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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Walking the Labyrinth

As might have been clear by yesterday's post, I have been feeling some dis-ease of late.  Today I decided to walk with it, literally.  The campus of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has a labyrinth that can be walked.  It is modeled after the labyrinth on the floor of the cathedral in Chartres, France.  I visited that cathedral just a few months ago, but could not walk the labyrinth there because it was covered by chairs.

Chartres labyrinth plan
I had no clear idea of what I hoped to accomplish by walking today. I just hoped to feel more ease than dis-ease by the time I finished.  

A plaque at the entrance of the labyrinth suggests the walker focus on something particular while walking.  I thought this was a fine plan, but found my mind jumping from place to place, person to person, situation to situation, seemingly without reason.  While my mind couldn't focus on any one thing, my eyes concentrated only on the few steps ahead of me.  A couple of times I looked up, but quickly realized that the only place I needed to look was on the path immediately ahead of me.  The rest was simply distraction.  

As I walked I noticed the bugs - ants, flies, bees, spiders, a dead locust.  Both on the way to the center of the labyrinth and walking from it, I stopped to look at the dead locust and the bees that were doing I'm-not-sure-what to it. I wished I knew a little more about bees and what might draw them to a dead locust.  Under my bare feet, I felt different grasses - different in texture, thickness, temperature, moisture.  I saw a spectrum of colors.  I heard bugs and passing cars.  

I noticed my breathing and felt it slow and deepen as I approached the center.  I noticed my pace vary; it was never hurried, and sometimes very deliberately slow, particularly as I turned from one direction to the next.  

When I arrived at the center, I lay down on my stomach in the grass.  I smelled the grass.  I saw only the green in front of me.  I felt the contour of the ground, the moisture and texture of the grass on my arms and the tops of my feet.  I felt a bug or two crawl onto me, tickling me, but not enough to make me move.  Above all, I felt relaxed, taking in only the sensory details of my immediate surroundings.  

After simply enjoying the peace of it, I stood.  I noticed my internal soundtrack was playing the Switchfoot song "This Is You Life."  

How appropriate.  

I looked at my shadow in front of me and wasn't sure of my answer to the question posed in the Switchfoot song: "Are you who you want to be?"  I think so, maybe, most of the time.  I decided to start my journey back out of the labyrinth.  

As I was walking my way out, again focused only on the steps ahead of me, for reasons I can't explain, I felt a surge of calm, a feeling of peace.  The sensation didn't seem to be connected to the thoughts in my head; it simply entered my body. 

And then I knew: I am who I want to be.  I am enough.  I am not flawless, but I am enough. 

Walking now with the sense of ease I had sought, I allowed my mind to wander.  Though it still moved from subject to subject, the subjects now felt connected, not separate and incompatible as they had on the way in.  My eyes remained focused on the few steps before me.  

That's all that I need to focus on.  What is right in front of me.  What is with me right now. There is so much to notice right here, right now.  The rest is simply distraction.

If I walk too fast, I can't notice the color, the texture, the diversity that surrounds me every step of the way.  If I try to look too far ahead or away from what's in front of me, I'll only get side-tracked and confused.  If I don't approach turning points with care, I might just head in the wrong direction.   If I don't stop every once in a while to really pay attention, I'll overlook the mystery of life and death and relationship.  

I walked to the center of the labyrinth seeking my own center.  I walked from the center of the labyrinth knowing that I carried it within me.  My center, my core, my enough because God made me to be enough.  God made all of us to be enough. Right there at our center, at our core, each of us is enough. 

May each of us travel to our center and feel the peace, the knowledge of being enough, that reaching our core brings.

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