Over the past few months, we’ve been reacquainting the pastors in our Spirited Life program with the spiritual practices of contemplative prayer and lectio divina. We have demonstrated both practices at our workshops, hoping that they prove useful to clergy who are choosing to incorporate spiritual disciplines into their individual wellness programs.
I’d like to augment this spiritual tool kit with yet another practice: walking a labyrinth.
Labyrinth.com explains that “the labyrinth reshapes a 12th-century ritual for the 21st century. Its maze-like path takes you on a symbolic journey, creates space to unwind and think – in particular about our relationships with ourselves, one another, our planet and God.”
I was introduced to the practice of walking the labyrinth while in divinity school. A labyrinth had been placed in Duke Chapel, and at first glance, it looked like a maze or crop circle. Fortunately, a benevolent classmate entered the labyrinth first, allowing me to follow.
As I walked, I began to relax and pray. It was so quiet: the swishing of our stockinged feet was the only sound. I remember bowing my head, but praying with my eyes open so that I wouldn’t accidentally run someone over or step into someone walking in the opposite direction. There was something special about the solitude and the openness of the labyrinth. I felt that, despite the fact that we were each whispering our own prayers, we were all part of a prayer community, petitioning God en masse. I believe that we all felt the same peace, the same satisfaction of our prayers being heard, the same faithful anticipation of our prayers being answered.
This wonderful introduction to labyrinths opened up a whole new world to me! I fell in love with being able to weave my prayers into the pattern of a labyrinth. So you can imagine my excitement to find a stunning labyrinth at the New Hope Camp and Conference Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. The path of this labyrinth is lined with broken glass of many colors. When the sun beams brightly, the labyrinth sparkles so beautifully, like a collection of mini-prisms creating a breathtaking kaleidoscope. Staring at it in awe, my first thought was, “Wow God, you do some great work!”
I am sure there are far simpler and far grander labyrinths to be explored (click here for a World Wide Labyrinth Locator). Have you come across one? Is it time for another walk?
– Angela M. MacDonald
(Image credits: Duke Divinity School, New Hope Camp and Conference Center)