I take a deep breath as I stand at the entrance—here I am again. This has become my daily practice here in Arizona, and it’s unlike any other I’ve ever experienced.
I step into the maze and hear the gravel crunch beneath my feet with each step. As I follow the path, I carry with me a new question (or an old one), an intention, or a prayer. Sometimes it is simply my feet that carry my wonderings for me as I wander down this ancient path. Sometimes that is enough.
I’ve had a book about labyrinths by Lauren Artress, a labyrinth specialist, on my bookshelf for about three years, but I haven’t read it yet. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t quite sure how a simple path could fill 240 pages. Now I feel like I could fill a lifetime with this practice.
What I do know about labyrinths is this: they simulate a journey. And if journey is written on our hearts then perhaps the labyrinth is the way into our soul.
That’s what it feels like to me, anyway. And I don’t mean that in the grand, sweeping, transformational Sacred Encounter sense, though I’d gladly accept that anytime (God—are you listening?). Each day that I walk the labyrinth here, no matter what I bring and what I leave with, I feel like I’ve drawn closer to my soul because the walking settles me. The path leads me without any effort. And before I know it, I’ve entered the center—I’ve stumbled upon the holy.
Even though there are no dead ends on this path, I still don’t know my way. After walking this labyrinth 25 times, the twists and turns still throw me. And so I walk it slowly—like a meditation, like a prayer—unsure of when I’ll reach the end (and unsure if I really want to). I’m careful to step over the anthill as I come to it once more, and somehow now they seem like companions on my journey. Here we share the same path, and our daily visitations make us a part of each other’s lives (though I’m not sure they feel the same depth of connection).
Soon, to my surprise, I’m back at the entrance—at a threshold once more. And even though I’m not always certain of what occurred within me during my time walking the labyrinth, I am always compelled to acknowledge the holy before I cross back over into the everyday. Often that simple shift is enough for me to look back on the path and call it good.
In this world of pilgrimage I often come across the phrase solvitur ambulando—it is made by walking. I’ll admit, while the phrase resonated, I never really understood it fully, and perhaps that’s because I was trying to understand it with words. But after walking this labyrinth each day during my time in here, I find my feet whispering, “solvitur ambulando,” and my soul echoing, “it is made by walking,” and I know the phrase is true.
What has been made? Who knows. But I think I’m in love. And love and uncertainty side-by-side is a miracle any day in my book. Solvitur amulando indeed.
Have you walked a labyrinth before? What was your experience?
PS: A labyrinth locator and recent reflections on labyrinths as a spiritual practice from our May Pilgrim in Residence, Patricia Turner.