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