Labyrinth walking enables mindfulness of God
Many people are searching for peace. They cannot figure out how to unplug from the stress, the constant demands, the running commentary in their heads, the responsibilities and the duties of life in order to find the elusive peace that awaits us all.
One path of peace — that has become an important part of my life and of the lives of my husband and daughters — is to walk a labyrinth.
People often think of a labyrinth as a maze. But a maze is really a puzzle.
Recreational mazes built in cornfields or constructed of hay bales have high walls and dead ends. They can be fun, but they can also instill fear or frustration in those trying to negotiate them.
In 2 Tim. 1:7, we read, “… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has a clear pathway to a center and then out again. No decisions are made as to which way to turn at any given point.
One may not immediately discern the path ahead. But when you enter the labyrinth, you walk until you reach the center. You may remain there for as long as you like before turning to walk out. At all times you are able to see the next step leading to your destination.
Walking this “pathway to peace” calls for keeping your head down — in an attitude of prayer. You are able to let go of your thoughts and worries and stresses and become open to God. You can sense a lifting of cares and worries as your spirit centers in God. An indescribable peacefulness can follow.
“Mindfully” walking the labyrinth can be separated into three parts: entering and moving toward the center, being in the center, and then walking out. There is symbolism to remind us that life is a journey.
In essence, we walk our own journey alone. Yet there are those who share our lives, those who intersect our lives, those who only brush our lives and those we simply observe in the course of our lives.
In walking the labyrinth, we may stop to wait for someone to move forward before we continue. We might brush by someone as we are heading to the center and they are heading out. We might simply observe others as we are walking, or sitting near the labyrinth lost in contemplation and prayer.
For some, this pathway to peace is an easy trail. For others, it may take several times for distractions to dissipate as they become mindful of God and all the love and guidance offered.
On a trip to France years ago with a group of students, we visited Chartres Cathedral. I could hardly wait to walk this famous labyrinth. To my chagrin, there were chairs all over the beautiful structure.
Our guide dismissed my desire to walk it and shuffled off with our group following behind. I was not to be deterred! If I could not actually walk this beautiful labyrinth, with so much history and spirit associated therein, then I could stand on it and absorb the spirit of God in that place. That’s just what I did.
Now I look back and remember that my feet touched the very stones that have been trod by many Christian pilgrims through the ages. That was powerful for me.
So where can you go to find such a place? Online searches will reveal labyrinths in your area. Some churches have permanent labyrinths or temporary ones for certain times.
There are famous labyrinths such as the one in the Grace Cathedral in California, and lesser-known ones such as at Sardis Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., Athens Regional Medical Center in Athens, Ga., and Grace United Methodist Church in Charleston, S.C.
My husband and I were so moved by walking labyrinths that we decided to give one to Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. The labyrinth beside Jones Chapel honors our three daughters, all Meredith College graduates: Mary Blythe Taylor, Anna Taylor Freeman and Erin Taylor Rice. Scripture inscribed on two plaques encourage those who walk the labyrinth.
The blessings of that gift caused our daughter, Mary Blythe Taylor, to recently donate a labyrinth in honor of my husband, Charles E. Taylor Jr., and me at Wingate University. The labyrinth, beside Austin Auditorium, is in clear view of Dry Chapel.
Our prayer is that these labyrinths will bless many and bring them closer to God. Should you be near Raleigh or Wingate, please stop by and walk. Perhaps you, too, will find that walking a labyrinth will bring you to a place of peace and possibly healing in your own life. BT
By Carol Boseman Taylor
—Carol Boseman Taylor lives in Rocky Mount, N.C., and is the author of I Promise. Rejoice! (Nurturing Faith, 2015).