The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool. It is found all over the world, in diverse religious and spiritual contexts. It is not a maze or puzzle. Instead, the labyrinth has one path in and out, and following the path is a way of going deeply into what we might call the heart of life. In my experience, walking a prayer labyrinth is always absorbing, always surprising, and often very moving: things deep within me seem to shift, rearrange and reveal themselves as I walk and pray.
There are many ways to walk the labyrinth, but every method fundamentally includes walking inwards and shedding what blocks us from God; pausing at the centre to reflect on our relationship with God; and walking back out into the world renewed by what we have experienced. Here are three more detailed methods, but each begins the same way: Take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. Ask God to guide you, then choose one of the following:
Option 1: Love & fear: Focus on your breath. As you match breath to step, walk slowly around the labyrinth. Breathe in love, breathe out fear. At the heart of the labyrinth, pause. Rest there awhile, and pay attention to any words, images or emotions which well up. As you walk back out, quietly ponder what God has revealed to you.
Option 2: Burdens & gifts: On your way in, step by step silently name and lay down your sins and burdens. At the centre, pause. Ask for forgiveness; open yourself to grace. On your way out, step by step name and give thanks for God’s many gifts to you.
Option 3: Question & response: At the entrance, ask God a question. As you silently move around the labyrinth, allow God to work in you and guide you. In the centre, pause and notice any images, words or emotions which bubble up. As you work your way back out, ponder how these might be a response to your question. (Of course, a response is rarely a literal answer. God tends to communicate somewhat sideways.)
So that’s three simple ways to walk a labyrinth; there are, of course, many more.
And that’s all very nice, I hear you say, but where can I find a labyrinth?
Answer: Here, on Sunday! We will set up a simple labyrinth, in the back carpark if it’s fine, or in the hall if it’s wet: and prayer walking will be the focus of the liturgy. We will gather in the usual way, but at the point when we usually have a sermon or conversation, instead you will have the choice of walking the labyrinth, going for a reflective neighbourhood stroll, or blessing the earth beneath your feet. After walking, we will regroup to pray for the world and share communion, as always. And no, our labyrinth will not look as beautiful as the one in the picture above: but it will be enough.
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