Sunday, August 2, 2015

8. Visit Four New Labyrinths - #3

I pulled into the church parking lot hoping that the labyrinth directory online wasn't outdated. I spotted the sign with “Labyrinth” and an arrow and turned my car in that direction. I saw this sign and felt a catch in my throat.

Before I found my way to yoga, labyrinths had caught my attention. They are both disciplines focused on stillness in the midst of chaos, connection to something greater, and living in the present moment.

Each labyrinth I have visited is accompanied by some contextual information. I love reading what each organization that hosts the labyrinth chooses to share with visitors. I especially like what I read on this one:

“Ancient Celtic Christianity emphasized the connectedness of all things. This was symbolized by a circle in the center of the cross. One of their defining beliefs was the presence of God in creation.

They often spoke of the thin places, a place where the veil between the physical realm and the spiritual realm become so thin that we encounter the presence of God in a deeper way. A thin place is a sacred location that draws you into the life of God. It is our hope that this garden will become a thin place for you.”

I slowly approached the labyrinth grateful for my sunglasses. The late afternoon sun was shining directly on the center of the labyrinth. I set my keys on the bench nearby and began my walk.

The whole point of the pattern of the labyrinth is that you can mindlessly follow it without having to pay attention to where you are going leaving mental space for quiet reflection and meditation.

Yoga and labyrinths are also good disciplines for me because stillness of mind and body do not come easily. Both disciplines allow movement while seeking inner quiet. I had taken no more than a few paces on the path when tears began to flow. I have learned that these tears are always a sign of the Holy Spirit's presence and I welcome them. I kept weaving my way through the path. I always seem to hit a moment of panic—it's like a flash of inner claustraphobia that strikes—when I've walked deeply into the path. It always happens on my walk inward and leaves as quickly as it comes.

When I entered the center, the tears appeared again. I took a few photos as I always do to document my arrival in the center. I sat down to pray and listen, my back to the sun. I felt the heat of the sun warm my black-tee-shirted torso. I let the warmth absorb. I watched the cars buzz past on the highway that was within view of the labyrinth.

I heard two sounds: highway traffic and birdsong--a strange combination and not especially meditative. I was reminded again of what yoga has taught me that could be applied as I sat on the warm concrete. We can be at peace even with noise and chaos surrounding us. Life doesn't come with a mute button. We have to train ourselves to find quiet and stillness and peace in the midst of the noise. And so I did.

I spent a lot of my walk into the middle thinking about my life right now and how I am adjusting to having more time to myself than I have had in a long time. Suddenly these words came to mind: “Don't be afraid of being alone right now.” Deep comfort and confidence washed over me because I knew these were not my words. Because I was open and listening, I heard God share what I needed to hear. I am so grateful for being willing to be quiet and listen. I am never disappointed. I took in these words, let them resonate inside me for a few minutes and then laid down in the center and soaked up the heat of the sun's rays and warm concrete. When laying down no longer felt comfortable, I sat back up, looked around and tuned into the hum of the highway and the birds chirping again.

I stood up and began the walk back out feeling lighter than when I'd entered. I exited the labyrinth and walked to the bench where I'd set down my keys. I sat down on the bench not ready to leave. I looked around the labyrinth dreaming about how to spearhead the construction of a labyrinth on our church property. I'd spent the morning mowing, trimming, and weeding my yard. My hands were tender from pulling the tough weeds. I saw a few weeds poking out of the cracks around the labyrinth. I stood up and walked over to the first weed. I yanked it out. I plucked all of the weeds that had sprouted outside the labyrinth--my admission fee for time spent there. Something practical to do with my hands as my heart and mind prepared to leave.

I have one more labyrinth to visit before I can cross this item off my list. I'm going to visit the fourth one with a friend who has walked labyrinths with me before. I love that I introduced my daughter to labyrinths as part of my check off, and am really looking forward to my time with my friend on #4. But I am also deeply grateful for the chance to have experienced one on my own—free to stay as long as I want and to experience what I did in solitude. I indeed consider this a "thin place" and will visit it again and again.

If you're in the St. Louis area and would like to visit this labyrinth, it is located on the property of the Dayspring Baptist Church at 1001 Municipal Drive in Town and Country, Missouri.

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